This summer, the Drift Memsaab was touring the lower Himalayas with my 8 year old son, MotorSandal when a coal-black bhes materialized from behind a bush and emitted a foghorn-like bellow. Motorsandal immediately froze and asked "M-m-mom! Is that a dinosaur?"
My amusement at hearing this anecdote was tinged with regret. Because by living my life as a city slicker I feel constantly guilty that I'm depriving my kids of the simple life, where kids (like me) lived the clean, nature-bhari, uncomplicated life and played with one toy and wore the same "new" shirt all year before asking for another.
This same sense of disenfranchisement draws people like me to uncomplicated singers like Raja Hasan (or Prashant Tamang for that matter).
Early on, when Raja Hasan was part of the deliciously tackily named Eklavya gharana (the gharana with no gurus) he was an unknown quantity. But he was called upon to fill a gap and his singing was nothing short of revelatory. Just as he emerged as a strong singer, Kalyanji showed up as a rather stern mahaguru and inexplicably sent him packing.
Thankfully Vishal-Shekhar used the wildcardashtra and restored him back to the show. And he went from strength to strength becoming as the House of Reshammiya put it "the most hyped singer of the show". Combining a huge voice with an innate ability to find and grab the emotion in the song, he delivered several fine and entertaining performances. He came across as simple, gracious, diplomatic, friendly and respectful. This helped him garner top votes in the early rounds
But then... (and at this point in true SRGMP style, this entire blog would go black and white and you would hear a sonic swoosh) the tide turned for Raja Hasan.
First, he was called for forgetting lyrics. Once the camera (and Shekhar) caught him reading lyrics off his palm in the middle of a performance, reminding me of my friend in school - lovingly called Piston for reasons I'd much rather not go into here - in the middle of an exam.
Then the whole nek insaan bit got a little old. As in all weekly reality contests, your popularity ebbs and flow. Its no fault of the contestants, just the natural momentum of audience fickleness. Add to this that straight face he made whenever something positive was said, as if to say "I'm so seedha I can't comprehend praise", which got to some people.
Finally, Himesh, sensing that his chela Aneek needed some path clearing promptly got to work on Raja. First, castigating him publicly for messing up a song and then in a confounding turn of events virtually blaming him for the eviction of Mussarat Abbas. All this reduced Raja to a vocal hobble when we saw him last week. Even Vishal and Shekhar felt obligated to fake-praise his ordinary singing in an effort to boost their last chela in the competition.
There are rumors that he finished top of the class in this week's upcoming episode. But regardless of the outcome, with Aneek delivering tremendous singing on demand, Poonam winning audiences over with her range and Amanat barely making mistakes, Raja has now become the one to watch. Will the train blow past the station or will it end up in a wreck?
Visions of Mauli Dave, although this one sings a lot better!