The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Chase for fame ends in tears

Calcutta, May 6: Naresh Agarwal from Panagarh was in tears, while his teenaged daughter Pooja fought back hers. The two were among the thousands who had made their way to the Science City auditorium early today to sign up for a talent hunt for singers that promised the world and more.

'I brought my daughter Pooja here with lots of dreams,' wept Agarwal.

'Now, I donít know what to do'. The Rs 2,600 I was carrying has been stolen from my pocket and I have even lost my shoes,' he said, leaning on his daughter for support.

The dream of instant fame ' and fortune ' proved disastrous with the countryís first auditions for Fame Gurukul leaving four arrested and 10 injured, the property at Science City damaged, and the hopes of thousands like Pooja and her parent dashed.

Sony Entertainment Televisionís follow-up to the record-setting Indian Idol is a reality show with the promise of a Rs 1-crore music contract to a pair of winners. They are to be selected after rounds of grooming by heavyweights from the music industry and elimination by judges, including Javed Akhtar, and viewers.

The countdown to the first round of screenings began yesterday, with hopefuls setting up base in front of Science City. As the crowd count rose, the first hint of trouble came from the traffic snarl on the bypass.

'We were expecting 3,000 to 5,000 people, whereas around 15,000 to 20,000 turned up,' said a Sony spokesperson.

The auditions began at 9 am but the situation soon spun out of control. Around 10.30 am, organisers announced that the auditions had been postponed 'in the interest of peopleís safety', sparking violent protests. A police lathicharge finally restored order around 1 pm.

One reason Science City turned into a cauldron of chaos was that Calcutta is just one of the four audition venues for a show billed to beat Indian Idol.

Participants from Bhutan, Nepal, Jharkhand and the districts of Bengal descended on the city to enrol for Fame Gurukul.

Surendra Munshi, professor, IIM Calcutta, was not surprised by the craze. 'These are natural attractions as they promise heavens of fame and financial reward. Everyone wants it.'

Science City bore the scars of shattered dreams. 'Windowpanes, facade lighting, flower pots, fencing and the gardens were vandalised'. We are yet to decide whether we will claim damages or take any other action against the organisers,' said Science City director Tapan Kumar Ganguly.

Police pointed fingers at the organisers and the event management company for their sudden decision to scrap the auditions.

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