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Since 1st March, 1999
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Date: Saturday, 5 April

Time: 6.30pm

Place: Goregaon Sports Club, Mumbai

Having captured unprecedented audience attention for months, the grand finale of Chhote Ustaad on Saturday evening was touted as the clash of the little titans. For Ahmedabad’s 14-year-old singing prodigy Aishwarya Majmudar and Anwesha Dattagupta, 13, Calcutta’s musical sensation, the packed-to-capacity evening was the culmination of months of hard work. The two girls — frayed nerves and last-minute diversions notwithstanding — were a picture of poise and professionalism, taking to the stage and belting out one hit number after another, as the audience kept cheering lustily for more.

The performances: The two ‘A’s made it extremely difficult for the audience and the judges to decide who was the better one. If Anwesha looked the quintessential diva singing Raat baki, then Aishwarya lent a new charm to the age-old Geeta Dutt classic Tadbeer se.

Aishwarya (left) with Shaan and Anwesha: the winning moment
Amitabh Bachchan makes a grand entry while Aishwarya, Anwesha and the other participants sing a song from Bhoothnath
Aishwarya receives the award from Amitabh Bachchan while Juhi Chawla looks on

As the songs rolled on, there was little to choose between the two. Anwesha managed to nose ahead towards the end with her flawless rendition of the Bhool Bhulaiyaa number Aami je tomar, forcing the entire auditorium to its feet in a minute of spontaneous applause.

Hotbods Malaika Arora Khan and Isha Koppikar lent able support to the girls, but there was no stealing the limelight from Aishwarya and Anwesha on their big night.

The men in black: Anchor Abhaas Joshi had his mentor’s support for the big night as Shaan, the host of Voice of India, co-hosted the Saturday show with the 17-year-old. And together, the men in black were a riot on stage. In fact, Abhaas’s flamboyant signature style of hosting compelled Shaan to comment on many an occasion, “Chhote, tu toh bahut bada ho gaya!”

Behind the scenes: Fever-pitch frenzy is what marked the backstage proceedings as the evening wore on. From getting the finalists ready for their performances to ensuring coordination among the dancers, everything had to be just right. Gajendra Singh, the man behind the superhit show, shouted out orders to his crew while confessing that he hadn’t slept for several nights in order to put together the grand finale. The tension reached a crescendo as regular updates on the voting patterns continued to come in.

The star turnout: The evening turned out to be a star-studded affair. A host of television artistes led by Diwakar Pundhir and Shalini Kapoor, singer Abhijit and music director Ismail Darbar and the entire cast and crew of the film Bhoothnath — Juhi Chawla, Priyanshu Chatterjee, Satish Shah, child actor Aman Siddiqui, producer Ravi Chopra and director Vivek Sharma — were all in attendance.

The showstopper moment: The Chhote Ustaad grand finale may have had a host of celebrities seated in the audience, but from the first moment, the four-hour extravaganza was geared towards the moment when one man would take the stage. Amidst a flurry of fireworks and with the Chhote Ustaad participants lending their voice to Rote huey aate hain sab (Muqaddar Ka Sikander), Main hoon don and Jumma chumma, Amitabh Bachchan was escorted on to the stage by Aishwarya and Anwesha. “Itne saare sangeet premi ko ek saath ek jagah dekh kar bahut achha lag raha hai,” said Bachchan.

The crowd went into a frenzy, camera phones worked overtime and the security guards had a tough task on their hands as the audience surged forward to get a better glimpse of the ageless hero.

The Bhoothnath music release: The musical extravaganza was also marked by a first of sorts: the Chhote Ustaad platform played host to the music release of Bhoothnath, the Bollywood take on Casper. As the cast and crew took the stage, all eyes were on AB, of course. “Maine iss film mein kuch gaane khud gaaye hain, lekin bahut besurey,” said the man, his wry, self-deprecating humour firmly in place. Juhi Chawla found herself in a tight spot when Bachchan coaxed her to sing a couple of lines from the film, with the audience screaming out its approval. The chirpy actress, however, declined with a trademark smile.

The final moment: Glittering performances and star appearances finally gave way to the moment everyone had been waiting for. Amitabh and Juhi along with judges Pritam, Kunal Ganjawala and Shreya Ghoshal took the stage to crown the winner. The task of announcing the name of the Chhote Ustaad was left to Bachchan as the two finalists stood together, holding hands. “The winner is… my bahu Aishwarya!” roared the Bachchan baritone. The crowd rose to its feet in celebration and the sky lit up with fireworks.

The last moments of the show, however, were rushed with the microphone being switched off at the stroke of 10, as per Maharashtra government rules. But that did little to mar the crowning-glory moment, which belonged to the two little champions.

After the show: The press conference saw the Chhote Ustaad crew in full attendance, but the spotlight invariably veered towards the young singing sensations, holding aloft their respective trophies. After much persuasion, the final vote count was revealed by the organisers — Aishwarya had beaten Anwesha by a little under 2 lakh votes, thus ending the dominance of the East in reality talent shows.

Anweshaspeak: “We are both winners. This is a huge platform for me and I will use it to the maximum benefit. Aami Kolkatar shobaike bolte chai aami aapnader bhalobashar jonyo eto door aashte perechhi. I will continue to give my best and make everyone proud of me,” said the Golf Green resident who has already bagged playback assignments, including one in mentor Pritam’s Golmaal Returns.

Aishwaryaspeak: “I am very happy. I am grateful to everyone for loving and supporting me. Anwesha is like a sister to me and this is as much her victory as it is mine,” smiled the shy Ahmedabad girl who aspires to be a playback singer.

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