x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Searching for a star

No longer left with only the opportunity to showcase academic talent, Indians now have their own "India's Got Talent" to sing and dance their way stardom...or not.

Every Indian home believes they house talent, academic or otherwise. But while it is easy to flaunt one's child's grades around the neighbourhood, there are few venues to showcase other types of talent. Until now, that is. India's Got Talent, which kicked off this weekend on the Colors channel in India, is a testament to the untapped potential in the country. And to the joy of syndication departments worldwide, it provided a glimpse into how many more talent shows are ready to be spawned and presented to the Indian audience - one of the biggest in the world.

Are we bracing for the SuBo effect? Is there a middle aged, unloved, Indian frump whose voice belongs in an Indian opera? No. But after seeing the first episode this weekend, it was obvious that while there would be no Indian version of Susan Boyle, there are plenty of complex acts that leave one enthralled. Some of the best acts came from the most unexpected places, such as little towns and a school for disabled children. The kids from Amar Jyoti School, with the youngest aged six, performed the Bhangra, spinning their wheelchairs and balancing each other on top of human pyramids, to a standing ovation. One of the judges, the director Shekhar Kapur, who was supposed to be the "Simon Cowell" of the show, broke down in tears when he started asking questions to the littlest member of the group.

A dance troupe, called the Prince Dance Group from a village in Orissa, who barely understood a word of the English the judges spoke, simply nodded and smiled as the audience went wild and were only able to understand the thumbs up sign given by the judges. There were some scintillating individual performances, equally influenced by local and global culture, including a 20-year-old belly dancer, who was born in Delhi but had grown up in the Middle East before returning to India. Then there was the trio M Sonic, a band from the remote north-eastern state of Assam, with Hindi lyrics and powerful guitar riffs.

That is not to say the show wasn't without duds. Of course, there were those whose talents are left, well, confined. Like the man who simultaneously passed gas 20 times on stage, much to the amusement and horror of the judges. What does this say of Indian culture? Or rather, its culture on display on cable television? India is an immense country with lots of talent. Not everyone, even those who claim to be, may be talented but it certainly proves that the country is not without eccentricities.