Say what you will but Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Challenge 2009 has better singers overall than last year. I'm not surprised - the music industry now has genuine money in it, creating a swell of new talent willing to exercise patience for a break. SRGMP has now become one of their premier platforms to get noticed. And its driving them all to the show.
Plus, SRGMP has the concept of judges right - they pick music directors. It works on so many levels that I'd have to write a new post just about that. So back to the contestants which is the focus of this post. Here are the remaining seven in order of my own level of anticipation when they come in to sing.
Yashita Yashpal Sharma
Every year SRGMP throws up a winner and a breakout singing star. Often they are not the same person. This year's singer who will get much roji roti in Bollywood - despite where she finishes - is Yashita. She has a strong voice that can be downright powerful in a few years. As far as I am concerned her pitching is a work in progress. But she has great focus and spunk.
Vote Appeal Angle: Bindaas Mumbai babe ke liye vote karo!
Sounds Like: Sunidhi Chauhan on a pub crawl with Suzanne D'mello
Among her best: Yashita sings Suneeta Rao's Pari Hoon Mein, Vaishali Samant's Aika Daji Ba
Pratibha Singh Baghel
Easily this year's most accomplished voice, Pratibha is genuine talent blended with early training and hard work. She seems incapable of singing badly - her worst performances are better than anything you would hope to hear on say Indian Idol. Lately SRGMP has rather amusingly been pairing her up with a fellow contestant - they've been doing it with the roving camera, the TV equivalent of the filmi akhiyon ke isharo se.
Vote Appeal Angle: The girl from the Heartland needs your help to win!
Sounds Like: The love child of Shreya Ghoshal and Shobha Mudgal
Among her best: Pratibha sings Abida Parveen's Baghban
The Virender Sehwag of the show - capable of monster performances and dismal failures. Interestingly with Debojit you can tell he'll bomb within the first few lines. He might be great economic option for some music directors if they pick the song carefully.
Vote Appeal Angle: I'm adhura but I'm happy!
Sounds Like: Suraj Jagan imitating Kishore Kumar on one of their saner days
Among his best: Debojit sings James' Hamari Adhuri Kahani
Sara Raza Khan
Sara sings in two voices - one is a kitchy-koo girly voice that entirely limits her range. Once in while she'll break into a full throated voice which sounds terrific. Unfortunately that doesn't happen often. But forget the consolation praise the judges heap on fellow competitor Asma for marked improvement, the fastest improving singer on SRGMP is Sara.
Vote Appeal Angle: Vote for your cute neighbor from up north!
Sounds Like: Suraiya before she hit puberty
Among her best: Sara sings Himesh's Mashah Allah
Vastly underrated as a singer on the show, if Soumen (who I like to call Chow-mein) has a killer voice in the middle octaves, his low notes ain't bad either. But he gets a little screechy on the high notes, which limits his appeal as a playback singer.
Vote Appeal Angle: Please, I'm trying really hard to look cool here. So vote for me!
Sounds Like: KK. But on the high notes, sounds like KK after he just found out he lost another song to Shaan
Among his best: Soumen sings Kailash Kher's Saiyan
Vaishali's excellent range if somewhat shrill voice texture is an indicator of how deep talent runs this year on SRGMP - she's barely been among the top singers. Sure Himesh is building a rather eye-roll worthy back story for her (she sings for her husband!) and she sings boring songs, but her approach to life and singing are both genuine and touching.
Vote Appeal Strategy: I worked really hard all my life, now its time to be a star!
Sounds Like: Lata Mangeshkar Lite
Among her best: Vaishali sings Lata Mangeshkar's Der Na Ho Jaye
Hugely capable, wonderfully dedicated, refreshingly down to earth. He's a niche singer who hasn't yet found his precise niche. If he finds a supportive music director, that niche can be found.
Vote Appeal Angle: Vote for the god-fearing bandaa!
Sounds like: Sukhwinder Singh after riding a bike with a very small, hard seat
Among his best: Zaheer sings AR Rahman's Khwaja Mere Khwaja
Asma Mohammad Rafi
Easily the weakest singer on SRGMP, Asma is the train wreck of the season. But she has a vulnerable, semi-loony personality that audiences seem to connect with. And riding that wave, she has negotiated repeated finishes in the bottom three with safe passage into the next round.
Vote Appeal Angle: I'm a ditzy Arab girl with an amusing accent. Vote for continued humor on the show, I mean me!
Sounds Like: Mauli Dave on a cell phone
Among her best: Asma tackles Himesh's Jhalak Dikhla Jaa