Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Mission Ustaad: Arre, Kya Funda Hai Yaar????

Sidekick checks out a promising new show

Javed Akhtar Mission Ustaad TVIn the crowded landscape of reality music shows this seemed hatke and I was curious enough to check it out. Okay, I’ll come clean and admit that with the “bitter half” away on a long business trip and faced with a cold snowy evening in Boston, adrak chai and reality TV were my refuge - a lemming-like quest, given that I’ve been lamenting on how reality TV has been eating into my movie time.

Anyway, the idea seemed both lofty and unique and of course that was enough of a hook. With idealistic calls to action from Aamir Khan, Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid, four pairs of top drawer singers, India’s most celebrated music composer in Rahman, the witty and eloquent lyricist par excellence Javed Akhtar and the glamorous and articulate Lara Dutta ----- a surefire recipe for quality infotainment surely?

Javed Akhtar Mission Ustaad TV AR RahmanIt was up to a point ---- which I’ll get to eventually. But before that, the show itself ---- definitely a classy set-up. The set was swish and aesthetic - a far cry from the tacky SRGMP one. Simone Singh, the host was a polished, lovely vision in what is now the ubiquitous style statement of the season - the anarkali kurta-churidar ensemble. The singers (Naresh Iyer - Shveta Pandit, Mohit Chauhan - Vasundhara Das, Sonali Rathod - Roop Kumar Rathod and Kailash Kher - Mahalakshmi Iyer) came, vaguely bandied about the broadest generalities of the UN Millennium Development Goals, sang divinely and conquered.

Javed Akhtar Mission Ustaad TV Kailash KherAt the end of each pair’s performance Simone deferred to the music guru himself and asked Rahman about his thoughts. For instance, “Naresh is your discovery, how do you see his evolution to this point?” she queried. “Umm, this is a difficult mission for both singers and judges; there is much responsibility on us” Rahman dithered. “I expect something extraordinary”. Undeterred Simone gamely tried again, “Mohit delivered a brilliant rendition of Khoon Chala in your very own Rang De Basanti; your thoughts on his presence here, Rahman Saab?” Rahman took another stab at it, “ for all of us this is a chance to take it to another level, to break free of our blinkers and think out of the box. I expect something extraordinary”.

By the time we got to the last couple of Kher and Iyer, the now wary Simone looked pleadingly at Rahman for his reaction, as if to say “dude, throw me a bone here; get with the program”! Unmoved Rahman said “Of course, I expect something extraordinary” and neatly tossed it to Judge Javed.

Shveta Pandit Naresh Iyer Mission Ustaad TVI admire Rahman greatly, love his music and firmly believe he is India’s true cross-over star – move over Aishwarya Rai Bachchan! – but a more inarticulate soul I’ve yet to see. Those of you who abhor Shiamak Dawar for his angrezi love and atrocious hindi, may have a bone to pick with Rahman. While everyone else spoke Hindi or Hinglish, Rahman refused to step out of his comfort zone (such as it is!) of English.

Luckily the voluble and eloquent Judge Javed (JJ) sparkled ---- and not just in one of his patented kurtas that Aspi adores, but in the way he trotted out inspiring comments and rah rah encouragement to all of the singer jodis as if to make up for the lack of firepower from Rahman. Until the upstart Kailash Kher overstepped his bounds and dared to usurp JJ’s role of bombaster extraordinaire. “I’ll have to unchain my wallet to buy a Hindi dictionary and then perhaps I can try to understand Kailash’s sentiments”, JJ ribbed mercilessly. Our bombastic upstart squirmed having been put firmly in his place while his partner Mahalakshmi Iyer cheered JJ lustily. I rubbed my hands in gleeful anticipation of more JJ-upstart jhagdas ---- they seem ripe to be plucked off Mission Ustaad’s gleaming dais.

Nandita SenThe lovely Lara played her role as UN representative with poise and ease. I haven’t had many chances to see much of her to this point, but she thoroughly impressed me. First off, the lovely long fuchsia evening dress set off her obvious Miss Universe aura. But beyond that she seemed anything but a beauteous bimbette. There were no unnecessary giggles, no gratuitous chaatoing --- she was clear and coherent and full of dignified grace. At this point it is obligatory to offer some phaltu drift advice (what’s a column on Aspi’s Drift without it!): Rahman saar, please requisition JJ to write you some dialog and use Lara’s services as a dialog coach to put us out of our misery.

