Posted: 13 April 2006 at 2:01am | IP Logged
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It ain't all song n dance!
Mondays are frantic at Mumbai's Famous Studios in Mahalakshmi. A harried Gajendrra Singh, week old stubble in place, presides over the organized chaos that's the Ek Main Aur Ek Tu set. Usha Thomas got an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the music talent hunt that's building to a climax currently.
Getting better everyday
The recording begins every Monday at 2.30 pm and goes on for an excruciating 12 hours. The songs for the eight wannabe playback pairs are selected by the music director duo of Anand Sharma (who's been with Gajendrra since the birth of Antakshari) and Anujj Kapoor, both of whom Gajendrra calls the "true force of the show".
There are times when contestants are not happy over their songs, like when Twinkle and Prajakta fought over the songs given to them. But finally, it's Singh's word that rules.
The singers are given original CDs of the songs. "From Tuesday to Sunday, it's a disciplined, tough regime that the singers have to follow. It teaches them everything they need to know about being singing stars. And as the series progresses, they learn more about performing- using their body, singing while dancing, breathing properly, basic vocal coaching, singing techniques to industry tips to everything in between. And it's all through firsthand experience," says Sharma.
Shane works his magic on the participants
"For two hours every morning, I make sure the singers undergo classical training. I notice the improvement in the voices with the training given to them," he says.
"Viewers only get to see the drama"
Kapoor takes over after their morning riyaaz. "They first practice on the harmonium. After three days, they practice on the track. There are no weekends off. Viewers only see the drama. It's only we who notice the refinement that comes in every day."
Monday is performance day. Hectic is putting it mildly, as both episodes for the week are shot back to back. On Monday, the only free time they get is waiting for the others to rehearse. But here too, one notices that the talk ranges only about music, if they can stop practicing their songs on others!
Most of the participants are Bengali and the jovial interaction between them in the make-up room in mostly in that lingo, as they rib each other while their hair and make up is done by Shane Clerk.
Make up for the musical soul
Sagar Mhadolkar - tough job on his hands
Shane helps to highlight their best features and fights the designer's suggestions to do anything that would not suit the singers. Care is taken to ensure that not a single lock of hair will dare interfere with their performances.
Contestants wend in and out of the make up room to the designer's room, singing away loudly, asking for reactions from the group. The fact that music is their only priority is evident in the manner they trust Shane and the fashion designer Sonal Shahani blindly for the look and outfits. Again, it is Gajendrra who keeps a close eye on the make up and clothes stylization, keeping in mind the episode theme.
Choreographer Sagar Mhadolkar says, "The contestants are more relaxed when learning steps for the opening tracks on each episode, but are shy when performing as a jodi. One has to remember that they are singers first and dancing does not come naturally to them. Parental fear and fear of the judges too can be big distractions."
The invocations before the shoots
"Surprisingly it's the married couple, Prajakta and Hrishikesh, that's extremely conscious when it comes to dancing. I have to keep everyone's wishes in mind before choreographing," laughs Sagar.
Before that show goes on the air, they have to fine tune their medley and focus on the dance moves that go along with it. From 10 30 am to 12 30 pm they rehearse under the scrutiny of the music directors, camera men, choreographer. lightmen, sound technicians, musical band, set designer and others.
Man on the move
Gajendrra is everywhere as he watches the progress on and off the sets, co-ordinating with technicians, designer's of the set, team, anchors, make up artists, outfit designers. He is thinking ahead for the next shoot too, yet always has an encouraging word for the pressured contestants. No one takes respite to eat, sips of water seem to sustain everyone well!
The Thursday show has a Punjabi crowd complete with bhangra dancers with their musical instruments as the show celebrates Baisakhi. Production co-ordinator Jatinder Arya mingles with the audience, warning them that they must not be seen scratching, yawning, talking on cell phones or most importantly, looking disinterested! The jodis are introduced to the audience and their cheers and claps are canned.
Ishita - getting ready for the rigorous shoot
15 minutes before showtime, Arya once again comes on stage to warm up the crowd. He speaks over the microphone, making sure the audience is in the mood to watch a reality talent hunt take place live in front of them. Posters are distributed to help them root for their favourite jodi.
The host with the most
Ek Main Aur Ek Tu's biggest draw, perhaps, is host Shaan. And this time round, he has Ishita for company. "I have known Ishita a long time and completely agreed with Gajji on his decision to take her as my co-anchor. She prefers sticking to the script as she comes from a theatre background," says Shaan.
Shaan says it's not enough for the singers to recognize that they have talent, but it's more important that they remember who made them successful - the audience. "The manner the audience is voting reveals that they are closely watching the performance and judging them accordingly. Which though a good thing has its disadvantage as sometimes, based on a single performance, good singers are voted out."
Says Ishita, 'They are small town kids with big aspirations and if they fail on any one day, it is important to give them that humane touch. I can't sneer at the singers. At times, I steer away from the script, much to Gajendrraji's indignation to lend that much needed humane touch to the contestants before and after their performance. He reminds me that it is a hard core reality show," she laughs.
The EMAET set - no mean feat
The hosts can't risk goofing up, as it's just one take, no repeats or chances given". The SMS results too are handed directly to Shaan on the shoot and that's where they have no script to help them. So other than knowing the theme of each episode, they have to host the show on real time, expecting sudden changes and unknown reactions from the contestants and singers at every moment of the shoot!
It is the first time that the groovy guru's Hariharan and Leslie Lewis are judging an entire series of a talent hunt competition. Hariharan said his aim is to see the best jodi win and music is the only determining factor. He says, "The beauty of this concept will be to see how the chemistry and compatibility between the two singers that form a pair is enhanced with the training they are given."
Leslie Lewis and Hariharan
Leslie Lewis says, "I do notice that the singers are getting distracted trying to get their lines right as they appeal to voters to SMS, concentrate on getting that perfect screen presence and getting the viewers to notice them. But, this is reflective of our changing times and a talent hunt aims to showcase these young talented singers, so all that goes in to help achieve that must be respected."
So what is it they are looking for? "Good singers who understand the technicalities of music, not just performers who sing to win votes," is the response from both judges.
An eye on the vote bank
But before India can cast its votes, the jodis must win over the show's two judges in the Friday episode. The singers go through the same routine of make up, changing their outfits and rehearsing in the two hours break they get before the next episode is shot. The judges' remarks are taken in good spirit as they discuss their performances.
A young college crowd is the audience for this episode. Celeb judge Himesh Reshammiya turns up late, but makes up with a striking entry and endearing himself saying, "It just feels like coming back home."
Gajendrra Siingh - always in control
In the control room, Gajendrra keeps an eye on all monitors as they give him a 360 degree view on the sets and he navigates the show till final cut. He is focused in giving the jodis a platform that serves as a blueprint for rest of their career.
After the Friday episode, it is another six days for India to vote. And, it is another six days for the singers and the team of the show to work tirelessly for the week ahead.
At the end of a hard shoot on Ek Main Aur Ek Tu, everyone's a winner.
Click here for a slideshow of the show