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.
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?