Idols Who In­spire Aww

They live in ho­tels with their mothers, dress up for the cam­era, and skip school to spend hours on sets singing, danc­ing or cook­ing. It’s the price TV’s youngest stars pay for fame and money.

India Today - - INSIDE - By Suhani Singh

They live in ho­tels and skip school to spend hours on sets singing or danc­ing. It’s the price TV’s young stars pay for fame and money.

All In­dian Idol Ju­nior win­ner An­jana Pad­man­ab­han wants to do af­ter she reaches home in Ban­ga­lore is eat. “I will eat paani puri, aloo tikki, pizza, burger, aloo chaat, pav bhaaji, ice cream,” says the 10- year- old as her mother Kalyani laughs. “Here, they keep telling us about what not to eat. Some­times I felt like slap­ping them.” Pad­man­ab­han won the hearts of mil­lions when she re­vealed that she spoke and un­der­stood very lit­tle of Hindi and had to mem­o­rise lyrics in the Ro­man script. The ef­fort was worth it. The In­dian Idol Ju­nior win on Septem­ber 1 fetched Pad­man­ab­han Rs 25 lakh, a Nis­san Mi­cra, a fixed de­posit of Rs 5 lakh from Ko­tak Mahin­dra and an­other Rs 2 lakh from Hor­licks. There’s lit­tle time for that sweet smell of suc­cess to sink in though: The Class V stu­dent of Ban­ga­lore’s Delhi Pub­lic School has her se­mes­ter ex­ams start­ing on Septem­ber 18. “That’s a prob­lem,” she says, laugh­ing.

For four months, Pad­man­ab­han lived life shut­tling be­tween the Res­i­dency ho­tel in Powai and the show’s sets at Re­liance Me­di­a­works in Film City, Gore­gaon ( East). Cooped up at the ho­tel, she would be busy train­ing, with time- outs for recre­ation and op­por­tu­ni­ties to in­ter­act with fel­low con­tes­tants. The chil­dren did break rou­tine on the odd oc­ca­sion to ex­plore Mum­bai but on the whole, the city be­came a whirl. But no­body’s com­plain­ing. Nei­ther is Pad­man­ab­han. “Next time, I will see the whole of Mum­bai,” she says. Nor her mother. “When a child gets such a huge op­por­tu­nity as this, we don’t want them to lose it,” says Kalyani.

Sony en­joyed TAM rat­ings of 2 plus for the de­but sea­son of In­dian Idol Ju­nior, a pop­u­lar­ity that rides on the par­tic­i­pants’ in­no­cence, spon­tane­ity, in­fec­tious en­ergy and, in some cases, imp­ish­ness. This year alone has seen the launch of child- friendly ver­sions of two pop­u­lar TV shows— In­dian Idol and MasterChef In­dia. There’s also Dance In­dia Dance Lit­tle Masters and Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Li’l Champs on Zee TV.

The con­tes­tants aren’t sti­fled by script; they speak straight from the heart— which makes for great pro­gram­ming.

Take, for in­stance, Jha­lak Dikhhla Jaa con­tes­tants, eight- year- old Son­ali Ma­jum­dar, who speaks lit­tle Hindi, and looks at her part­ner, Sumanth Maraju, five years her se­nior, for cues on what to say at in­ter­views. Tele­vi­sion has turned their life around in less than a year. Af­ter win­ning In­dia’s Got Tal­ent in 2012, the two, who train at the Bi­vash Dance Acad­emy in Kolkata, are now giv­ing older celebri­ties such as singer Shaan and TV ac­tress Drashti Dhami a run for their money on Jha­lak on Col­ors. Cur­rently, they stay with their teacher, Bi­vash Chowd­hury, in an apart­ment in Adarsh Na­gar in Mum­bai. “They fight a lot but come dance time, there is com­plete trust,” says Chowd­hury.

Chan­nels re­alise that de­spite chil­dren hav­ing a spe­cial power to draw smiles or tears with ease, they can’t be pushed into danger­ous ter­ri­tory. On the sets of Ju­nior MasterChef, the chan­nel Star Plus and pro­duc­tion house Colos­seum Me­dia en­sure par­tic­i­pants’ safety by giv­ing them ce­ramic knives and light­weight uten­sils to work with. They also have “kitchen bud­dies” to as­sist them. The chil­dren are put up in a ho­tel in Ghatkopar to be close to the shoot­ing site, RK Stu­dios in Chem­bur. Kolkata’s Harsheika Doshi, 9, Dehradun’s Sarthak Bhardwaj, 12, and Dhan­bad’s Roshan Saw, 12, are all here not only on sheer tal­ent but also be­cause they have mov­ing tales to tell. Bhardwaj helps his mother, Tripti, run an eatery, Atul Maggi Point. Doshi, who loves to bake, lost her mother to can­cer three months ago. Saw pre­pares din­ner af­ter school for his tai­lor- par­ents.

While some may see this as ex­ploita­tion, for the par­ents, TV shows are a plat­form for their chil­dren to grow. “He has learned how to cook non- veg­e­tar­ian here and even tasted it,” says Tripti Bhardwaj of her son Sarthak. “When we de­cided to en­ter her in In­dian Idol, all the el­ders were un­happy that she would miss school for three months,” says Kalyani. “But I was sure she’d be able to cope up.”

As ‘ In­dian Idol Ju­nior’ An­jana Pad­man­ab­han re­turns to school in Ban­ga­lore, rev­el­ling in the at­ten­tion of new­found star­dom, she won’t think twice be­fore eat­ing ice cream. But she will con­tinue her train­ing in Car­natic and Hin­dus­tani clas­si­cal mu­sic. “I want to be a singer. And a pilot,” she says. A pilot who can sing like an an­gel. Why not?

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