I have now stopped watching television on a regular basis for quite many years now. During the last seven years, whenever I had absolutely nothing else to do, I had tried to fiddle with my TV remote, only to switch the TV off soon getting frustrated at not able to watch a decent, interesting program except on a few rare occasions. My brother complains that I have now become aged and that my tastes have changed. In every TV channel, I see only stereotyped programs, heavily loaded with endless advertisements that pop up almost every five to ten minutes. I still wonder how these poorly conceived programs still continue to attract people and stay popular with viewers.
If there was one program that fixed me to the TV screen, it was the ‘AIREL Super Singer’ program – in Malayalam through Asianet TV a couple of years ago and subsequently over Vijay TV in Tamil. Though I didn’t understand Malayalam well, I always relished watching the Super Singer Malayalam program. The judges, Sharath and Sreekumar, particularly, were superb with their humorous and critical commentary over the singer’s performance and were nonchalant. Sharath was especially a tough judge, coming from Dr.Balamurali Krishna’s school of singing. The anchor, Ranjani, (if I am right with her name) with her giggles and mesmerizing voice did a fabulous job. The singers were of fairly very good standard. I always wondered, how the contestants could sing even a few sophisticated songs fairly well; but then, I read an article in The Hindu that there was a ‘Fast Food’ type of factory functioning in places like Cochin, where a few music professionals train people to sing select few songs – thoroughly and professionally for Super Singer competition – for fabulous fees. We need to keep in mind that the prize money for the winner was invariably a posh flat in Cochin/Ernakulam. I particularly liked the cine-classical rounds much more than others in these competitions and participants, regardless of their religion, sang traditional carnatic music based songs without any qualms about it. It was really amazing to know we have so much talent.
Then, I had watched the ‘Hariyudan Naan’ competition on Tamil Vijay TV. The legend Hariharan, the singer, was personally there during all the stages of the competition, as one of the judges. The young contestants performed superbly. The winners were to get an opportunity to sing along with Hariharan for a music album. The finals were held in Dubai. For all the tempos built up during the competition, the telecasting the finals was a damp squib, merely commercial, organizers dragging the telecasting over several weeks. The one solace was the ‘Bhavayami’ performance by Sharath. His rendering was a class of its own and only Sharath could do that. I lost interest in watching the finals that were mere pomp and show.
Then, I watched Airtel Super Singer in Tamil Vijay channel regularly during 2012. All the episodes were very captivating and the competition really, really tough. There was a young girl, Pragati, from U.S who had flown to India to participate in the program. She had a splendid voice and remarkable control over her breath and singing, songs flowing from her like cool, vibrant rivers. Sukhanya challenged her well, but still a notch below Pragathi. In the finals, during October, 2012 Aajeedh, a wild card, won the competition snatching away a Rs.60 lacs worth flat as prize money, given away by none other than A.R.Rahman. Like many viewers, I felt sorry for Pragathi. Ananth Vaidyanathan, the musician, who had trained the contestants in voice modulation, song selection, and performance had now become the most sought after in music industry.
During February – July, 2013, I was in U.S and I came to know through my brother that a new singing competition program was going on in Sun TV. He talked about Sun Singer 1 and told me that the program was available in YouTube for viewing and that too without all the tiring advertisements. I immediately took interest and started watching the episodes. I think Sun Singer Format I is doubtlessly one of the most captivating programs among all those I watched. The participants were all quite young – in the age group of 7-12. I couldn’t believe we have so much talent among the young children. I could notice the refinement and progress among the contestants, episode after episode. The children were quite smart, thoroughly professional, serious and keenly contesting. Robin, one of the contestants, was my favorite all through. He was masterly with his singing. He used his original voice without probably trying to modulate it. But, I think he lacked training on ‘brigas’ and ‘kamakams’ while singing cine-classical songs where Janakan scored over him. Janakan too was brilliant and I am sure he is already a student of carnatic music. The third singer who appealed to me was Shivani, a cute little girl. She was a real angel and another P.Suseela in the making. Her singing was neat, flawless and her voice melodious. I surmised these three would be the top three in the competition. The others like Anushya, Aswathi Raj and Ritu gave real fight to the title, challenging everyone with more and more sophisticated and difficult songs. So, there was real tough competition to the top three positions and the program kept me on the edge of my seat.
When the final results were announced, my heart broke for Shivani as she lost out of the race. She sang, ‘Kelviyin nayagane’ from the movie ‘Apoorva Ragangal’. I believe her song selection was wrong. As expected, Janakan came first singing the famous ‘Madhavi Ponmayilal’ from ‘Iru Malargal’ followed by Aswathi Raj and then Robin.
Among all the songs sung by all the contestants throughout the entire program over the 28 episodes, Robin singing ‘Unnai Kaanathu naan ingu naan illaiye’ from the movie ‘Viswaroopam’ alone rings in my ears all the time. Probably, if he had chosen another sophisticated song than the ‘Isai kettal puvi asainthadum’ from the movie ‘Thavaputhalvan’ for the finals, he could have probably reached the second place. He is really capable of challenging himself more and more, but he settled for a much simpler song that cost him the title in the finals. Overall, I liked the entire contest. It is really amazing and heartening that small children could take the contest so seriously and sing so professionally. Gangai Amaran, as the master, has done an excellent job of preparing the children for each level.
Now, the Sun Singer II program has started a couple of weeks ago and the children are just into the introductory, familiarizing stages. It is once again very clear that our young children can take life’s challenges very seriously and meet them successfully, if given the right guidance and leadership. Even the first twenty or so contestants in Sun Singer II already look very serious and determined about the contests and they all sing very well. The judges, I am sure, are going to have a tough time in judging them. P.Suseela was there as a special invitee guest for one of these episodes and it was sad to see that her sweet melodious voice had disappeared, may be, due to her aging.
O dear singers and contestants, keep the spirit of contest high and sportive. It is not about winning alone, but the very process of participating is the real joy. Keep it up. Hats off to the parents! Keep encouraging your children. They have remarkable talents.
Watch for announcement regarding “Classic Singer Tenkasi” contest among school children at Tenkasi to be held in early Jan, 2014 under the auspices of our L.N.Charitable Trust.