If Indian Idol 4 were a map this year, someone seems to have gone over it with an eraser and deleted all the talent markers. Sure the producers have been working hard to jazz up the contestants - I once saw a contestant strumming a guitar on a decked out moon - but there is no real replacement for voice and personality. Add to that those nutty, commercial inserts that stop the show dead in its track and bump up the eye roll factor.
Fortunately, the Indian Idol staff in front of the camera is having a banner year - having risen to the challenge of providing the entertainment missing from the contestants. Let's see how everyone has been doing, shall we?
We've talked about Meiyang Chang before and his hiring as co-host was an early win for the creative team. But just as importantly Hussain Kuwajerwala has filled in the considerable void left by last year's co-host Mini Mathur. Its hard to walk the line between classy and goofy bindaas - but Hussain seems to be able to do that, pulling off even the most staged dialogs with just the right amount of cheese. Week after week he shows us what a great clothes hanger he is - be it an outfit that is innovative or just plain confounding.
Best of all, he's great at hustling eliminated singers with respect for both the contestants and us, the viewers, who have to put up with the same sob drama every week.
By embracing his inner curmudgeon and positioning himself as the blustery but loving Daddy, Anu Malik made himself entertaining on Indian Idol 4. He's still maddeningly inconsistent in his judgments - picking people rather than performances. But its part of his allure - and because he's not exactly separating the wheat from the chaff, how he judges is immaterial on this show.
Off and on he'll lose his temper - especially when he senses baghawat on the show. But for the most part he comes across as a short tempered, yaar-dildaar types. And this is good positioning - because look how many people like Salman Khan.
This year's most entertaining hasti on the show, Javedbhai cut loose this year in the auditions. Faced with a sea of very modestly talented hopefuls, Javedbhai let a bunch of them have it. (Pri has a great collection of Javed zingers on her blog)
Lately he's developed the "Javedbhai Look of Encouragement". This look basically says "we all know you are as close to being a real singer as a watermelon is to a banana" while wonderful words of cheer come out of his mouth. He retains a sweet articulateness (his mini-speech at his birthday celebration left me touched) but also unleashes his ire periodically. "You kept your feet within your sheets" he admonished poor Kapil Thappar once "but that sheet wasn't spread out much in the first place!"
Speaking of which, Javedbhai: that Kapil is such an endearing boy - leave him alone, na?
Kailash fills the spot of "giant singer hasti" on the show. But he's turned out to be such a Pillsbury doughboy that he simply won't pull anyone up - even when the contestant has clearly declared war on sur. This leaves me disappointed, not to mention feeling cheated. What is the point of having a mahasinger on the show (and clearly Kailash has proved that he is), if all he will do is find words to avoid saying the inevitable, which is: you suck!
Heck, if we needed a cheerleader on the show, we could just have hired Celina Jaitley and given her pom poms.
Sonali's done what I didn't think a woman could do on Indian Idol - held her own without shedding class. It helps that she is majorly gorgeous, but more importantly her no-nonsense approach means that no one walks all over her.
Key to all of this is how she's placed on the judges panel. Pushing Anu Malik to the end of the table means Anu has only one alliance he can form - that with his neighbor Kailash Kher. And Kailash is too nice to gang up on anyone. Shorn of allies, Anu is much easier to keep in check and because Sonali sits right down the middle she just turns her head around towards Javedbhai and Kailash to recruit them to her point of view.
Did I also mention that she looks hot?