Reality shows are the mainstay of many television channels today. They bring in audiences who are ever eager to get out of the canned entertainment mode. The reality of life, as the shows claim to sell, albeit sometimes with conditions created to induce heightened drama, can keep people engrossed. The winners often become celebrities in their own rights. Reality shows are now a must-have of most national and regional channels – they bring in the audiences, and thus the advertisers and the money.
West Bengal has had a steady presence in reality shows on national television over the years. Be it winners or enthusiastic participants, people from the state have always been as eager as those from any other part. Full of the zest for life, they have wowed audiences all over the country, and of late, even international audiences. That credit goes to Akshat Singh – the ‘Amazing Happy Fat Dancing Indian Kid’, as a video of him on YouTube says, or the "Howrah ka rasgulla", as he calls himself.
It is no mean feat though, for a chubby eight-year-old to match the steps of Salman Khan, the feat he produced on India’s Got Talent 5 (IGT) on Colors TV to dance into the hearts of audiences. The precocious kid is indeed a marvel to watch at, the jhatkas and matkas as laugh-inducing as tough-to-perform. Singh floored the celebrity judges on IGT, whose video on YouTube not only received massive national and international attention – both his December 2011 home video and his January 2014 reality show videos have garnered more than 200,000 views each – but also sparked coverage from CNN, Good Morning America, People and E! Online. His provocative moves, facial expressions, and flexibility for an 8-year-old, plump boy surprised viewers internationally. This led to his performance on the internationally famous The Ellen DeGeneres Show in USA, where he impressed the show host, Ellen DeGeneres as much as he had those on IGT.
The Howrah boy reached the semi-final of IGT. He is a Class III student of MC Kejriwal Vidyapeeth in Howrah. Akshat’s stint with stardom first came when he went to Dance Bangla Dance Junior hosted by Mithun Chakraborty in 2010 aired on Zee Bangla. He reached the top 11 finalists and won the Best Attitude Award on the show.
Akshat Singh with Ellen DeGeneres on The Ellen DeGeneres Show
Another recent triumph from Bengal in reality shows on national television is Doyel Sarangi. The 27-year-old housewife from Kolkata came third on Masterchef Season 3, held in 2013, which was telecast on Star Plus channel. She beat nine other tough participants to come a creditable third. Doyel has a degree in nutrition and psychology and also loves cooking. Her father was the one who introduced her to cooking at a very young age, and she has been passionately involved since then.
She believes that other than cooking, a Masterchef should always possess a good sense of humour. As she puts it in an interview, “If any dish goes wrong, you can always spice it up with a good joke, in front of judges.” She is known for her lively nature and never-give-up attitude. Her filmmaker-husband has encouraged her a lot to come out of the home and display her talent. In an interview, she said she would want to make maachher tok for Akshay Kumar, which, according to her, she is sure Akshay would love to have. She said she would also love to make something for Soumitra Chatterjee, Goutam Ghose and Anjan Dutt. Among her other plans, according to the interview, are to open a restaurant-cum-cafe where where people can have adda and spend as much time as they want to, and name it ‘Dhitang Dhitang Bole’; and, on the culinary front, present mishti doi in a jelly form.
Prashant Tamang is a Darjeeling-based Nepali singer and actor. He was the winner of Indian Idol Season 3 in 2007. He is also the first person from the Indian police force to enter the final rounds of Indian Idol. The then 24-year-old pipped his rival Amit Paul in the grand finale of the over-two month long talent hunt. Tamang stole the show when he sang ‘Yeh Kaali Kaali Aankhen’ from the Hindi film Baazigar. He won cash reward of Rs 1 crore, a Maruti SX-4 and a contract with Sony to cut his own album. The gala was held in New Delhi with the final witnessing over seven crore people sending in their votes via SMS. He has no formal training in music.
After winning Indian Idol 3, Prashant launched his maiden album Dhanyavad, consisting of Nepali and Hindi songs, with Sony BMG. He toured all over the world, including USA, performing in concerts. He also sang for a few Nepali films such as Himmat 2 (along with fellow Indian Idol contestant Charu Semwal). In 2009, he started his acting career in Nepali films. His first film, Gorkha Paltan was released in 2010. It did very well at the box office. His second film Angalo Yo Maya Ko, produced in Sikkim, was released in 2011. Kina Maya Ma, Prashant's third film, was released in 2011. In 2008, he released a second music album, Namaste.
Prashant was followed on the national singing stage in the same year by Bengal’s Aneek Dhar, who won the Zee Sa Re Ga Ma Pa in 2007, with the grand finale being shown on October 13. In the final, Aneek received 3.65 crore votes from India as well as from overseas.
He came out with his first solo album, Khwaishein, in 2008 which received a huge response from music lovers all over the world. The album won the Kalakar Award in the Best Music Album category. Aneek also did an Assamese album, Agni. He sang in the Bollywood animation film, Bal Ganesh along with Shankar Mahadevan. After Aneek has sung in more than 50 Bengali films as well as in Hindi films. He has also sung the title tracks for popular Bengali serials. In 2008 Aneek entertained all music lovers by his mind-blowing performances in Zee TV's show Ek Se Badhkar Ek. Also in 2008 Aneek did anchored Zee Bangla Sa Re Ga Ma Pa. Along with TV appearances, Aneek did many successful overseas public shows too like the North American Bengali Conference in 2008 and 2010, and a successful world tour after winning Sa Re Ga Ma Pa. Aneek also won the Bengali edition of the first season of Bigg Boss.
Mithu Chakraborty from Kolkata won the 2013 season of Dance India Dance Super Mom. She was awarded a cheque of Rs 10 lakh and a trophy at the grand finale held in Surat in September 2013.
Dance India Dance is a dance competition that airs on Zee TV, which has become India's largest dance-based reality show, in terms of participation. The show is the national television version of the hit Zee Bangla dance reality show Dance Bangla Dance. Both have actor Mithun Chakraborty as the Grandmaster, the title for the head judge.
Mithu Chakraborty (extreme left) after winning Dance India Dance