So, what’s not to like? Well, I expected to say in awe, “arre kya funda hai, yaar!” and I did by the end of the show - just not in awe but in bewilderment as I was scratching my head. Either I’m thick or I just glazed over as they explained but I just don’t get how the lofty ideal is to work.

The way I understand it, the singers are to rework their popular songs and/or sing special new compositions that create awareness and a commitment in the aam janta to UN Millennium Development Goals. Huh? But the singers (however extraordinary to use Rahmanese) are but mere instruments in the hands of powerful composers and writers, the ustaads among whom are playing judge and jury. Shouldn’t Rahman, JJ and their ustaad ilk be the participants if this mission is truly to resonate with the public?

There is however enough intrigue here ---- and a preview of Rahman singing my fave “Yeh jo desh hai mera” from Swades--- to keep me hooked for another week. Beyond that I can’t say – stay tuned.



Anonymous said...

Nice going sidekick!

I thought I was done with reality shows for this year and now with your review you have made me curious enough to want to check it out.
..still foggy on the premise though.

Ever since I saw Lara hosting some awards show I've really liked her.

'the witty and eloquent lyricist par excellence Javed Akhtar' really? granted he is a drift fav but I've come to think of him as a lyrics factory. Aspi, how do you come up with the comments on the pics? Is it the years of reading graphic novels? you had me LOL!

ppl said...

Damn that is indeed promising. I am definitely on this boat till it tips over. However I wonder if this is going to be too pretentious.
The balancing act between entertainment and social consciousness within the premise of a reality show might dilute the social message and reduce the entertainment value thus making it a 'worst of both worlds'

Btw sidekick you really got me hooked with the Rehman description. I wonder if he's bored with the show already and zoned out to think of an ethereal tune for his next project.

ppl said...

Wow aspi, missed the "where's emon" cap the first time.
I reiterate you should have your own desi version of E's 'The Soup'

Unknown said...

meena, it is indeed years of reading comics but probably years of growing up in a mad Parsi family. Lara has been looking good since Partner methinks. She looked dreadful in Masti and I had written her off.

leera, if I lose my current job, I'll be shilling that and if you are available you can exec produce.

Sidekick, you are a terrific writer. I enjoyed the show although I had to skip some in the interests of making this a timely post.

Unknown said...

Just fyi, Google's email notifications for comments on this blog is busted so I'm a bit behind today.

Anonymous said...

Great going sidekick. I am intrigued by the show now.

Yeah, Lara is definitely one of my favourites. Haven't seen a more poised individual. I even loved her in the 'aisa jadoo dala re' item number :).

I always thought Rahman would never make a good reality TV judge. He is like president Kalam, too much of a genius to be present in the present. But I like having him there. He is giving prestige to the cause.

Ofcourse, JA is there to balance him out and I am sure he is taking advantage by talking non-stop with big urdu words.

Still fuzzy on the premise and fuzzier on how India is going to get rid of poverty, starvation, HIV by 2015 but isn't that what most of the pledges to the UN are - warm and touchy-feely.

Now I need to sign off before Anug chastises me for starting a political discussion :)

Anonymous said...

Also, "I'm ready, where's Emon?' and other captions - Too good.

Anonymous said...

Hey Joules, tut tut, making fun of me???I mentioned even earlier that I was justifying 'my' stand on being apolitical! U want to fight it out go ahead!!I dont want to deprive u all of ur fun!!I feel like the matriarch of Baghbaan.'aapke bhalaai keliye bol rahi hoon, lekin aap samajte nahin'sob sob!!

Anonymous said...

Sidekick,What a wonderful write-up!!!Mindblowing!I am so glad to see u back down to my level- with the reality shows:).Wow, this was some show.....I dont get this channel as well, so missing out on all the action.Surprisingly its not too publicised in India I think(or maybeits cos I ve hardly been watching tv in the last few weeks).I did read that people were confused as to what it was all about But ur write-up sure made it sound so interesting.An Aplus to you for ur writing!!!Keep up the good work!!
Aspi, I am amazed u manage to come up with such wonderful captions every time!!

Anonymous said...

Thanks everyone! Its Aspi's captions that do the trick ---- Aspi, the Where's Emon one is pure genius.

Meena, I think JJ's rep took a beating at the drift after his Emon outburst. I know I chanced upon the drift ready to spew venom at JJ for his cruelty.... so I'm eternally grateful to him for his bad behavior :).

Joules, great point. The show is as vague and clueless abt implementing its mission as the UN abt its ambitious goals. I had an eye rolling moment when Shveta Pandit said she hoped to save the world with her singing!

