Musical talent hunt shows have found a niche among the TV audience of the country, and their growing popularity over the years has expanded the forms and formats of the shows. Audiences have found it much more interesting to see a battle of talent and people striving to excel to reach a dream, than fictionalised drama that goes on forever. In recent years, children's talent shows have added dimensions to it, bringing out fantastic young talents to TV audiences. "Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Li'l Champs" on West Bengal (India) TV channel Zee Bangla has been one such popular show, that concluded its latest season this Sunday.
A very special guest graced the Grand Finale of the event, much to the delight of contestants, the show's judges, and audience alike. Asha Bhonsle, a living legend of Indian music, brightened up the gala event with her wit, liveliness, and -- at the age of 80 -- a voice still sparkling as ever.
The programme was broken down in three rounds, with one of the five finalists -- Shreyan, Ronita, Ashmita, Chiranjit and Arunita -- to be eliminated in the first two rounds and the winner decided from the final three after the ultimate round. However, the judges -- Kumar Shanu, Akriti Kakkar and Joy Sarkar -- only eliminated one contestant (Chiranjit), that too at the end of the second round.
The little singers showed immense resolve and control over their singing, to the extent that Asha Bhonsle herself was left surprised. She also drew out a lot of old memories associated with the songs sung by the contestants -- stories behind songs composed by her late husband, RD Burman, stories of her first playback songs, and little anecdotes associated with other songs. She also came on stage to sing her evergreen number "Piya tu ab toh aa ja", along with a number of guests, that included Indian actress of the yesteryears Debashree Roy, who herself expressed gratitude to Asha Bhonsle with a gift, for singing a number of songs picturised on her. Asha Bhonsle was also generous with little tips and suggestions for the contestants, which the little ones eagerly received.
The third round, dedicated to the recently-deceased stalwart of Bangla music Manna Dey, saw some brilliant performances on stage. Shreyan sang "Baaje Go Beena", the lower registry of which greatly impressed Asha Bhonsle, Arunita's rendition of "Ami je jolsha ghore" was possibly the best of the evening, while Ronita's version on "Lolita go" and Ashmita's "O chand, Shamle rakho jochhonake" were not far behind.
Mika Singh, another popular figure of Indian music, also joined the show near the end, to end it on his typically exuberant, energetic mood. He sang a few of his popular songs, much to the joy of the contestants and audiences. He also encouraged the contestants to continue with their singing beyond the show, saying they have a long way to go.
In the end, Arunita was crowned winner, combining marks of all three rounds. She received a car, a music scholarship and various other gifts and hampers, while the runners-up did not go back empty-handed either, taking home scholarships and other courtesy prizes.