Posted: 28 August 2006 at 10:39am | IP Logged
I was asked to write a journal for my Saregamapa Experience for my community magazine and i thought i'd share it with the world too. I've pasted it below..
It all started when mum showed me a flyer for the latest auditions for Zee TV's popular singing talent show, Sa Re Ga Ma Pa, to be held in London. It was May 2005. I casually decided to give it a shot as the auditions were held locally. From a previous experience, I expected the auditions to be very tough, so I didn't expect to get very far.
On arrival at the audition, I was surprised to see how many contestants were there and a few familiar faces of singers on the circuit. We were invited into the studio one by one to display our ability to the judge, Nadeem Saifi. I became very nervous by the sight of others focussing, rehearsing, practicing and listening. I calmed myself by talking to others about what song they were going to sing. When my name was called, I was feeling a lot better and I gave a rendition of Rafi Saab's Chaahonga Main Tujhe to the judge. Bhavisha, my wife, chose the song, and it was the correct one. Nadeemji seemed impressed and after two more rounds, I was chosen as the Male winner of the UK and Europe auditions.
Three weeks later, I was flown to Mumbai just to find out that I had to beat yet another 140 people selected from all around the world to be short-listed for the televised episodes. These auditions were a far cry different from the UK auditions. The contestants were much better singers and I pretty much gave up there and decided to at least make the most of the trip. But the schedules were gruelling, and we were unable to get much time away to shop around.
On the day of the Mumbai audition, all the contestants eagerly awaited the arrival of the judges for the show and the host, Shaan. The judges, Ismail Darbar, Aadesh Shrivastav, Jatin-Lalit, and Himesh Reshammiya, walked into the room to a thunderous round of applause. No introduction was given which left me bewildered as I did not know who was who at the time. The auditions took the whole day and after singing two more songs, I made it to the final 48!
Trying to balance an IT job in London and Sa Re Ga Ma Pa was going to be difficult, but I didn't expect to get too far, so I thought it should be ok. I was flying back and forth to Mumbai (courtesy of Zee) as the rounds went on. During this time so many events took place and the year was going by so fast. Gradually, I was building a strong relationship with the other contestants, judges, Shaan, and the entire production crew. We became a big family and I slowly began to learn and converse in Hindi. After many television appearances, we were starting to become very popular amongst the Hindi music loving audiences.
The encounters between Ismail Darbar and myself would produce hilarious moments, as I was uncomfortable in Hindi and him in English. His pet name for me was Mr UK. Despite these funny moments, I found him to be extremely emotional and caring towards all the contestants. He was always very serious and commanded huge amounts of respect wherever he went. Ismailji told us about how he learnt and tried to relay that on to us. He would always let his work do the talking. The things I learnt from this man will remain with me forever.
For most of the time, we stayed in a large house with 6 large bedrooms. Initially these were shared by about 30 people. Do the maths and that meant 5-6 people per room. It hardly sounded ideal. I told myself to just get on with it and try to blend in. Everything from sharing the same washroom to having your possessions "misplaced" was testing my patience. It made me realise why they call Britain "Great Britain". Bhavisha helped me to keep my feet on the ground during these ups and downs. As contestants were eliminated, the remaining contestants were becoming inseparable. A great sense of loss was felt when a fellow contestant had been eliminated.
In August 2005, I got a tough draw of contestants and worked really hard on my voice with Ismailji. His constant reminders of whom I was up against made me work hard. After a few close calls, I was up against Abhjeet Ghoshal who had won 12 episodes in a row in a previous edition of the show. The judges could not decide between us. To me, that was a win. Nothing prepared me for the tie-breaker though. We were allowed to sing anything we wanted and everybody knew that I didn't stand a chance as Abhijeet was a prepared singer. I made a wrong song choice and was eliminated from the competition. I didn't really mind as I had had a great experience and lost to a worthy opponent. As I walked off the set to all the friends I had made in India, I realised what I was about to leave behind. I got very emotional and so too did all those close to me.
I returned to the UK proud of what I had achieved and looked forward to normal life again. Little did I know Gajendra Singh, Director of the show, had other plans. He told me that he was inundated with mails and calls to bring me back to the show. I was obviously flattered and humbled at the same time. I had to refuse as I had taken too much leave from work and didn't want to risk instability in my career. Lucky for me though, I had really understanding bosses. They told me to go for it. I needed no more persuasion and I went back to Mumbai for the final rounds.
Public voting was introduced to the competition and I was never going to get a good deal as I was representing the UK and there was no public voting from the UK. Nevertheless, I just wanted to have fun, give it my best shot and try to create some opportunities to break into the music industry. My final stint began with impressing a very hyper Salman Khan and I was in India's papers for this feat. This guaranteed me a place in the final 12. We became celebrities all over the world and took part in a number of full house shows all over India. Flashing lights, signing autographs, shaking hands, seeing your picture on billboards, being photographed and entertaining the crowds. It was like living a dream.
I was invited by the Madhapar Yuvak Sang, to do a show in my native village, Madhapar, on 19th February 2006 with fellow friend and contestant, Nihira Joshi. This was by far the largest show I have ever done, and probably will do. Thousands packed the MSV High School, and the surrounding areas. People came from as far as Ahmedabad and London. It was the biggest show in Kutch since Kalyanji-Anandji's Little Stars in the late 80's. Coincidentally, Nihira also performed at the 80's show too! It was a huge success and a memory that will remain with me forever.
Despite the different lifestyles, I got on really well with the contestants. More than others, I was really close to Hemachandra, whom I was roommates with for most of the competition. I learnt a lot about the technical side of singing from him. During the final phase, most of my conversations were in Hindi. This was all very good, but I seemed to have lost the ability to speak in Gujarati and often mixed up English, Hindi and Gujarati!
Of course, all this could not last for ever and eventually I was eliminated at 6th place. I had no regrets at not winning the competition, as I knew there were much better singers out there. I gained an immense amount of knowledge and experience from it. It was easy to get carried away with the limelight, but I had my wife and family to keep me strong. I am now back in the UK and am trying to lead a normal life again, but with the added edge of realising what is possible. I will continue to pursue music as a serious hobby and am currently working on an album in London. With the audience love and my family's support, I will get to experience that worldwide limelight again.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you who supported me: my family who came out to support me during the shoots, my family who sat at home glued to the TV, all those of you who eagerly watched every episode of Challenge 2005 at the weekend (and even the repeats!), and of course all those of you who voted and encouraged friends and family in India to vote. My sincerest thanks to you all.