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Siraj Syed

Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. He is also an acting and dialogue coach. 



Shehzade Hunar Ke: The princes and princesses of talent, picked from 30 cities

Shehzade Hunar Ke: The princes and princesses of talent, picked from 30 cities

How long does it take to put together a reality show that picks the best of dancers, singers and models, all-in-one, from across India? Well, for starters, it takes ten years of preparation, if one goes by the time spent by Fame & Glory Media Pvt. Ltd. To launch Shehzade Hunar Ke (literal translation: Princes of Talent). And even the elimination rounds have not yet begun!

It turned out to be one of the wettest days of the season on Tuesday, 05 July 2022, when the organisers had scheduled a Press Conference at the Raheja Classique Club, Link Road, Andheri West, Mumbai. Proceedings began a full two hours late, in the presence of Fame & Glory Media Pvt. Ltd.’s Managing Director Vidyadhar Pathak, Judge Bina Bannerji (senior actress), Judge Sudha Chandran (senior actress and danseuse).

Three samples of the shape of things to come were on display, in the shape of singer moppet Anvi Joshi, who sang her own version of Geeta Dutt’s immortal hit, ‘Mera naam chin choo’, the hit from Howrah Bridge. Music was played from a karaoke track, not the O.P. Nayyar original; dancer Jyoti Kamble, who performed a Bharat Natyam dance on a Tamil song, was clearly overwhelmed by the presence and encouragement of Sudha, who even joined her on stage, after her performance, to present a short tandem number; and a young couple, Prapti Bolakani and Gourav Lakhani, who walked the ‘ramp’, to give a taste of modelling panache, both confessing that they had never thought that one day they would walk the ramp.

Vidyadhar Pathak, of Fame & Glory Media Pvt. Ltd., who spoke near-perfect Urdu, and can even pass off as a native speaker, gave some details of the show: Auditions will be held in 30 cities, from where a total of 720 contestants will be chosen. The mentors will be the selectors at this stage. Mentors consist of a team of dancers, singers and models, supported by make-up specialists. Finalists will be trained for four days, by the mentors, after which the Quarter-Finals, Semi-Finals and Finals will be held. Here the judges will be three women: Bina, Sudha and Usha Uthup, who was a rage in the Bombay of the late 60s and 70s, and later sang runaway hits like ‘Hari Om Hari’ and ‘Are you ready for Nakabandi’.

Usha joined the Press Conference virtually at about 4 pm, when lunch was being served, as a result of which we could not get the benefit of listening to her. She must have been in video-conferencing or on ZOOM mode, from Kolkata, where she normally resides. However, we learnt what she said through the press release. “Our country is an ocean of talent; it is going to be very challenging to judge in such large numbers across the country. I want to say to all the artistes participating in this competition that they are winners in themselves. I just want to add that winning the show is not necessary to do playback singing in films. The purpose of the show is that you emerge as an artiste.

Both Bina and Sudha waxed eloquent about the idea. Vidyadhar addressed Bina as his elder sister, while Bina confessed that they had several arguments, like any brother and sister would. She was strongly of the opinion that four days were insufficient to prepare for the big day. Sudha’s advice to the contestants and mentors, both, was that they should try and just concentrate on their task, and not worry about the competition. Sometimes, the anxiety associated with a competition can be counter-productive. An avid reality show watcher, Sudha answered a question by this writer with characteristic candour. Asked whether she would find it difficult to act in a film that had no dancing, being an exponent of the nava rasas (nine varying sentiments/moods) in classical Indian dancing, she confessed, “I am dying to do a film where I am not made to dance. But nobody has given me such a film till date. Every film of mine has at least one dance by me!”

It was gracious of Vidyadhar to invite his mother on stage, for a photograph. All the teams associated with the programme were called on stage for group photographs, including the director, Arshad Khan, and even the management team. One wonders a bit about the title. Participants are restricted only by age, as young as 3 to 13 (Juniors), and 13 to 25 (Seniors), years. Both sexes can participate, so the title Shehzade Hunar Ke seems odd, since it translates as Princes of Talent. What about the princesses? Shehzade, which means princes, is not a generic, both sexes inclusive, term!

Apparently new to the job, the young lady compère was at ease in both English and Hindi, but had most of her announcements scripted and asked standard questions only. A recce-cum-dry run was held earlier, when five episodes were canned. No details of the broadcast or streaming of the final product, names of TV channels or OTT platforms, were announced, within my earshot, except that the shooting would be completed by September this year. At the end of the city-centric show, the top 18 performers will be selected as finalists. The selected finalists will go on to compete in the Zonal Finalé and the Grand National Finalé. The show has been conceptualised by Vidyadhar Pathak and will be executed and managed by young duo Rohit Fukte and Sharyu Fukte.

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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.

Bandra West, Mumbai


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