Jagathy vs. Ranjini – What’s missing in the debate

There has been so much fuss about veteran Malayalam actor Jagathy Sreekumar’s mockery of reality show anchor Ranjini Haridas on the grand finale stage of Munch Star Singer. The majority of the people who cheered Jagathy were Malayalee men, with a few exceptions from some ‘progressive quarters’, but both the “for” and “against” arguments have missed some valid points that Jagathy had raised. But let me clearly state that I don’t fully condone Jagathy’s ‘show’. There are a few things that I did not like about the way he spoke. But I totally agree with the core point of his speech, on which I will comment later in this post.

One thing I liked about the beginning of his speech was that Jagathy had congratulated the judges of the show for all the right reasons. He mentioned that compared to the judges of other reality shows, the judges of Munch Star Singer (singers Venugopal and Sujatha) were patient to correct the kids, without making fun of them to entertain the audience/viewers. Here, we know which show and to whom he was referring to. I haven’t seen any other popular celebrities speaking up against this on TV or in public except Yesudas (who once made a mockery of, whom I would call, “the Sangathy man”). But that is obvious, no Malayalee celebrity would want to offend one of the most popular TV channels in Malayalam. They would be risking some prime time TV appearance by this. So I think it takes some courage on  Jagathy’s part to say this.

Then the mockery happened. What I didn’t like about that part was that Jagathy could have conveyed what he wanted to say in a better manner, without insulting the anchor who was standing next to him on stage. It is probably the Malayali male ego and jealousy of women who speak English, I guess. And it could be the same reason that the video of Jagathy’s speech is spreading across YouTube. Part of his speech was also taking a chunk of allowed time to elaborate on what would get him some claps. He also didn’t have to unnecessarily drag actor Jayaram into the issue. He could have spoken for himself.

But the main point that he raised in his speech is valid. Jagathy said that the anchors do not have the right to pass judgement on the singing/performance of the participants (and I assume that he did not mean to avoid encouraging/supportive comments). He said that is a bad practice and anchors should do just their job, of presenting the show well, rather than passing judgement. Evidently, he aimed at Ranjini Haridas and he is right at that too. This is what some of the opposing voices against Jagathy, feminists and ‘progressive people’ alike, fail to see.

Ranjini Haridas is as bad an example for an anchor. She has made unwarranted comments on the participants and their talent. In some cases, this has reached an abusive level. Read this post from Insight Young Voices.

The following is from a 2008 segment of the show. The compere, Ranjini Haridas is admonishing the ill-fated singer Somadas who had just delivered a supposedly miserable performance in the classical music round:

“The judges have been telling you to start learning classical music for the past 4-5 stages, but have you? You know that in this show we are not looking for a particular type of singing. One has to sing classical songs, songs with feel, there must be range, perfect pitching, will Somu fit in this would be a question in spectators’ minds. you must realize that you have reached this far not because of them [pointing to judges] but them [pointing to spectators]. It’s their SMS that has pulled you through from stage to stage. But this competition should be won by the best singer.”

Let’s check out another segment of the same show. This is from an elimination round in 2007. Of the two singers in the fateful danger zone, Thushar is a classically trained singer and the other, Sannidhanandan is not. One of the judges Usha Uthup comments, “This is the most extreme spectrum. On the one side Thushar and on the other extreme Sanni“ music and popularity.

The compere Ranjini adds: “Sanni has always survived the danger zones because of them, the spectators. Thushar is a strong singer and Sanni is a strong performer.” At the end of the show the compere addresses the spectators and says: “let music be the winner. You must vote for those who are competent.” And in a master stroke she makes Sannidhanandan reiterate that appeal. (Needless to say, both Somadas and Sannidhanandan never became star singers.)

After all these insulting and abusive remarks, Ranjini Haridas can’t get away with it just because she is a woman and gets support from the feminists. Note that in her reply to Jagathy Sreekumar, she hasn’t admitted her fault. She said as a professional she handled her job well that day without replying in the same coin or running away. That is an admirable professional quality of course, but what about the professionalism when anchoring a popular show like Idea Star Singer?

Life after the limelight

A good story on reality television, pluses and minuses of it, from Tehelka.

