So I ventured out with a few more focused questions to figure out exactly why Mauli held Indian viewers fascinated for so long before her popularity peaked. Here are my notes on my highly unscientific polls and amateur interviews conducted in the neighborhood and the immediate vicinity of my area at public places (hey, I’m lazy).
- So let’s get the sex appeal thing out of the way first. We aren’t talking Scarlett Johansson here, but compared to the rest of the girls on SRGMP, Mauli did carry a corked carnality that set her apart and allowed her to stand out. It was in the way she sang and the way she moved. Note how many times she was in the center of the stage during a performance, and when she wasn’t something didn’t look quite right.
- How does an American-Indian find popularity with the Indian masses? Mauli played the prodigal daughter angle really well by coming to the desh and working hard to prove herself on an Indian platform to an Indian audience.
- Mauli had a unique voice but was a hit-or-miss singer. When she was on, she was terrific with the item numbers. When she swung and missed, she fell apart badly. But either way, she approached her songs with a passion. Remember how she closed her eyes and tried her best on “Yeh jo des” even while she crashed and burned spectacularly? Let’s face it – we love Virender Sehwag types – talent with entirely human shortcomings that threaten their possessors with the worst.
- She was the friendly, non-jealous types. Even the judges all seemed to back her up because she established good relationships with all of them. And this vibe rubbed off on viewers. When she left, everyone seemed genuinely sorry and she even got Himesh to say the right thing – no mean feat.
- She was dynamic and confident. When the rest of the girls stood by demurely, she stood tall, nodded her head, made eye contact with everyone, maroed jhatkas unapologetically during performances, flirted with Salman and even walked up and shook Akshay Kumar’s hand instead diving for his feet. Forget Ankita, Mauli reminds more girls of ajki naari.
So will she be missed? With apologies to a lot of people on this blog: entirely it seems! I’m still not sure what she’ll sound like in the recording studio - where the image associated with the voice on the show won’t be present.
Take a look at the track record of the winners and losers on American Idol and you’ll see that once the face is removed, the voice is still king – the artists with strong songs sold records while others faltered, definitely in their sophomore effort if not sooner. And the narrower the focus the better: outside Kelly Clarkson on AI and Abhijit Sawant on II, no alum has established a broad-based pop career.
Given this, the news that Pritam in addition to her mentor Bleeng Bleeng Lahiri will be working with her should help Mauli feel a little bit assured about her short term future. But it’s still very much in the balance.
SRGMP – on the other hand – will more than recover from her loss as it always does.
Mauli's SRGMP performances
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