Chhote Ustaad

  • Vaishnavi Ganpule


I remember being curled up on my mother’s lap on Saturday evenings and listening to children my age perform my favorite Bollywood songs in front of musical legends like Shekhar Ravjiani, Shaan and Neeti Mohan. Enamored by every performance, I tried but failed spectacularly at belting out a coherent melody- they make it seem so easy!

Indian reality singing shows for kids

What started out as Meri Awaaz Suno on Doordarshan back in 1996, has snowballed into a thriving industry with shows on every channel in every major language.

Reality singing shows offer a platform to showcase and promote the awe inspiring talent in child prodigies. The first list of participants are chosen out of thousands in an elaborate audition, after which they compete with each other over several weeks in the form of battles, live performances and elimination rounds. Throughout the show, they are mentored by the music industry’s finest. The mentors offer guidance on how to improve their musical aptitude and provide constructive feedback on their performances. The winner of the show is not only promised a handsome cash prize but also a lucrative opportunity to work with a record label.  

Winners of a few shows

The participants are judged on the quality of their voice, versatility, intonation, stage presence and overall singing ability. They practice a song every week that they then perform for a live audience. The children are encouraged to challenge their range and go beyond their comfort levels to hone their skill. The mentors urge them to discover their own niche voices and make a song their own rather than merely mimicking it.

A popular meme

Pretty sure we have all come across this meme and laughed at its ironical accuracy. However, reality singing competitions have catapulted second and third tier cities as sensations hailing from here become popular with the masses. The will power and small town charm of children from obscure places pulled at the heartstrings of viewers. These shows give everyone seeking to achieve stardom an equal chance at showcasing their genius. Contestants get the opportunity to work closely with musical stars that are otherwise inaccessible.

Parents and children who set their hearts on entering and winning the competition aspire to reach Sunidhi Chauhan and Shreya Ghoshal’s level of success. Both were talents discovered on singing shows and are arguably the most prolific playback singers in the industry.

Young Sunidhi Chauhan and Shreya Ghoshal

Careers of previous winners have ranged widely. While some were successful, others left the music business. After the show ends, they dabble in playback singing for movies, live shows and promotional performances. Recent winners who released albums with record labels received an unenthusiastic response.  

The cutthroat competition the children face at such a young age is unnerving. As the influence of TRP in marketing strategies increases, the children are now also expected to go along with the script and portray an image of themselves palatable to the audience. While some contestants claim that school exams are scarier than the competition, others in the industry have raised concerns over the long term development of the child’s psyche after being part of such a stressful environment.

What started out as a platform of pure competition to scout fresh talent has now become an avenue to generate a large commercial viewership by capitalizing on the talent of these young singers. Yes, entering these competitions is a choice parents and children make. However, there have to be moderations made to the format of the shows to protect the innocence of the participants like toning down the adult and mature themes that the children have to partake in and having a qualified child counselor on set throughout the show.

No matter how many arguments we make against reality shows, we will still hear their familiar jingles ringing from households across the country, jingles that promise talent, hope and entertainment.

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