By Ashish Gadnayak*
When Odia girl Ananya Sritam Nanda lifted the ‘Indian Idol Junior’ trophy last Sunday, everyone in Odisha was happy. But these celebrations are nothing in comparison with what we had witnessed when another Odia young man Ruturaj Mohanty won the ‘India’s Raw Star’ crown a few months ago.
Why this difference? I have followed both the events/news closely. So I think I know the reason.
Ruturaj Mohanty got Rs 50 lakh as prize money, where as Ananya got Rs 25 lakh. But this is not the real reason.
The real reason is the amount of ‘drama’ – real or fictional – involved in the two events.
In saying this, I don’t want to take anything away from what Ruturaj has achieved or question his ability. But I of the view that people followed his story with great interest and passion because a lot of melodrama was involved with that. He ran away from home and his poverty-stricken parents to fulfil his dream: to be a singer. He slept on the Mumbai footpath, begged for food. He was ready to make every sacrifice that came between him and his dream. He was mad after his dream.
Throughout that Raw Star season, Ruturaj showed that madness everyday – in his singing, dress, behaviour, mannerism and his attitude.
I am not saying he was playacting to get noticed or those sentiments were not real. Those were real. And that caught our attention. It attracted us more than his singing ability. Everybody was discussing how he behaved, how he talked, how he dressed, how he wept and how he laughed. Everybody was discussing his background: how his parental hut in that remote village that has no road looked; how he ran away to Mumbai and how he slept on the footpath in empty stomach. Rarely did anybody discuss how he sang.
A song has no story. And most importantly, most of us don’t know A B C of music!
On the other hand, Ananya came from a typical middle-middle class family. This 14-year old girl does not have any interesting story to tell or reveal. She continues to dream big as a singer while being cautious about her studies as she knows that she has to get a job someday and that she cannot gamble with that. Her middle class upbringing has taught her to think so. Ananya never ran away from home to chase her dream, probably has never even thought about that. When her father was transferred to another city, her chronically-ill mother used to hire an auto-rickshaw and take her to her Guru’s place situated some 30 kms away, wait there and take her back in the evening. Like all middle-middle class mothers, she never thought that she was making a sacrifice. There is no Bollywood masala ingredient in her story. That is the reason we did not take much interest in her. Even on the ‘Indian Idol Junior’ stage, there were no break-outs in laughter or tears, no overt shows of euphoria or exhilaration or jubilation. There was no hair-pulling or chest-thumping. No jubilant knee slide on the floor or fist pumps.
In short, there was no masala – real or fictional.
We have grown up on an ample diet of Bollywood masala. We still feast on sas-bahu masala on the television. Bollywood and television love and thrive on rags to riches stories. Anything outside this does not appear interesting to us.
Like other Odias, I am very proud of Ruturaj, but let me say this too: I feel, we have become insensible these days. Only ‘Raw’ things like poverty, sex, religion, fanaticism, murder, war, Maoism and terrorism can interest us. We have lost our taste for finer and simpler things.
And I think, that’s too bad a thing – a very dangerous thing.
*Ashish Gadnayak works as a chief sub-editor with Odia daily SAMBAD. In his spare time, he writes short stories.