Indian Idol: Bad, Bad Girls

The boys sing. The girls bare skin and barely sing. This is the gender equation showcased by the popular Indian Idol show.

27 September, 2007

What was promised to be the biggest night celebrating fresh talent from the country’s four corners turned out to be a skin show never seen before. The girls on Indian Idol finale showcased the paucity of ideas, and clothing the organizers seem to be reeling under.

They came, they sang, and then they were ruthlessly booted out. The girls on Indian Idol thought their dreams were just a few votes away. By a few, I mean the lakhs and lakhs of votes that went into finding out Bharat ki Shaan who is, not surprisingly, a boy this year too. When Prashant Tamang, the wonder sepoy from Darjeeling, won Indian Idol in the long drawn finale on September 23rd, 2007, I couldn’t have asked for a more judicious decision the junta of the desh made.

I did cheer for Prashant in his victory – which wasn’t his alone. When he hugged his mother, who had almost single handedly raised him, was perhaps the most touching and honest moment in the entire gala. But I am not here to praise Prashant more than this. He got what he deserved. Kudos, and lets move on to the girls.

Upping the Ante

What’s the deal, one might ask. Why talk about girls now, when the season is over, and everyone has gone home after the celebrations are over? For one, I cannot get over the fact that slowly but surely, all of them were voted out. Despite putting up shows of vocal brilliance. And the last one to fall, Ankita, the tomboy, the “performer”, was ousted when she would have made Nazia Hassan and Zeenat Aman proud with her rendition of the song that had changed the way Indian audiences listened to disco - Aap Jaisa Koi.

Deepali was criticized for her alleged crush “crushing” her singing. She survived that week, but was voted out the next when she had a great comeback on stage. Cranky voting system? One would believe so. Especially when the judges were very generous in telling the girls that “you are my Indian idol tonight”. Sleazy, come to think of it.

You raise their hopes, they feel they are ready to take on the world of vocal chords only to fall face flat, just because the voter gals of India want their favourite boy to win. Boy oh boy, what a shame – when all we hear is girls don’t get a chance in this country. Here was their chance, but in what seems to be a conspiracy led by their own kind, the girls on Indian Idol lost not once, but twice. First, when they were voted out, second when they put
on the show at the finals.

Upping the Skirt

What happened to them at the finals can only be described as desperate measures. In particular, the sequence when all the girls came on stage, each belting out one ‘item number’ after another. And the organizers made sure that they looked the part. Which, sadly, did not happen. Get them the skimpiest, the most uncomfortable attire they have ever worn. Bring them out from the small town, throw them in a pool of piranhas in the big bad world of showbiz. And ask them to groove like sex kittens on stage with a bunch of half naked men. Whoa! Did we miss something here?

These girls come from a background where in their wildest dreams they could not have had the courage to even think on those lines. Small town India is still conservative, and the Gen Next is happier to give in to the orthodox than go against any one’s grain. They are characters right out of a K-Jo movie, where family aspirations and beliefs are the ultimate means of divine happiness. How would then one expect to see them prancing about in an avatar they could never justify?

Barely a teenager, Richa came on stage, concentrating more on the moves taught to her than on syncing her lips right to the words. She’s a kid, and throughout the season, some judges harshly told her to grow up. If this is the result – her initiation into ‘adulthood’, I’d be very scared.

Does a girl really have to bare skin to show she’s a woman? Indian Idol, mind you, is a singing contest which also focuses on performance. Where was the singing then? Richa, I am very sorry to say, but you did not pass. Performance killed your spirit as a singer at the finale. Your lips failed to move with your arms and legs. Ditto Pooja Chatterjee.

Deepali was brought on the stage, carried by the dancing ‘hunks’. Hello! Did she flinch, and adjust her low top? Were we waiting for a Carol Gracias act from Deepali? An emphatic no. The first thought that ran across my mind was – what happened to her? Then I realized perhaps she had little say in what was decided for her. Heck, even the lookers Charu Semwal and Ankita had their moments of uncool.

For the girls’ parents in the audience, they could barely cheer. Their discomfort was apparent, as they sat, in a trance, and the public behind them went gaga. If they had the power to, they would perhaps sink in their seats. Or so it seemed from their faces.

But, really, they had no qualms pushing their daughters into terribly exploitative world of showbiz. It's not as if they had no idea about the price their daughters would need to pay but, I guess, the pull of lucre outweighs their orthodoxy. As of the daughters, even though would have a shrewd idea of what being a performer on stage entails and many would gladly give up their inhibitions. But, with contestants as young as 16, can you really expect them to understand the long-term consequences?

Boos for the Boobshow!

Thank you Indian Idol, you made ample fun of us putting together an act that mocks the words singing and performance. It’s an out and out, shrieking cry of desperation. Understood that you want to promote the girls to the audiences, you want to bring them to the forefront with angst against the audiences for voting them out. But hey, the girls are no Rakhi Sawant for Shefali Jariwala’s sake.

I remember Simon Cowell once on American Idol telling a contestant that her short skirt and not her singing will get her the votes. I hope he gets to see this one. I can imagine his monkey face contorting with amusement and disgust. And a thin British upper lip curling to mouth a very British obscenity in a very thick British accent.

Sorry for the overuse of the word British, but the point is, Indian Idol, please realize this is not Britain or the USA. We appreciate the tall claims your show promises – uniting India, unbiased, non-discriminatory. But if this is your idea of bringing the Indian Idol to international sensibilities, I’d say it’s one tight slap right in our faces.




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