MUMBAI: Indian TV viewers have been exposed to a variety of singing talent hunts over the years. You have had Sa Re Ga Ma, and Lil Champs, Antakshri, Indian Idol, Fame Gurukul, Star Voice of India – among a plethora of others. Some did well for a while; some did not even last a second season. And there is talk of the singing TV talent hunt format and genre itself suffering, courtesy audience fatigue.
But that has not deterred Hindi general entertainment channel (GEC) leader Star Plus from taking another stab at it through a soon-to-be-launched show India’s Raw Star.
The fact that it is working with arguably India’s most popular youth icon singer and music composer Yo Yo Honey Singh to unearth singing talent is probably giving it the much needed confidence. Honey Singh has more than 23.5 million likes on Facebook, 542,000 followers on Twitter. The India’s Raw Star audition promo on You Tube got more than 1.78 million views.
When he posted a comment on Facebook about filming for the first episode of India’s Raw Star on 12 August, he got 46,000 likes, and around 4,500 comments from his fans. He said in the comment: “....just got packed up from Rawstar episode 1 shoot, doing Indian television ain't no joke. Big respect to all my brothers & sisters who run this industry. Blood n sweat.”
Over the past couple of months, Star Plus’ creative team encouraged interested participants to upload their singing videos to the Star Plus India’s Raw Star website and to the mobile app. Hundreds of thousands of wannabe singers from all over the world did the needful; and the entries were personally scanned by both Honey Singh and his creative team.
The channel is now working on a roll out plan for the two hour Sunday show that is slated to premier on 24 August at 7 pm. Yo Yo Honey Singh has been going on whistle stop ground promotions across the country over the past month. This will mostly increase in the run up to India’s Raw Star first episode telecast.
What differentiates Star Plus' India’s Raw Star from others of its ilk is the fact that there is a focus on encouraging original fare from new talent. Participants will belt out popular Bollywood fare when required; in addition to that they will have to perform their own compositions and music as part of the singing competition. “The idea is to find the ultimate performing artiste who can create his own inimitable style of singing and is an all round performer irrespective of the language or the music genre,” Singh has said to creatives close to the show.
He, on his part, will act as a friend, mentor and guide to the 10 finalists artistes who will compete against each other to wear the Raw Star crown .
Production is in the able hands of singing talent show innovator and veteran Gajendra Singh and his team at Sai Baba Productions. Singh points out that the show format has been designed in a way that audiences get the feel of a live music concert while sitting in the comfort of their living rooms.
“We are looking at creating the first ever reality show in India sans playback singing but original voice recording," says Star Plus general manager Gaurav Banerjee.
Banerjee has roped in international stage director and choreographer Michael Schwandt to push choreography and dance moves up a notch. Schwandt has choreographed the high energy performances of Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, David Guetta, Kelly Rowland, and Flo Rida. Schwandt is renowned for turning mundane performances into spectacular ones. Award winning recording engineer and music producer Ashish Manchanda has been hired to look after sound.
Star India VP programming Ashish Golwalkar is convinced that the show will gain traction with TV viewers. "We were looking at the kind of audiences which are active on digital. It was again a learning experience for me after having done so many reality shows in the past. Voice was what mattered here."
He further reveals that another difference with India’s Raw Star is that there is going to be no elimination of contestants at all for the first few weeks.
Banerjee adds that the show is part of its strategy to get younger people to sample the Star Plus channel, and in the process attract advertisers and sponsors targeting that audience. It has got some luck on that score: the channel has got on board Karbonn smartphones as the title sponsor and Maruti Suzuki Swift as the co-powered by sponsor.
Ormax Media’s Shailesh Kapoor wrote in a column on a trade website recently that “given their overall dominance, Star Plus’ non-fiction record in recent years has bordered on being embarrassing. But they now have solid ammunition at their disposal: Yo Yo Honey Singh the TV star who can give a 63 per cent jump in ratings of a long-running show (Comedy Nights with Kapil saw a spike in ratings in the episode that featured Honey Singh last month) Ironically then, the Comedy Nights ratings would have probably led to more celebrations at Star than at Colors.”
Will the Star Plus team be celebrating 14 weeks from now when India’s Raw Star finale will be telecast? Punters are betting that Yo Yo Honey Singh will do the trick and break its recent non-fiction jinx.