Its amazing how much children know. Especially when there is a reality check they understand a lot more between the lines than you do, its funny and surprising at the same time.
Most of the kids at the current level of ASSJ are at the threshold of their teens and they way they size up and make a meal of almost everything that comes their way.... the tenacity and the grit is .. amazing to say the least.
Almost all the children sing really well, and God willing, and especially the children willing, or should I say, the current educational system willing, they have a future in the starry skies of music, to twinkle, or shine or become the sun if they so please.
A lot of times I have had to speak to the kids on camera, trying to engage them in some sort of a conversation, because that is how it is supposed to be. And I must say this has been the most difficult portions in my interaction with them. All of them either have express instructions as to not to speak to me and answer in a word or two, or they its just the way they are made. No matter how much I try asking them, say for example, how do you think the judges are? - Good. How much practice did you put in? - "nerayya"
Do you want to say or ask something to the judges? - "No".
I have heard of children having lots of nice things to say, but probably they are all born careful now. Watching their words in front of the camera. And once they are sure the camera has stopped rolling they become different personalities, laughing, kidding around. I wonder why they don't want to be the children they are and act 35. Soft spoken, watching what they speak.... It has made me wonder whether the children have collectively lost their innocence. In the midst of all this, we had a kid asking for the viewers to vote for her sister so that she can come back to compete in the wild card round, and she said "if you like my sister's singing please vote for her, otherwise, no need". And the same kid, has seen me asking the directors of the show, on which camera on the floor to face, in the plethora that is there in front of me. Apparently she has seen me ask that a lot of times, and when the director told her "action" she asked in all seriousness "which camera"?
Most of the times older people look to children, to reclaim a spark that they have lost, or to just to smile in their moments of gray. As time goes, I wonder whether we will lose the chance to do that as well. And probably, a lot of times, I would probably ask the parents to let their children be their age and not make them act a few decades older.
The judges - Usha Uthup ji and Chitra ji were delightful to be with. Lots of laughter and lots of joy. And lots of goodness. Both of them have been straight forward in what they have wanted to say to the kids and honest as well. In spite of their status in the industry, they floor me with the simplicity they have. And Ushaji's energy is completely matchless. In the otherwise, stoic atmosphere, which I must say was created by the children, she lightened the mood made them laugh and dance and brought out the importance of stage presence, which is completely lacking in the performers from the south of India. Here we have people judging women who dance on stage while singing, you are given a once-over from top to toe, and immediately judged as someone who is not, 'adakkam and odukkam" enough.
Why should the singer not enjoy his own song? Why is the performance repressed in the name of "right behavior", and when the joy does not permeate from him, how will it communicate to the audience?
Usha ji proved that you can bring dignity into any profession that you chose to be in. I daresay that She brought pop-culture to the limelight in India, and you can wear Kanjeevaaram and still rock the cells out of the audience. And am so glad that children who are moulded to be subdued are exposed to someone like her. To be true to your music, how to interact with the musicians and how to generally communicate to the audience, because if you are on stage, you are there for the people and not for yourself. And Usha ji is to mark the contestants on this show for stage presence and overall performance. Chitra ji was marking the contestants on the Pitch and rhythm.
Though she seems to have a strict exterior, she is one of the most soft hearted people I have seen. And every time she used to correct the children, she mutters to herself, that "Oh God, let me always be in tune and in rhythm that I can honestly correct the children" And the times she was asked to sing, she would ask the children "seriya paadinaena?" And ask them to give her marks on pitch and rhythm. She is one of the very very few people who are pitch perfect, a singer who everyone wants to be, everyone wants to sing like. And this was one of the best combination of judges - Usha ji and Chitra ji.
Shooting with Vijay TV is always fun, and much against people saying that we are making the children cry, the channel just captures what goes on. And the facts. Everything is shown as is. And I'd say that this is a reality show that lives up to its name. If scenes were shown of the girl who went and demanded to the Judge who eliminated her from the contest, it shows that the children nowadays question what they feel is wrong, that they are outspoken and no matter how young they are, they speak up for themselves. And some parents encourage such behavior.
And if the children and their parents have decided to take part in a contest of this magnitude, they understand that they have to be prepared for Success and Failure with equal readiness. And this is a learning experience for the ones who are involved, the ones that are part of the show, and the ones that watch it.
As for me, I am richer with experiences and I must admit that I am pretty much surprised most of the times, as should be the feeling with most people.
The finale was an awesome experience giving me an opportunity to share the stage with Dr. Balamuralikrishna. Most of the times I am at a loss of words when I have to 'introduce' a musician of his stature on a show. How much can a singer of my stature and my age say? Questions of this sort have always plagued me on the show, I had the same trouble last time when I had to invite SPB sir on stage for the finale last year, and I have lost my cool, been a bundle of nerves just before the camera starts rolling. This is when the crew supported me a lot. The show, like Airtel Super Singer, has been a super learning experience, albeit a little different.
A question that I have been oft asked, why did I not sing? Because it was not the show's format, the producers did not plan that I should sing in an episode, and I did not want to keep establishing that I can sing, especially in a talent hunt for younger children, as with Airtel Super Singer. When I am a host, I am there to speak and not to showcase what I can sing. There are other platforms for me to sing in, and God willing I will be blessed with such platforms.
Also, that I seem to shout/scream. :) I am yet to learn how to hype up something without shouting. Most of the times the audience just does not react in spite of all this. A quiet presentation sometimes does not work when a lot of energy is needed. But perhaps there is a better way to exude energy in presentation, I watched a few episodes of presenters in Western shows and when it is necessary, the decibel has gone up. I definitely have a lot to learn on that front.
And it was very nice for me to hear the children singing the songs that I have sung.
And I stay thankful to time that gives me these opportunities.