Leera, I agree. There's nothing that bombs as badly as bad infotainment. Only 2 things give me hope (at for another week):

1. The singing is terrific, so if nothing else we'll have that to enjoy. In this epi, each sang his /her signature song - e.g. Naresh : Roobaroo, Kailash: Teri Deewani, Roop Kumar: Maula mere. In fact it was only after maula mere were we assured that Rahman had a pulse --- he declared himself a fan of the song and roop kumar's rendition. Leera, but for that he may well have been doing the background score for jodha akbar in his head!
2. A possible fight to the finish between JJ and Kailash for the title of the king of verbosity --- that shd have much entertainment value.

Anonymous said...

Sidekick, Wah, wah!

Next time too, I expect something extraordinary!

No comparison between Rahman and Shaimak Davar...There is a huge difference between being comfortable in English vs. trying to be Anglicized.

Anonymous said...

Sidekick,dont underestimate urself. U write beautifully. Aspi;s caption is the extra-topping to make it more interesting.
By the way, I hope u r not miffed with my matronly advice not to get into arguments! When I said things should preferably not get ugly, there was no refernce to u directly. It was a general statement.
As I told Joules,this is just my personal opinion. I understand ur need to discuss something cerebral, after the very ordinary gossip we share.
So go ahead.
Trust I have made my stand clear!

Anonymous said...

I remember watching one of the very first live shows of Rehman years ago on TV. At that time, he didnt know Hindi at all.When the compere made announcements,ad people applauded, rehman kept asking the person next to him what was being said.This was even as he was singing some of his famous Hindi songs.I heard then that he used to write the lyrics in Tamil, and ask for a translation.This was the time when he wouldnt speak a word in public.Came across as an elusive genius.
He has improved greatly in his PR skills.Possibly he knows some more Hindi, but not enough. Like so many of us Southies, I am sure he has a problem with the gender while speaking. And to speak, esp in front of Javed is quite frightening. So i am not surprised he spoke only in English(the few times he did).
I speak reasonably okay Hindi, but when I speak to someone who speaks excellent Hindi, i seem to falter and fumblle and make all the grammatical mistakes.I can empathise with Rahman,poor guy!

Anonymous said...

anu g, many thanks! u're much too kind :).

i love the masaledaar gossip as much as everyone here but i like some variety once in a while :) . absolutely no offense taken at yr comments... I did know right away u weren't singling me out. You take yr role as drift pacifist very seriously and so do we. after all someone needs to keep the junglees in line :P

Anonymous said...

Sidekick, sorry to intrude into MU space.Aspi hasnt given a Zee post, so I am posting my comments here.I just read Vineet's interview where he is praising Himesh for helping him out. I guess I was wrong some months ago, doing some Himesh-bashing saying I 'd heard he;s dtiched his proteges.I owe an apology to Himanshu-fans.

Anonymous said...

Actually I remember Aadesh Shrivastava had blamed Himesh for spoiling Vineet's career.

On Aadesh, I had read somewhere a number of actors, Amitabh Bachchan included said they would only sing a song if Aadesh is helming the music direction.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant Sidekick! Funny and articulate,you've managed to keep us all engrossed thru out the post and the whole Simone-Rehman conv had me in splits.

I am glad that your immense talent to gamble with words(in a good way) with a tch of sarcasm(hey,the drift is all abt that) is not tucked away under comments segment and has made it to a full-fledge post.I am watching this show if you are writing the review each week,although like other drifters here,I've no clue what it is all about:)

Leera,can you help me find the online version,pls?

Speaking of S.Davar,can someone tell him not to say 'Mann Mohak Prasthuti' in a terrible accent-I'd prefer 'Mind Blowing' now.

PS:I am afraid of Vasundhara?-LOL

Anonymous said...

Aspi, I blame you for getting me interested in desi reality shows.

Now that we have all spent so many hours watching these reality shows analyzing and critiquing them to shreds, I think its time to come up with the drift reality show 'dream team' ideas.

I think the music directors judging singers is getting old.

How about a reality show with a panel of, say, Ram Gopal Varma and Judge Javed judging wannabe actors showing their craft via short skits. Maybe Subhash Ghai could drop by as a guest. what do you guys think? good jhagda potential?

Anonymous said...

Meena, I thought there was a show like that. I remember Pooja Bhatt as being one of the judges and she was quite brutal.

The price for the winners was a movie with them as the leads, however when the movie came out it was'nt marketed at all.

Actually there was more potential for disaster (and fun for us) in that show as a lot of people who thought themselves as talented weren't.

