Midnapore boy Shreyan Bhattacharya aces Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Li'l Champs
For the first time in the country’s longest-running music reality show Sa Re Ga Ma Pa on Zee TV, two children were declared joint winners of Li’l Champs on October 29. Midnapore boy Shreyan Bhattacharya, the fresh-faced 12-year-old who has been a darling of TV audiences in Bengal ever since he appeared in the format’s Bengali edition on Zee Bangla in 2013-’14, was one of them. He was handed the trophy in Jaipur along with Anjali Gaikwad, 11, from Ahmednagar, Maharashtra.
Calcutta girl Sonakshi Kar (from Bagha Jatin) was one of the six finalists. A third contestant from the state, Riya Biswas, was edged out in the last round before the top six were declared, underlining the domination of Bengal’s voices in the show.
This was also the longest season ever, lasting 71 episodes, as high TRPs made the channel extend the show thrice, even introducing five wild card entrants in July. “Aur do mahiney chalte toh in bachchon ki moochh nikal aate,” wisecracked Kapil Sharma who attended the finals to promote his upcoming film Firangi.
Two of the wild card entrants made it to the finals, one of them being Anjali who ended up as the joint winner. Incidentally, just as Shreyan had been the second runner-up in Li’l Champs on Zee Bangla (in 2013), Anjali too was the winner of Sangeet Samrat on the Marathi channel Zee Yuva this July, along with her elder sister Nandini.
In the finals, the audience votes were “in lakhs”. “We received the highest votes this season. The judges had no say in the finals, it was purely on audience voting.” Deepak Rajadhyaksha, Zee TV deputy business head, told t2.
Anjali, it was announced on stage, had received the “maximum love from the audience” but the difference with what Shreyan had got was so small that both were named winners.
Asked why Zee TV had stopped announcing the number of votes received by each finalist, Rajadhyaksha replied:
“Numbers are dry. The votes that came in gave the sense that these two are the best and that’s all viewers need to know.” Nor were the ranks announced for the rest of the finalists. “We wanted to soften the edge of the competition for the kids. If they have reached the final, they are all equal. We do not want their self-confidence affected,” he explained.
According to channel sources, the current season found heavy traction with the viewers, never dipping below 2.5 TRP. “As they went on extending the show, it got increasingly difficult for me to take leave from office and stay with Shreyan in Mumbai. Once our cooking gas cylinder was not delivered as neither me nor Shreyan’s mother was there and my elderly mother could not receive it. At that point, I wanted to take Shreyan out of Li’l Champs. But the channel said they were ready to send 20 gas cylinders to our home, but they would not let Shreyan go,” smiled Shreyan’s father Nirmalya Bhattacharya, who works in the state panchayat and rural development department in Midnapore.
Other than the quality of this season’s singers, another big pull was little Jayash Kumar from Delhi. The five-year-old was kept outside the ambit of competition, given his tender age. He was the apple of everyone’s eye even in the finals where he performed the Hanuman Chalisa.
Back home in Midnapore town, at the end of a gruelling contest, Shreyan spoke to t2 on the 10-month journey that ended in a trophy, a medal, a cheque for Rs 5 lakh and the title of Li’l Champ.
Congratulations! The final was pre-recorded in Jaipur. Where were you when the episode was telecast?
I came back just the day before. Our neighbours in an adjoining complex wanted to celebrate with us. So they put up a large screen in the lawn and invited us. It was great fun. Other than my elder brother and grandmother, my parents had not revealed the result to our friends and neighbours. They got a huge surprise.
Did you expect to win?
Everyone was singing well, so was I. I only wanted to give it my best shot and not bother about the result.
You shed copious amount of tears after losing in the Zee Bangla finals…
(Embarrassed) No, no. That was because I was sad that the programme was ending. Even now I am already missing the others, especially Dhroon (Tickoo) and Jayash. We became like a family.
How different was the Mumbai experience from the Zee Bangla one?
I learnt a lot on and off camera. The grooming is more intense there. Earlier I did not pay much attention to the tune. It came naturally. Here they got me to attend to every note and also to feel every word. I also learnt how much to exhale while uttering each word.
Your strength has always been semi-classical songs. How much has your repertoire increased?
It is true that I prefer classical. But on the show I had to sing everything. I never had a problem singing even a Sooraj dooba hai (in the final). Just as I had no problems with whatever costume they gave me to wear, unlike some others who complained.
Many celebrities came for the contest. Which was your best moment?
It was the episode when Ashaji (Bhosle) came. She had seen me in the Zee Bangla finale and recognised me. So did Kumar Sanu, one of our judges from the Bengali show. Otherwise, I got to meet Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan and Akshay Kumar.
Was it all work and no play in Mumbai?
We had one day free in a week. We used to stay in Goregaon and the Oberoi Mall was close by. We would hang out there or ask our managers to buy us tickets to films. We saw Bahubali 2 and The Boss Baby together. It used to be such great fun.
What about school?
I was in Class V when I auditioned for the show last December. Since the last week of January I was in Bombay. My annual exam was in February. The school allowed me to take it separately in June when we got a break from the show, and promoted me. But it’s been eight-nine months that classes have started and I have not even bought new textbooks. There is so much to make up!
What does the future hold for you?
I love doing classical riyaaz and I will continue to take music lessons from my guru Jayanta Sarkar. He used to watch each episode and point out my lapses. He had expected me to win all through. Frankly speaking, I don’t like singing in shows. But I suppose Zee will ask me to do a lot of shows. One thing is for sure, I am not going for any more reality shows. The extended schedule has made me scared of reality shows.
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