India’s ‘Idol’ Recipe: Mix Small-Town Grit and Democracy

From The New York Times:Indian

For a glimpse into the hungry hearts of young India, step inside a giant hulk of a studio here in the country’s film and television capital for the weekly taping of “Indian Idol 2.” This is where Indians come to be discovered: Antara Mitra from the remote eastern border in Bengal; Amey Date from a small third-floor walk-up in central Mumbai; Sandeep Acharya, from Bikaner, a small town in Rajasthan; and N. C. Karunya, on leave from an engineering college in the southern high-tech hub, Hyderabad.

Winnowed from some 30,000 contestants who lined up on the first day of auditions, these four contestants were among the show’s eight finalists this spring. They were all in their late teens and 20’s. None of them were low on grit or ambition. All had been studying music since they were children. Each dreamed of becoming a professional singer in the dog-eat-dog Indian movie industry. “Indian Idol” was their one chance of swimming straight to the top.

“Indian Idol,” a variation of the British “Pop Idol” and “American Idol,” is one among a spate of talent hunts that have mushroomed across the television landscape in the past couple of years. “The Great Indian Laughter Challenge,” a stand-up comedy contest, is in its second season. “Sa Re Ga Ma Pa,” a song contest named after the notes of the Indian musical scale, wrapped up its first season in February. “Nach Baliye,” a dance contest whose name means “Let’s Talk Dance,” is expected to begin its second season later this year.

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