Infact, the lead pair on one of the premier shows on TV (Banoo main teri dulhan) was choosen from a reality show and they both are quite good. I believe it was Bharat ki Khoj.

Anyone got an insight on 9x channel? Is it new?. I had not heard of this channel until recently.

Anonymous said...

Joules,you know more abt these serials than most of us:)

btw,is Divyanka Tripati the banoo,here?

Meena,Joules is talking abt Zee cinestar or something.The panel comprised of Pooja Bhatt,Anupam Kher and Madhur Bandarkar.

Anonymous said...

Saritha, My mother-in-law in India watches most of the popular TV shows, so whenever I visit her I catch up on those. When I get back I dont have the patience to watch the shows but am familiar enough with the stars that I read up on the gossip.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, and it is Divyanka T. She is from Bhopal where I did my engineering from, so have a soft corner for her.

Anonymous said...

ah,I get it!

And,Divyanka is very beautiful,I've seen her for the first time on an award show where she won the 'Fresh New Face-Female'.

Anonymous said...

Meena,Joules and Saritha, the Cinestar ki khoj with pooja bhatt and co was the second one. The initial zee cinestars ki khoj was a big hit since it came soon after Z saregamapa then.I cant recollect the judges.But the winner was a guy from Hyderabad. There was a grand finale where Hrithik announced the winners.They were promised a movie which never happened. Finally they both got a break in a movie which was released lat year...bombed miserably(I think it was called khanna ad iyer).But it helped some people get into movies/tv..Rakhi Sawant;s boyfriend Abhishek,The other heroine in Om Shanti om, Yuvika, and the runner-up who acted in some tv serial and is now acting to telugu movies.(Saritha, I know u r not to happy with the influx of non-telugu heroines into tollywood).

Anonymous said...

Joules,how sweet of u to be keeping company with ur mom-in-law in watching the serials.My mom and almost everyone in Chennai, are so hooked on to tv serials on Sun TV.But I never manage to sit through them.So I appreciate what u r doing:).
Which show was Divyanka the winner of?

Anonymous said...

So a star is a fan too. Sonu Nigam is such a big fan of Aamir Khan that he has been maintaining a scrap book on Aamir since childhood..and he got Aamir to autograph it when he came in as the guest-judge on Little Champs.Thats nice!

Unknown said...

meena, the dream team is a great idea - I'll have to work on that.

ppl said...

There u go Saritha -

Its the first episode, you might have to register at mufttv but its fast and the episodes are in high quality.

Anonymous said...

anug, It was Z cinestar ki Khoj and she was the winner from the kolkatta region. I have not seen the show except for clips so don't know what year she appeared on it.

Anonymous said...

mind rush, saritha --- shukriya.

saritha, not sure i'm in this for the long haul, but i'd love to swap comments if u watch the show this week.

meena, brilliant idea - except it seems like u've been scooped! i would love to see SLB and Aamir as judges. the jhagdas could be spectacular :)

i'm excited --- i'm all set to watch aaja nachle on saturday - yaay!

Anonymous said...

Joules, u r going to like this news.Theres going to be another musical reality show (oh god, one more!)presented by karan johar on ndtv imagine,and one of the contestants is divyanka t.Hope she keeps the Bhopal flag flying high!

Saritha said...

hey Leera,thanks for the link!

Sidekick,of course I am with you.Will be watching it this afternoon:)
btw,will there be an elimination the following week?

Anonymous said...

Sidekick,Saritha,Leera,I watched the promo of this weeks MU on a news channel, and it had Javed staring at Mohit Chauhan/Vasundhara Das with a very condescending look saying 'Aap tho khaate-peetey ghar ke log lagte hain.Aap kya jaante hain bhook ke baare main.Aap ne jo matlab nikaala hai, woh bilkul galat hai".and the poor duo were speechless...I saw V just looking so shocked, trying to say something, and then just keeping shut....This must have been some interesting episode...ideal for a very entertaing post.Do update us!

Anonymous said...

anu g - tfs. what would we do without you? seems like the dhamaka is truly starting on MU. on last week's show we only got an inkling of the fireworks that have obviously been set off . now if only shabana would appear on MU cut her hubby down to size fm the khaata peeta guy that he is, my cup of joy will overflow :P

Anonymous said...

Hey Sidekick, cmon pl dont keep thanking me for sharing info. U r one of the very few who earnestly reads the most inane info I collect, and then so faithfully comments on the info too. So I must say I am deeply honoured:).