Making of Arijit, Sunidhi, Shreya; journey from reality TV to superstardom

Once again it is the season of song-based reality shows. Indian Idol Season 9 is on air and my favourite Sonu Nigam is back as a judge. Shows like this and India’s Got Talent provide a platform to aspiring talent to make their mark in the industry.

Looking at the new bunch of talented singers, you actually wonder how the three recent golden voices of Indian cinema have all come through this reality show route. Arijit Singh, Sunidhi Chauhan and Shreya Ghosal are undoubtedly the reigning superstars of Bollywood music.

And I was tempted to trace their journey up the ladder. And thanks to YouTube, it is now possible to see what made the trio make it big.

Click below: Sunidhi Chauhan appearance as contestant in Meri Awaz Suno Mega Finals 1996

In the above video a fearless baby Sunidhi with short hair, dressed in a frock, effortlessly singing “Tu Chanda main Chaandni” from Reshma Aur Shera in the final round of Meri Awaz Suno way back in 1996.

It’s not easy to choose to sing a song originally sung by the legendary Lata Mangeshkar, that too in her presence. It could potentially destroy a singer for obvious reasons but Sunidhi gave a performance that gives me the goose bumps every time I see the video. Trust me I watched it multiple times.

Click below: Arijit Singh Eliminated from Fame Gurukul 2005

He is the voice of the Indian hero of the decade. The singing sensation of today’s generation Arijit Singh is also a product of Fame Gurukul. The video of 18 year old Arijit singing his heart out…singing ‘lagan lagi…’, only that he had been eliminated and yet gives a powerful performance. Not making it to the Top 5 must have steeled him to prove a point and how!

Shreya Ghoshal wins Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Championship 1996

Another product of song based reality show is the owner of that silken voice- Shreya Ghoshal. Watch Shreya singing “Jhumka Gira re” that mesmerised all. She catches all the harketein of the original song and reproduces them at will. Her flawless rendition wowed the judges as she won Zee Tv’s Sa re ga ma pa season and since then there’s no stopping her.

Reality of song-based reality shows

But for every Sunidhi Chauhan, winner of Meri Awaaz Suno , Shreya Ghoshal, winner of TVS Sa re ga ma and Arijit Singh, who failed to make it to Top 5 of Fame Gurukul, there are numerous others who despite their wins are no longer in the public memory. Many of them are not even in the music industry any more; few might have moved onto acting and hosting shows.

Monali Thakur
Monali Thakur, Bollywood singer/Ex-Indian Idol contestant

Meiyang Chang who came to the limelight in Indian Idol season 2 moved onto acting and even hosted the third season of Indian Idol. Qazi Taukeer who won Fame Gurukul in the season when Arijit lost is another example. He was last seen a shaking a leg in the song ‘Afghan Jalebi…’, from the movie Phantom, while the song was sung by Pakistani singer Syed Asrar Shah.

Stories of other singers like Monali Thakur, Neha Bhasin, Neha Kakkar are also inspiring for these young hopefuls. It’s a win-win situation for music directors too, many of who are judges on such reality shows. Why so? These singers are not as expensive as an established singer would be. Also music directors are not threatened by these newbies because even if the song is a hit, the music director ends up owning it rather than the new singers.

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For hundreds and thousands of talented Indians who dream of making it big, are outside the industry and have no Godfathers/mentors, these shows actually put that elusive thing- “success“ within their reach. The reality shows present one solid platform to singers from small towns to present their talent, e.g. Ariji Singh is from Murshidabad, West Bengal.

Such success stories bring hordes of people to the auditions and the amazing part is that these young aspirants line up for hours, even days to wait for their turn to get the ear of the judges. People travel across the length of the country in the hope that they will be spotted and picked by the judges first and national audiences later.

So you have singers from Arunachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir who travel all the way to cities where the auditions are being held. In a strange city, where you do not have relatives or friends and you are not assured when your turn will come… sustaining yourself is only the first challenge.

Khuda Baksh, a singer from a tiny village in Punjab, part of the top 10 finalists in the current Indian Idol, is a case in point. Not from a well to do family (his mom works as a domestic help to run the household), he took refuge in a fellow contestant’s house the first night while waiting for his turn, the second night at the house of an Indian Idol crew member and the third day he slept in a bus when he told the bus conductor him that he had nowhere to go. Thankfully he finally got to sing the next day.

What these shows do is provide people a chance to showcase their talent. Most of the winners and runners-up are noticed and the platform provides them a foot in the door; but after that it is their persistence and drive, which sustains them on the road to success. It ultimately boils down to how you keep working hard and putting your best foot forward to find and create opportunities for success. Don’t let failures deter you. Dust yourself up and keep working towards your dream.

Before Arijit Singh got eliminated in Fame Gurukul, which had a twin criteria of viewer votes followed by votes of fellow contestants, he had said that he doesn’t want to stay in the competition if he doesn’t get the viewer votes. He had said,” I don’t know what the viewers are thinking, probably they are not with me”. Javed Akhtar, sitting on the panel of judges, had his to say to him,” You should always believe that you deserve to win. If someone thinks that you are not capable, then it’s their problem, not yours.”

“If you believe that you don’t deserve to win, there is very little chance that life will make you win. So always have confidence in yourself.” Eventually fellow judge Shankar played a big role in making Arijit Singh the Voice of India, a true Indian Idol.


Making of Arijit, Sunidhi, Shreya; journey from reality TV to superstardom

About The Author
- ( A journalist by education, a marketing professional by trade and a blogger by choice. She cherishes her dance and yoga lessons, digs mythological fiction and listens to music that speaks. She's fascinated by the small things in life but can't resist the allure of the new and the undiscovered.

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  • Aayushi Jain

    Yup it’s actually amazing how they’ve reached where they are today !! Nice one Di.. I had stopped watching reality tv shows but now I feel like watching them again after reading this..