The Hush Post: Even as the singing reality show Indian Idol is being telecast on Sony TV, here is an eye-opener thrown by none other than an Indian Idol contestant of 2012 and endorsed by Indian Idol’s one-time anchor Mini Mathur, who clearly didn’t mince words in accepting, though didn’t say in words was one of the reasons for her quitting the show.
Here is what Nishant Kaushik, who claims to have reached the third round of the auditions in 2012, wrote as part of a series of tweets.
“(Indian Idol) is a perfect platform to destroy your dreams as opposed to its common perception as a breeding ground for talent,” he began.
May. Mumbai: I rocked up at the venue more out of casual interest. On joining a queue 2 km long I noticed enthusiasts who had arrived there as though their lives depended on them. Some with their mothers holding Prasad, other rebels who had braved odds and traveled alone.
I joined the queue at 7 AM. There were people who had arrived at 5 AM. Others who had camped overnight. False notion that early arrival = early audition. No one from the crew to dispel such notions. Gate opens1 PM.
In those long hours of waiting, no accessible toilets or food stalls or drinking water taps. If you step out in search, you risk losing the queue which you’d then have to rejoin. Anyway at 1 pm the long wait ended right? Wrong.
At 1 PM we were herded toward a stage on the school ground where the previous year’s winner Shriram was lip syncing to Desi Boyz. A volunteer amongst us was sought to go and grab Shriram’s feet mid-performance and shout “I wanna be Indian Idol!” Reward promised :early audition.
Sure enough, one aspirant fell to the bait. Fell at Shriram’s feet. Dozens of retakes demanded by the director. When the aspirant said he couldn’t do any more retakes, assistants on the set abused him and threatened to have him off the auditions if he didn’t comply. He complied.
These staged gimmicks went on till 5 pm. By this time, we had noticed that for a venue as large as a school and for a crowd in tens of thousands, the provisions were: 1 canister of water with a steel glass bang in the middle of the ground, and 1 toilet.
When we asked the crew if we could step out to get lunch and water, we were told to do so at our own risk. As if auditions would begin any moment. Contestants who made enquiries about the actual commencement of auditions were either not responded to, or showered with vile abuses.
(Quick digression to let you know that the contestant who fell at Shriram’s feet like a hundred times in the lure of “early audition” never got an early audition. I bear testimony
During all this I met two interesting aspirants: one med rep from an Indian village I don’t remember the name of, who dragged his right foot in a broken slipper. And another, who was blind in both eyes. And then I saw the crew make a merciless meal of both of these kind souls.
First the vultures came with their mic and cameras to the blind man, who said he had a scene’s role in The Slumdog Millionaire. They first asked him to give a little speech about the history and status of his blindness, how does it feel to be blind, and what have you.
Then they asked about his family. He said he had a mother who was now dead, leaving him orphaned and all by himself. Sudden twinkle in crew’s eyes because they now had meaty content for a camera shot. They probed him in several ways on “what brings you here”.
When none of his responses flew, they drafted a “response” on his behalf and read it out. Roughly, “I miss my mother and I wish she were here to see me, but I hope that when I sing tonight she can hear me up there.” They made him repeat this even as his voice trembled.
Hours passed by. At around 8 PM, we were finally given badges and ushered in. no auditions yet. We were taken to the basketball court where for hours at stretch we were made to scream “We LOVE INDIAN IDOL!” right before our voices were supposedly going to be tested.
At this point one of the aspirants lost his shit and stood up, demanding to see where the auditions were happening, to see the judges. One of the crew members charged up to him and slapped him. In front of thousands of people. SLAPPED.A.CONTESTANT. Yes this happened.
A scuffle followed. Crew members rescued their colleague who was assaulted, by dragging the contestant along the floor and evicting him from the room. Late into the night, we finally arrived in a corridor that had a line of rooms hosting the auditions.
(Take a moment to reflect that by the time of the first round of audition some of us had been standing at that venue for almost 24 hours). Crew walked past us, randomly picking some of us to sing a couple of lines. Just like that, in the corridor, with no judges present.
The naive thought this was a smart way to quicken the filtering process of worthy contestants. The smartass crew knew better. They giggled at the contestants who sang horribly and directed them to the only room that had a camera inside it. The rest of us got non-camera rooms.
The med rep with that broken slipper I told you about sang atrociously. Through a half-open door of the room with the camera, I overheard his “auditioning”. A painfully bad rendition of “Likhe jo khat tujhe”, to which the judges kept going “wah wah! now try a higher pitch?”
That mockery went on. The judges relished that fellow’s naivety, asking him to keep taking a pitch “higher and louder” till his voice turned into frail shrieks that sent them into peals of laughter. He came out in tears. Elsewhere in the corridor we heard of contestants fainting.
I crashed out in Round 3 of the auditions close to midnight, and was nearly relieved when it happened. But I went home satisfied that I got a taste of a show that on TV had always appeared alluring. Shocked as I was by its reality, I was a wiser man by the end of the day.
My summarized observation of Indian Idol was that it decorates and recognizes maybe 10 or less, very worthy participants annually. But en route it quashes a million people’s hearts by disrespecting them, ridiculing and abusing them, denying them a conducive atmosphere to contest.
Not to mention the labourers who were hired to install and then disassemble the equipment at the venue. I don’t even have the heart to mention how we were witness to the abuses they were being subjected to by the present staff.
True talent is rare. But every aspiring artist’s pride stems from the encouragement it gets from its colleagues and friends and mohallawallahs and family. In those little nooks and crannies, each of them is a “star”. Reality shows have no right to disrespect that.
Television host Mini Mathur, who has hosted the initial seasons of Indian Idol, took to Twitter to share her experience. She wrote, “This sucks. Thanks for forwarding me this thread. I wasn’t part of the 2012 season but I know most of what he has articulated is known to happen on reality tv. One of the reasons I bowed out. This incessant need to create false emotion. RIP Organic, pure TV.”