Let's not mince words: Indian Idol is under siege. It's failed to throw up a genuine superstar in any of its seasons save the first one.
Its contestants have struggled to make a mark in the music biz. Some have had playback opportunities that haven't gone anywhere. Others have tried to make a name for themselves on the reality show circuit. But might I remind everyone that the name of show is Indian Idol, not Indian Hopeful! In the rising face of competition, both from other reality shows and shows that produce big names - Idol ended last season with the risk of being overrun.
Worse was to come. Idol started season 4 with a clutch of raw, inexperienced singers. And in the early Piano rounds, it lost almost all the really good ones. Crisis mode, engage!
But Idol 4 got one thing right: inviting Meiyang Chang to host the auditions and then promptly extending the offer to continue through the Piano rounds.
Meiyang's tall, easy rider presence has been a sparkling one - he's struck up a bromance with co-host Hussain and his punchy introductions inject much needed life into the show. He is able to mingle easily among the contestants - allowing their stories to come to the fore (the show's USP) but still commands respect from them and the judges.
Forget the guys who have won the competition, Meiyang has the potential to be the show's biggest idol since Abhijit Sawant. And if SONY is watching the same show I am, they'll be quick to recognize this and invite Meiyang to host the Galas for them.
I invited Meiyang to stop by the Drift and tell us about what life has been like on Indian Idol this season. And he's so engaging that a short exchange turned into a long one and we added in pictures from Meiyang's personal photo album in as well.
NOTE: All pictures and their captions are the property of Meiyang Chang. Don't copy those without his permission. The text in this article on the other hand, is mine and something you can go to town with. Here is the Drift Copyright for reference.
AspisDrift.com: Meiyang, how did you end up hosting Indian Idol this year?
Meiyang: After Idol 3, I was fortunate to be approached by Sony BMG to sign up for Artiste Management as well form a Boy Band with two others, the perks of which were having our own music album and videos.
Six months passed by, performing live and meeting people, learning the ropes. In this entire period, it was impossible to let go of the memories of the life altering time I had spent as a contestant in Indian Idol 3. I wanted to be associated with the show once again, but I wondered how it would be possible, since as per the format of the show, I am not allowed to participate again.
Around March 2008, I came to know that the auditions of Indian Idol 4 would be held shortly. I was excited and called up Mini Mathur ma'am, our host for last year and was excitedly chatting her up, telling her how eager I was to see her on the show again. It was she who told me that she was not doing the show this year due to personal reasons and that Hussain sir was not available for the auditions period. There was an audition going on FOR the person who would host the auditions! Many prominent TV personalities were being discussed.
At this point I thought, THIS would be a perfect manner to be re-associated with the show I love the most. But at the same time, I also knew how fruitless my attempt could have been, considering the names that were up for grabs. Still, having my record of popularity last year, plus the fact that I am a decent orator and my looks are novel and work for me, and that I am part of the show, I put forward a request to the production house to consider me.
After watching me audition, they were impressed but thought I'd do a better job in a younger show like something on MTV, and that I looked too 'young' (I guess they wanted to say not authoritative-looking enough) for a premium show like Indian Idol. I was dejected but took heart from the fact that I had made a good impression.
Fortune shone upon me and within 2 weeks time I got a call telling me I was in. I thank the channel and the production house for taking the risk of casting someone who was a newcomer and who also did not fit the image they had for an Indian Idol anchor, a gamble that thankfully seems to have gone down well with the viewing audience. The channel also tweaked the format of the show since Idol does not accomodate ex-contestants as anchors in any of the versions worldwide.
Initially, I was offered only the auditions phase which was a hurricane - hectic and fast paced!!! But then they decided to continue with me in the Ru-Ba-Ru segment as well. The biggest surprise came when they called me to co-host the Piano rounds with Hussain sir (who was back by now) as an equal! Now I'm anxiously waiting to see whether they retain me for the rest of the show as well
AspisDrift.com: What is a typical week for you like schedule-wise these days?
Meiyang: I shoot three days a week for Indian Idol that includes two days for Piano rounds and one day for Ru-Ba-Ru. These three days are extremely unstable in terms of timings. We always try to shoot smoothly and finish within the stipulated time but depending on the technical acuity, celebrities joining us and many other unavoidable things, the end-time always fluctuates.
I usually take 1-2 days off completely to relax or spend time with friends and family. Of course, the remaining days go into music classes, daily chores, networking (and being in a humongous traffic city like Mumbai, every simple chore takes an eternity to finish).
As of now, all my concentration is on Indian Idol. I have live shows lined up in the next few months, and am also going through a couple of movie scripts. I wouldn't say I'm a very busy man. I'm living a chilled out life but am raring to find more work and slog it out!
AspisDrift.com: What is co-host Hussain like to work with?
Meiyang: I would like to thank Hussain sir immensely for giving me the confidence that radiates on screen. Working with Deepali for auditions was easy since we're good friends and at par. But he is someone who's been in the industry for a long time and has carved a niche for himself on television. And I knew him as a TV personality then and was completely in awe of him.
I remember the first day I met him I told him "The problem is how do I address you on the show, because I'm used to calling you sir?"
And he said, "Brother, in terms of achievement you might be my junior, but on this show we are equals. And from now on, let's be friends rather than junior and senior"
And that's how, he came up with the idea of "Partner-Buddy" to make it comfortable for both of us. He has taken immense pressure off my mind and constantly keeps giving me tips without being preachy. He is extremely supportive. We share many light moments on the sets where we talk about anything under the sun (read- studio lights lol ;) - from judges to contestants to our future plans to fitness etc.
Very few people would be so generous as to let a newcomer get equal standing and make them so comfortable, and he is one of them. And I'm immensely grateful and love him for that