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Atlanta Desi Idol

November 2007
Atlanta Desi Idol

"And the winner of the 2007 Atlanta Desi Idol competition is ?," well before we get to that, it is only fair that we mention the dedication and hard work by the Raksha committee that helped put together the magical evening filled with music and dance under the umbrella of a charitable cause. Raksha, a Georgia based non-profit, addresses social issues within the South Asian community such as family violence and divorce, as well as issues concerning children, senior citizens and new immigrants.

Ten singing finalists and five dance finalists competed at Center Stage on October 13th, for Raksha's Ek Shaa, Raksha Ke Naam Atlanta Desi Idol. Judging the dance segment were Jaya Malik (Arya Dance Academy), Prem Rahman (Silent Killers), Chandrika Chandran (Natyanjali) and Kala Subramanian (Carnatic music exponent for dance) and Subra Vishwanathan (Dhwani), Sriganesh Sangodkar (Hindistani keyboard player), Anjali Malhotra (Hindustani vocalist) and Amitava Sen (Sur Srota) judged the music segment.

Aruna Rao-Mcann and Shezi Sardar emceed the event adding interesting anecdotes about the contestants. The 2nd annual Atlanta Desi Idol event started with Anand Srinivasan crooning Kailash Kher's Teri Deewani. The show was structured in such a way that two singers performed at a time followed by a dance contestant to add variety. When Nimitt Sharma came on stage, dressed in a lungi and a fake mustache, he not only nailed every note of Hum Kale Hain To Kya Hua (Gumnaam) but also guaranteed himself a position in the top five. Supriya Shridharan danced to Satrangi Re (Dil Se) and also sang Jaane Do Naa (Cheeni Kum) beautifully; the only contestant to participate in both contests. All contestants were chosen after two weekends of open auditions.

Anjali Malhotra pointed out, "As far as judging the top ten, we had a point system that we used to score the contestants. Points were taken off for every time they went off key and off beat. We had to be extremely critical of not only keeping track of the basic elements of the song, but conveying the feeling of the song, stage presence?[and] voice range."

After a brief 30 minute intermission, the top five singers were announced to come back and entertain the audience. It was interesting to see how the contestants tried to earn a spot in the top three. Nimitt Sharma rendered Khaike Pan Banaras Wala (Don) with ease. Fazleen Sohani, dressed in a gorgeous black salwar suit, sang Mahi Ve. Although it was an interesting choice to sing a patriotic song in this round, Mudit Lal's rendition of Yeh Jo Des Hai Tera (Swades) earned him a spot in the top three. He was joined by Sharma and Srinivasan. Hardik Desai's Tumse Milke (Main Hoon Na) dance, Mika Jain's fusion kathak dance piece and Akshaya Murlidhar's dance to Jhalak Dhiklaja earned them a place in the top three of the dance contest.

Special performances were given by Arush Lal (singing), Sanket Shah (dance) and the popular Silent Killers. Aruna Rao-Mcann moved the audience with a personal story about domestic violence and highlighted the importance of Raksha and said, "I wish there was a Raksha when I was growing up." Her simple but powerful message encouraged the audience to be involved with the organization for fostering a healthier South Asian community.

At times, it was a comic relief when some of the board members enunciated ‘Raksha' with a different accent but their hard work and support was manifested with the number of volunteers providing relief to help the community. Director of Raksha, Aparna Bhattacharya, and Alka Roy (President) talked about the various facets of the organizations. The board members presented Anniliese Singh with the Ramesh Bakshi award.

While the judges selected the contestants till the top three, it was left to the audience to select the actual idol from the remaining finalists through a ballot system which was pulled off with ease by Raksha volunteers. The top three singing candidates went on to sing popular new songs to engage the audience. Anand Srinivasan's Tenu Leke (Salam E Ishq), Nimitt Sharma's Kya Mujhe Pyar Hai (Woh Lamhe) or Mudit Lal's Dard-E-Disco (Om Shanti Om); while all contestants had done a fantastic job in earlier rounds the last round was a clear victory for Mudit Lal. With audience members screaming, "202, 202...," there was no doubt that Hardik Desai with is performance on Ganesh Hegde's Main Deewana,���would be declared the winner of the dance segment.

The judges did a fantastic job in making the level of competition as professional as possible. Sriganesh's dedication and hard work was instrumental in the success of the singing contest.

The winners of the contests, Mudit Lal and Hardik Desai, were invited by Mohammed Ather, President of National Desi Idol, to participate in the national contest. In all, the event was successful in raising funds for a worthy organization that the Atlanta community so desperately needs.

For more information about Raksha, please visit www.raksha.org

~Archith Seshadri


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