In 2005, when Abhijeet Sawant won the first edition of music reality show Indian Idol, the country had found its new sweetheart. He was destined for bigger things in Bollywood and beyond, we were told, and next year onwards, the audition queues only got longer. More music reality shows sprouted, such as X Factor, Fame Gurukul and more recently The Stage; forgotten singers and actors became judges; production budgets increased, and the audience was delivered a sob story a day.
And then one day, we had had enough and the TRPs dipped. Indian Idol too packed up its bags, as reality TV suffered a blow. According to data collected by BARC India, from December 31, 2016, to January 6, 2017, not a single reality show made it to the top five list. Fiction dominated the small screen. At a time when reality shows are stooping to new lows with saffron-clad godmen allegedly throwing their pee at contestants, Indian Idol has made a comeback. Thankfully.
Aired on weekends over two hours on Sony, Indian Idol in 2017 has managed to balance talent, excellent production, and human interest stories in a way it didn’t earlier. From LV Revanth, who lent his voice to a song in Baahubali to Carnatic singer Maalavika Sundar to Jeli Kayi, a singer from Arunachal Pradesh, who can sing in male and female voice to the untrained raw voice of Khuda Baksh from Muktsar, Punjab – this season can easily thrive on the strength of its contestants.
This edition also sees the return of the original judges – music director Anu Malik, playback singer Sonu Nigam, and filmmaker-choreographer Farah Khan. Surprisingly, they are tamer in approach, never nasty, less dramatic, and with real feedback – none of that abstract, vague conversation about taking “it to another level”.
In the “Grand Premier” round last weekend, the production quality was outstanding, with each performance – good, bad and average – standing out for the sets, and the lights. Even Nigam pointed out how live shows of established musicians lack such shine.
Low-key drama, standing ovations, that rare bad rhyme by Malik and a montage of backstories of contestants get enough screenplay, and we don’t mind. What irks the most, however, is the banter between the hosts Karan Wahi and Paritosh Tripathi. Also, there is no need to fit in random games and competitions such as “roti belo-ing” in the middle of the show. This edition of Indian Idol doesn’t need these distractions; the contestants are that good.
If you do turn on the idiot-box, let it be just for Indian Idol.