The devil in reality shows haunts not only organisers but performers and judges too. Just before Indian Idol got mired in controversy, Sa Re Ga Ma Pa (Bangla) was hit by one
By Prasanta Paul
The ripples of the popular reality show Indian Idol’s controversy refuse to die down. It all began when singer Amit Kumar – and the late Kishore Kumar’s son, recently voiced his dissent on how he was asked to ‘only praise’ the contestants on a Kishore Kumar special show; followed by the well-known singer Sonu Nigam talking about these ‘reality’ shows losing their credibility over time; to playback artist Sunidhi Chauhan stating that she won’t be judging reality shows anymore because she was also asked to ‘only praise’ the participants. The can of worms just opened.
But reality shows aka Indian Idol have rarely been free of controversies. About a month ago another singing reality show Sa Re Ga Ma Pa (Bangla) 2020 was also in the eye of a storm. The annual musical show on Zee Bangla saw social media erupt mid-April (19th April to be precise) over the result of the grand finale. The very popular show that hunts young singing talents in all the genres of Bengali music was denounced for partisanship.
An overwhelming majority of viewers believe that Joy Sarkar, one of the judges on the show, behaved in a highly biased manner to select a winner who never really deserved to bag the first prize.
Viewers who took to social media to register their wrath against the judgment, even accused Sarkar of compromising the quality of the show allegedly in exchange of money.
“There is hardly any transparency in the entire process of the judgment and a deserving singer was deliberately stripped of the winner’s title,” was the common refrain of hordes of complaints that rocked popular social media handles of Facebook and Twitter.
Both Sarkar, a well-known composer and his folk singer wife Lopamudra Mitra, initially decided to lie low but then hit back in the social media, defending the decision. But that hardly poured cold water on the controversy; instead, it further fueled the fire and, there is no sign of it dying down.
At the crux of the controversy is Arkadeep Mishra a folk singer who bagged the top prize. He was not as prolific as his female counterpart Niharika who was adjudged second; Arkadeep, the large majority of netizens argued, failed to demonstrate his flair in various genres of the Bengali song except folk.
In sharp contrast, Niharika won the hearts of the viewers through her singing skills in almost genres, they point out. Even in the grand finale, she kept her cool and showed her talent as she rendered soulful performance in several key genres, the netizens claim.
The netizens’ bugbear against Sarkar is that during the course of the show, many singers were shown the door for failing to perform or their inability to sing songs that did not belong to their own ‘gharana’.
If that’s the rule, then why on earth isn’t the same prescription applied to Arkadeep who too allegedly failed to perform noticeably in other musical ‘gharanas’ except folk?
In sharp contrast, Niharika was found to have maintained a consistently stellar performance in almost all the variants including folk. Not only that several netizens claim that they know at least basic ABC of music and have discovered a wonderful voice texture in Niharika which is completely absent in Arkadeep.
In an opinion poll conducted online for viewers Arkadeep was handsomely beaten by Niharika. Hence, they have alleged ‘a nexus’ that must have been flourishing ‘behind doors’ to enable Arkadeep to pip others to the top spot.
“It’s like relegating Arijit Singh to the third or fourth spot in order to make room for a less-qualified singer. Even though the judges and a section of the mentors are vainly trying to defend the decision, to reject viewers’ choice or view is simply atrocious,” claimed a post in Facebook which fetched 10,000 likes!
Several of them have attacked mentors on the show, accusing them of blatant partisanship unseen in earlier editions of Sa Re Ga Ma Pa. Even as some of the mentors have sought to play safe so far as the judges are concerned, there has so far been little sign of the viewers’ ire getting soothed.
“This controversy, I understand, is a healthy sign for the Bengali music industry,” argues Manomoy Bhattacharya, one of the mentors and a very well known exponent of modern Bengali song. “There is definitely scope for debate, to say the least.
“While I don’t want to question the decision of the judges, I feel Niharika and Arkadeep could be declared joint winners,” Bhattacharya told a Kolkata-based newspaper.
Stung by the controversy over his nomination for the top slot, Arkadeep doesn’t know what to do. “I am ready to forgo the prize if that cools the raw nerves,” he murmurs.
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The author has served no less than Al Jazeera and German TV, and India’s Parliamentarian magazine among others! To his credit goes a deep-rooted empathy for social issues and humans. He has wide experience in covering the northeast of India. His coverage on the 2020 Amphan cyclone in eastern India has easily been the best around the world