A 22-year-old became the toast of the nation on June 27. For on that day, self-taught aerial gymnast, Manik Paul won Season 6 of India’s Got Talent (IGT). Known for his breath-taking aerial acts on the show, he bagged the position after beating five finalists – shadow-artist Prahlad Acharya, Punjabi singers Harmanpreet Kaur and Parry G, Thane-based dance group XIX, Beat Breakers and Maharashtrian talent Yogeshwari Mistry.
He was awarded a cash prize of Rs 50 lakh, a Maruti Suzuki Celerio and a specially-crafted trophy engraved with the signatures of this season's jury members – film-maker Karan Johar, actor-producer, Malaika Arora Khan and film and theatre actor, Kirron Kher.
According to Manik, IGT was a dream coming true; that his journey to the number one spot was an uphill struggle all the way, what having grown up with little or no money. But now that he has won, he is confident of taking his skills to the world stage.
(From left) Manik Paul with the trophy; with the judges (indianexpress.com)
An inspiring story
The road to the top was never easy for the young man. He had to battle acute poverty to become a gymnast. Manik lost his father, Haru Paul, in a terrorist attack in Assam’s Barpeta Road in 1995. ULFA militants opened fire near their tea stall, killing his father, , among others. He was brought up by his mother, Geeta, who ran the tea stall after his father’s demise to make ends meet. Despite the debilitating circumstances, his mother inspired him to become something and make a mark in order to fulfil his dreams.
Manik was not into studies at all and was sent to Cooch Behar, where he joined a new school in Class VIII. It was there that he started taking interest in karate, sprinting, gymnastics et al. He dreamt of joining the Indian Army one day, as he wanted to avenge his father's death.
However, his interests soon turned full-time to gymnastics and martial arts. He gave the auditions for a Bengali talent hunt, Takkar, on a TV channel. Ultimately he won the show, winning Rs 2 lakh. This win was the point when he ultimately realised that he really had it in him to make it big. Adding to his confidence was the constant support of his mother.
Next he auditioned for another reality show, Dance India Dance. He lost in the third round, but it got him in touch with dancer and choreographer, Terence Lewis. Terence encouraged him to go to Mumbai to learn dance. He learnt the Keralite martial art, mallakhamb, while working in a hotel. After all, he needed to support himself too. Soon, his talent got him noticed and he started getting dance shows. He also started doing a diploma in dance, which he is continuing with.
In the meantime, he did two acts in a show called Entertainment Ke Liye Kuchh Bhi Karega. This impressed the judges enough to enable him to get a wildcard entry to India’s Got Talent. He just went along with no particular aim. But his impressive talent saw him through all the way. According to Manik, aerial acts are generally not considered that graceful, but the judges were very happy with what he did.
The young gymnast now wants to buy a house in Mumbai with the money he won from the show for his mother, who has been his inspiration, and himself, in order to pursue his tinsel town dreams.
Manik during one of his performances (businessofcinema.com)
No looking back
Now that he has laid his hand on the IGT trophy, he wants to make it big in Bollywood. He also hopes to work with his idol, well-known choreographer and also film-maker, Remo D’Souza. Paul wowed not only the three judges throughout the various stages of the show on Colors television channel, but also Remo D'Souza and actor Varun Dhawan in the final, who had attended to promote their last release, ABCD 2. Manik has always gathered positive reviews for his performances, but even in the last act the brilliant artist got a standing ovation from the audience, which is a very big thing for any artist.
A beaming Manik after winning IGT (indiatoday.intoday.in)
The ever-popular show, which brings talent from across India under one roof, went on air on April 18 this year on Colors. This sixth season was hosted by comedienne Bharti Singh and actor Sidharth Shukla. Giving an emotional twist to the finale episode, Manik performed to the song ‘Nahin Saamne Ye Alag Baat Hai’ from the 1999 film Taal and received a standing ovation from the judges and the audience.
Click below to see Manik Paul performing at India’s Got Talent
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