Did voting defeat competition?

It is rather surprising that I spent an evening watching the ‘Grand Finale’ of this popular reality show on Vijay TV called “Airtel Super Singer”. After waiting for almost three hours and listening to soulful singing from emerging stars – the prize distribution ceremony was not enjoyable! Surprised! Please read on…

This program has been on for over a year. Young adults have been fighting for this title and awards through this period. And if any of what these people tell during interviews is to be believed, each of them have spent much of the year or two just aiming for this. A competition in the true spirit!

With many stalwarts of music as judges and number of celebrated artists evaluating the contestants at every stage – only the very best make it to the next level at every stage. So when we reached the pre-final stage only two contestants were short-listed for the finals. Both truly deserving and a class apart from the rest!

Then something strange was introduced – public choice of finalists. Yes, even I was intrigued by what was happening. The public could vote on the performances of the contestants and two people would be allowed to move into the finals as a ‘wild card entry’. They would be allowed to compete for the title again (after being eliminated by the judges). Yes! Luck sometimes showers itself on some people, but it must have stopped with that.

In the final as the contestants were rendering their performances, it was constantly being announced that the winner would be decided based on votes polled by the public. With a number of stalwarts and experts sitting in front of the podium – no one was asked for evaluation, choice, comments, etc All that would decide the winner was “number of votes” – by the viewers!

So it was natural that the winner need not be the person who put in the effort and remained consistent over the entire period. It could be the person who can garner the maximum votes, rather than render the absolutely right ragas, talas, or the technicalities of the music.

After having had an entire season of near stiff evaluation by top class judges and strong elimination criteria, people are allowed to come back into the game after having lost and then again been awarded a prize for receiving the largest votes – rather than been selected or evaluated by judges.

It was sad to see the two contestants who sang (rather fought) their way to the finals rank three and four and the two wild card entrants be decided as first and second.

It seemed a little unfair to me. I have never heard of a competition where a person who loses in the quaterfinal / semifinal game be given a chance to come directly to the final and then be honored as winner by polling the audience.

It was definitely a let down to an event which provided such a fantastic platform to showcase talent spread across India and the world, a program that consistently ensured only the best and consistent singers progressed to the next level, with judges who were truly objective in their evaluation – suddenly change into a gambling ring. I definitely think we need to re-think the way we create standards for competitions in India and especially in these reality shows.

“Voting” is enough of an issue with politics – let it not spoil the healthy competition that encourages young minds to develop and hone their talents and turn it into a vote-buying game. Let a game of singing be judged by experts and let fair play decide who the winner should be – not number of votes from the audience who in all probability as actor Dhanush rightly pointed out at the function – may not know the intricacies involved in making soulful music.

I hope this opinion of mine will be taken in the right spirits! I believe that competition is good, but the competition should be healthy in the best interests of society. I hope such programs continue and create platforms for the immense talent that is across our lovely country and our beautiful world to be identified, showcased and create livelihoods for number of young artists to come, and not turn into mere game of chance and luck!