Raju Hela, 29, was a sweeper in Kolkata’s posh St James School. John Bergis, a school manager, heard him singing in the hallway and encouraged Raju to audition for Indian Idol. As Raju bantered about how such contests were only for the rich, Bergis SMSed his entry and he was registered. At the elimination round on the show, Sonu Nigam gifted him and other contestants a ring each, and announced that Sony channel would finance Raju’s future musical training. After the show, Raju says he spent months chasing the channel; finally Nigam’s office sent him to train with music director Suresh Wadkar. Raju was asked for fees when he didn’t even have money for the commute. He ended up getting a menial job at Wadkar’s studio — cleaning the very classroom he was supposed to be studying in. Eventually, he quit. Wadkar says Raju came to him seeking work and denies Sonu Nigam ever recommended Raju for training.

Five years of struggle in Mumbai have taken their toll. Raju rarely smiles. “It hurts me that after all the love I got from across the country, these people forgot me in one moment. I was just used. Whenever I’d call, they’d evade me saying they’re in London,” says he. Today he strains to pay Rs 600 rent for his room in a Juhu chawl and has taken many loans to make ends meet. He recently took a singing job at a dance bar nearby where he gets paid Rs 100 for the days he performs. Though stretched almost to starvation, Raju cannot make himself return home as long as he strides the donkey of failure. “Sometimes I think it would’ve been better if I’d never made it to Indian Idol,” says he.

Sara Raza Khan – Pak Ki Mallika

[Today’s is a guest post by K K Moidu].

An hitherto unknown Sara Raza Khan of Pakistan was in the limelight recently for her participation in the Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Challenge 2009, where she lost but impressed all, writes KK Moidu.

Teenager Sara from the city of gardens, Lahore, Pakistan, is the first Muslim girl to take the big leap by competing in a musical reality contest like Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Challenge 2009, in spite of stiff opposition from people of her community.

Although, Sara didn’t win the Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Challenge 2009 trophy, her mind-blowing and soulful performance will surely take her a long way. Her great voice and expression not only placed her among the top eight contestants in the prestigious contest, but she also won plaudits from all corners. Sara was eliminated in Episode 37, on Nov 7. She talks about her dream to become a legendary playback singer. Here are some excerpts:

Who was the first to recognise your musical talent?

My lovely mother recognised my musical talent and motivated me. My best music teacher Sir Abdul Rauf, encouraged and supported me by training me in classical music.

What is your background in music?

I have no musical background, I am the first girl in my whole family to learn classical music. I want to be successful with my God-gifted talent.

I started learning classical singing just two years ago from Sir Abdul Rauf, a teacher at the prestigious Al Hamra Arts Council, Lahore. After a month’s training from a sincere teacher like Sir Abdul Rauf, I got a chance to perform in front of General Pervez Musharaf, former president of Pakistan. He appreciated me a lot and also invited me to his birthday at the President House. After that people started recognising me, I got many opportunities for anchoring, singing and also performed in many live shows on different TV channels.

Tell us about your selection to Sa Re Ga Ma Pa?

Legendary singer Ghulam Ali Sir selected me for the audition of Sa Re Ga Ma Pa from Lahore as the only and first girl from Pakistan (Pakistan Ki Beti which now known as Pak Ki Mallika).

What were your relatives’ and neighbours’ reactions to your participation in Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Challenge?

Well! Reactions of my relatives were a mixture of positive and negative comments. But the majority were extremely happy and excited for Pakistan Ki Beti, and now in Pakistan, people are excited and warmly welcoming me. And one more thing, my country is also very happy that it appreciated me and motivated me a lot.

What was your experience in Sa Re Ga Ma Pa like?

It was really awesome, superb, outstanding, mind-blowing history. Ya, it was! Because I just dreamed to be in Sa Re Ga Ma Pa and when it really happened, I thank the Almighty and the audience for their prayers.

Tell us about the judges and audience?

All the judges of Sa Re Ga Ma Pa 2009 are very sincere, talented and motivating persons. They all are very successful in their fields and I want to work with them.

Audience! wow! I think that it’s really very astonishing for me that the audience from all around the world loved me, appreciated me and blessed with their votes and prayers. I was very attached to my viewers and I am taking a lot of beautiful memories back with me! The way the audience chanted my name, took my autographs, also wrote plenty of mails to me and all these memories always make me emotional. I pray to God that all the viewers always love me and remember me! I am sure that today all India Loves Me!

What do you plan to do now?

My future plans are to learn more classical music, be a great playback and live show singer, to earn a lot of respect and be one of Allah’s favourites.

What is your biggest dream?

My biggest dream is to be a great singer and earn money and fame to make my elder sister the happiest woman in the world. I also want to help those strong women, who are divorced and are alone with their little babies at a young age.