Stars you choose

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By Hits and misses of tv talent hunts.
  • Published 26.08.09

So many talent hunts, so few real stars. Why is it that despite having singing and dancing shows on almost every indianand global channel, there have been precious few true crossovers into real-life stardom? The situation is so dire that indian idol season one winner abhijeet sawant has recently joined the shiv sena, one way of staying in the news. T2 trathe exceptions — a selection of the few names in india and abroad — who have taken the popular vote route to lasting success…

Sunidhi chauhan

At age two, sunidhi chauhan could memorise an entire song. At four, she was singing at public events. At age 13, she out-sang contestants more than twice her age to win meri awaaz suno, a talent show on doordarshan which had lata mangeshkar as judge. The win, however, did little for the teenager, and following a flop music album called aira gaira nathu khaira, sunidhi was left looking for that elusive bollywood break.

A few years later, ram gopal varma’s mast happened and the spunky title track catapulted the whitney houston-mariah carey fan to instant fame. By age 19, she had more than 350 songs to her credit, most of them chartbusters. Today, sunidhi chauhan is one of the most sought after singers in the film industry. The smouldering beedi jalaile of omkara, the sensuous dekh le from munna bhai mbbs , the foot-tapping desi girl from dostana or the playful raat ke dhai baje in kaminey — her voice is all about power.

“Sunidhi is a goddess. Her singing is so powerful. She added another dimension to my dancing,” bipasha basu, who brought beedi to life on screen, had said. “unlike most other talent show winners, sunidhi had an individuality from the beginning. She is a go-getter and knows exactly how to make an ordinary number extraordinary,” added music composer shekhar ravjiani, a sa re ga ma participant in 1997 himself, who handed sunidhi hits like right here right now and the recent maa da laadla. And if being the voice behind all those chart-toppers wasn’t enough, sunidhi is reportedly eyeing an acting career next.

Shreya ghoshal

Another young talent show find who won over people’s hearts with her mellifluous voice is shreya ghoshal. A sa re ga ma winner in the children’s segment in the early 90s and a contestant in the main show a few years later, shreya ghoshal forayed into playback singing with no less than five songs in devdas, the soulful bairi piya earning her a national award. Since then — from jaadu hai nasha hai in jism to bhor bhaye in delhi-6 — the abba fan has lent her voice to a slew of hits, winning a second national award for paheli’s dheere jalna in 2006.

What set apart this bengali from rajasthan from other talent show winners? “shreya has an extraordinary repertoire. Her voice is original and versatile,” said singer shaan. There seems very little left for the 25-year-old to achieve. Or is there? “i really want to do an item number song,” admitted the a.r. rahman favourite.

Kunal Ganjawala

Kunal ganjawala’s success proved that you don’t have to actually win a talent show to break into the big league. He participated in sa re ga ma in 1997 and 1998 but did not progress beyond the initial rounds. Since then, the soft-spoken singer has become one of the hottest singers in the industry today. Murder’s bheege honth, kyon ki’s dil keh raha hai or humdum suniyo re from saathiya all have the unmistakable kunal ganjawala stamp. Bollywood apart, ganjawala has sung for kannada and telugu films. He also has a number of albums – the most notable being channa vey — to his credit. The singer — who had “never even hummed a song till age 15” — had come to mumbai in the 90s, aspiring to be an actor! Some dreams aren’t meant to come true — and it’s often for the best!

Jennifer Hudson

Like Ganjawala, Hudson didn’t win the 2004 american idol crown, but that didn’t slow her down on the street to stardom. The 2006 film dreamgirls instead became the route to her super success. Hudson’s portrayal of the spunky effie white — alongside co-stars jamie foxx, eddie murphy and beyonce knowles — earned her the best supporting actress honour at the academy awards that year, making her the only talent show participant to ever take home an academy award. Since then, hudson has acted in films like sex and the city and the secret life of bees.

Hudson has proved her mettle as a singer too, with her eponymous debut album, including contributions from timbaland and missy elliot, debuting at number two on the charts. It also brought her three nominations at the 2009 grammy awards, and she took home the prize for best r&b album. In march 2007, she became the first african american singer to apear on the cover of vogue magazine. Way to go, girl!

A few years later, another american idol contestant who failed to reach the top saw another remarkable rise. Chris Daughtry who ended up in fourth place on the fifth season of american idol went on to become the lead vocalist and guitarist of the alternative rock band daughtry. The debut album daughtry sold a million copies within five weeks of release, making it the fastest selling debut rock album in history.

Carrie Underwood

And now, the other side of the coin. Carrie Underwood, winner of the fourth season of american idol, became the darling of america with her powerhouse country vocals. She has gone on to become a multi-platinum selling artiste, a multiple grammy winner and is the reigning academy of country music awards entertainer of the year. The oklahoma singer’s debut album, some hearts, is one of the fastest selling debut country albums and is also the best-selling solo female debut album in country music history. Her second album, carnival ride, released in 2007, has so far sold over 2.9 million copies. Underwood has sold over 9.7 million albums in the us and 11 million albums worldwide.


Women simply can’t get enough of him. His popularity rivals that of many a successful film star. Good looking, quick-witted and blessed with the gift of the gab, vj-turned-actor rannvijay singh singha’s phenomenal success started with winning roadies season one. He is now host of roadies and other mtv shows, is carving a film career for himself and anchors “up to 10-15 stage shows a month”. The 26-year-old, whose first job was that of a construction worker in new jersey, is ready for the release of his debut film toss this friday. Also on the anvil are two multistarrers — the ajay devgan-salman khan-asin starrer london dreams and action replay with akshay kumar and aishwarya rai bachchan.

“i think what has worked for me is the fact that i have always been myself. Even when i am acting, i am just being myself,” says rannvijay. “no other roadies winner has been able to match up to rannvijay’s success. His charisma and easygoing personality make him a huge hit with the girls,” says advertising executive swagata mukherjee.


Jacinda barrett

Remember the sweet maxine, Kal Penn’s American girlfriend in mira nair’s the namesake? Jacinda Barrett has come a long way since she first grabbed eyeballs as a contestant on real world: london, a big brother-like reality series in which a group of diverse strangers are made to live together for several months in a city under 24x7 surveillance. Today, barrett has a filmography boasting names like ladder 49, the human stain, poseidon and bridget jones: the edge of reason. Her next big-ticket release will be new york, i love you, an anthology of several love stories set in new york.