I was in school when Boogie Woogie happened to Indian television. The show lacked the high-tech panache that India's Dancing Superstar, Dance India Dance, Jhalak Dikhla Ja etc have now, but the Naved Jaffrey, Javed Jaffrey and Ravi Behl combination made the show worth it. And of course there were some brilliant dancers. They had neither the sense of style nor stage presence. They were kids from almost all walks of life who considered themselves lucky to be on television for those few minutes and if they had it in them - win the deal. There was no melodrama, no over-the-top emotional bullcrap, no one dancing on stage to fulfill a dead parent's last wish (may their soul rest in peace).
But that was long time ago.
There isn't one single talent show on air now where the copious doses of melodrama has been kept at bay. More than the talent, the drama sells. The contestants look like they walked out of a parlour just moments back, they are aware of the camera more than ever and unless they are not encashing their latest personal tragedy cheque they are bursting into tears on national television. Dance, cry, wail - because we are watching.
A low upbringing sells, if you have struggled in life - even better, a dead relative who wanted the world for you, your best friend who sends across a teary-eyed message - anything and everything. Sell it. If you are a celebrity, they shall sell your marriage, your divorce and how much you miss your kids. I remember this one contestant on Dance India Dance who revealed that he had come for the auditions just days after his father's demise and that story was pulled and stretched for the entire season.
Javed Jaffrey has moved far ahead from his Boogie Woogie days but looking back, he said in an interview recently - ‘Now the platform is there, but somewhere it becomes exploitative. They zoom in on, say the eyes of the participant or show the participant's old mother... The shows focuses on the reality part of it more than the dance. There was a lot of respect during our show.'
India's Dancing Superstar just wrapped up for this season, the winners looked excellently well-groomed. As if that is all that's needed! No? Come to think of it, the original beauty product diva Shahnaz Husain was with the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, at a reception to mark the start of the London Anniversary Games involving 30 Olympic medalists - sorry - but I often digress. A friend of mine was a participant on Dance India Dance, she did not go on to win it - I had asked her what she considered the best formula to ace a show like that - 'You need to be good looking,' she said. She is a fabulous dancer - but she was acutely aware of that fact that her looks would not add to her package. Just the talent was not enough. Shakti Mohan went on to win that season - lately you would have seen her on Channel V's Dil Dosti Dance and getting busy in the item song Aa re pritam pyare in Rowdy Rathore.
Jhalak Dikhla Ja is still running their current season on Colors and Madhuri Dixit looks more fetching than ever - but I would kill for a show minus the usual rona-dhona and some real talent. Please.
When Jhinuk Sen is not procrastinating on Twitter, she is changing channels