Friday, November 30, 2012

Sa Re Ga Ma Pa 2012: Full Power but not much shower!

Last week on the new season of SRGMP, judge Sajid commented on a crackerjack singing performance thusly: "Full power! No breakfast, no shower!" This absolutely did not make any sense at all. It sums up why I like SRGMP so much - great singing accompanied by all kinds of loopiness.

As a true singing competition SRGMP is head and shoulders above its competition - the highly rated Indian Idol. Most SRGMP singers could sing Indian Idol hopefuls under the table. SRGMP is able to do this because they focus on music as opposed to ratings. They won't think twice before having contestants hug a peti and sing ghazals week after week when they could be banging out a popular Pritam rock ballad instead. This year, a contestant called Mohammed Aman from Rajasthan sings Indian ragas weekly. You'd think it would bore everyone to tears (and audiences do vote Aman lower than his less accomplished competitors) but its downright scintillating to watch and listen to.

In the past perhaps in an effort to compete with Idol, the judges on SRGMP used to insist that contestants try all kinds of songs to prove themselves. Back then, versatile singers were all the rage. Now, as film music changes in India and voice casting becomes important, singers get picked for specific songs. Versatility isn't as important as the ability to knock specific types of songs out of the park. Bolstered by this emergent trend, the judges this year on SRGMP have encouraged singers to stay put in their genre. Contrary to expectations this has actually led to staggering musical diversity.

For example, Vishwajeet Borwankar sings raaga-pop. Jazim Sharma sings ghazals. Shehnaz Akhtar sings dreamy ballads. Zain Ali sings boisterous Punjabi songs, Jasraj Joshi reinterprets songs of high drama. Before they were eliminated last week, Padmanav used to Luther Vandrossify Indian songs and Kunal Pandit deadpanned his way through beautiful classically tinged songs.

To judge the stellar contestants, SRGMP has appointed four mentors. They are hilariously referred to as "mentos" on the show. This always makes me reach for my  mints especially if I'm watching the show after dinner. The mentos (and their Drift appointed titles) are Shankar Mahadevan (Judge Jaankaar), brothers Sajid (Judge Dildaar) and Wajid (Judge JiyoKyaBaatHai!) and Rahul Ram (Judge Valmiki Baba). All have their unique styles. Shankar has a keen sense of vocals and presentation and often moves his hands around trying to describe the shape of the music. This makes him appear like a smiling member of the Bruce Lee Fan Club. Sajid is a highly emotional judge - he often awards points for honesty or some other such frivolous stuff because he can't bear to let young kids down. His brother Wajid listens raptly, judges with brutal honesty and breaks into mehfil-type praise.

Now let's talk about Judge Valmiki Baba, shall we? My mom always taught me never to trust a man whose teeth you can't see. I've logged many hours watching SRGMP and I've never been given a darshan of Rahul Ram's teeth, but I can say that not only do I trust him implicitly but I immensely like him. Judge Valimiki Baba wears colorful headbands in an effort to tame his long hair - making him look vaguely like Bjorn Borg. He pretty much judges along the lines established by Shankar Mahadevan. But what I really like about him is that he has such a freewheeling air about him. When he reaches somewhere before the camera cuts away, I often visualize him reaching for a bong hit. I love folks who look nasheelay on TV! (Dharminder is a huge favorite of mine)

Javed Ali, who possesses a golden set of pipes himself and is riding a red hot career in playback singing, hosts the show. SRGMP seems to prefer subdued hosts and Javed is right up their alley. Often stiff and sometimes prone to sounding like he's making an All India Radio announcement, Javed radiates positive energy and goodness. And when he sings, boy, it sounds like you are at Heaven's Gate.

For all its high singing standard highjinks, SRGMP is not without fault. For one, the judges constantly play coy when it comes to giving points. Most of the time they appear to be judging the situation rather than the performance. This lends a somewhat nonsensical air to the points handed out after each song. Secondly, SRGMP's format is decidedly stale. There's the intro, the guests walk in, everyone genuflects, singer sings, gets judged, walks back, repeat. There's no Himesh Reshammiya to raise everyone's hackles. There isn't any Vishal Shekhar types to shake things up. SRGMP doesn't even do those unintentionally funny quick profiles on its contestants.

The only real fun happens when stars walk in as part of movie promos and try their best to raise the entertainment quotient of the show. Shahrukh was super entertaining when he came to shill for Jab Tak Hai Jaan. Just as entertaining was watching Katrina looking decidedly uncomfortable and trying to decide if Anushka Sharma got that rumored lip job.


Mind Rush said...

Have only seen your captions yet but have already fallen under the desk from laughing too hard....Gotta ration this kind of fun!!!

May I suggest a caption for you, Drift saab? "Blogger Shaandaar!"

Mind Rush said...

OMG, what a terrific write up! Your keyboard claws were very entertaining!!
I have to say that I miss the old judges' line-up with the in-fighting among judges, the petty bickering and the vast range of opinions.
In terms of the guests, I was charmed by Sonakshi! May we have a post on the numerous guests who danced, clapped or charmed their way through the show.

MaDhaNiSa said...

Vishwajeet won Marathi SRGMP and I think he will win this one too. All d best!

Unknown said...

Aspi......yay! The drift is back, it just wasn't as fun without you in the pop culture analysis blogosphere.
Must watch srgmp, if I can tear myself away from the voyeuristic bigg boss. (honey boo boo is where I draw the line!) I guess this is the 'bhodrolok' edition- (read gentlemenly in bengali). I miss himesh though and I realized that as soon as that ridiculous chalao na naino se song played. Shankar kinda put me off his 'reality tv' persona since the jo jeeta wohi superstar phase. But now that rahul ram is is there the singing will definitely be 'buzz' worthy. Smoking with saregamapa might have to make a comeback!!!

Unknown said...

Mind Rush, thanks!

Leera, good to know you are still watching and lol on the bhodrolok edition comment. Himesh was a pain but that is why we all loved him so much. I see he's written the story for Khiladi and also has a sidey role in it. And that movie was banned in Pakistan. Those guys are on to something.

Unknown said...

Its gonna be hard to top the khiladi film with rekha in it and that super audacious (for the 90s) in the night, no control song!
But now that I know himesh has writing credits, I am piqued enough to give it a view...

Unknown said...

Indeed! I think its terribly audacious to take a movie created as a Himesh vehicle, put Akshay in it instead because Himesh doesn't want to lose money on himself, tie it to a franchise because Akshay has acted in a number of unrelated movies with Khiladi in the title and unleash that soundtrack.

Sidekick said...

Sorry Aspi, getting to this really late even though I was super eager for your take. I love SRGMP this year - the year of the jonar singer, that reviled creature from seasons past.

I'm hugely biased towards Indian classical music so it warms my heart that Mohammed Aman has made it this far. By far my fave though is Vishwajeet, who has a great voice, solid Indian classical training and the ability to cross genres with ease.