Saturday, June 16, 2007

The Audience Friendly Song

It was D-day and I was jumpy. I had decided to take part in the singing competition at school and today were the finals.

I peeped out of the wings and saw rows and rows of unruly boys in the school auditorium whose rowdy buzz would have shamed the bees. These kind of competitions, I knew, tend to draw out the boos and the fangs of schoolboys in a school auditorium like nothing else. Ask me...I had been in the audience on other occasions.

One look at the gleeful, anticipating faces and I broke out in sweat. The chatter of a few hundred kids rose to an excited crescendo till the principal signalled Miss Rosemary to launch the proceedings. One withering look from the veteran and everybody hastily lowered their volumes to mute.

As Miss Rosemary got set to introduce the first singer, I sighed deeply. There was no going back now. Any retreat would mean loss of face in the classroom. In fact, it would be akin to social suicide: the blackguards in the class would be ragging and sneering for months to come.

The first contestant got on stage. He stood bewildered in front of the mike, paralysed for a few moments, like a deer who has just turned the corner to find himself staring at a smirking tiger. Then, gathering courage, he began.

The song he had chosen was from the Rajesh Khanna blockbuster Aradhana.

Poor guy, he really put his heart into the song. "Kora kagaz tha yeh man mera", he sang soulfully, "likh liya naam usme tera..." And before he could blink, the ruthless audience had promptly picked up the refrain... "...tera, chouda, pandarah," they chorused.

It was slaughter. The aspiring Kishore Kumar was reduced to tears.

And I can't tell you what the episode did to me. I was scheduled to go on next and guess which unfortunate song I had chosen? OOOh Khilona jaan kar humko.... C-a-n y-o-u b-e-l-i-e-v-e i-t?!!

You see, this touching song from Khilona began with a plaintive 'OOh' which tremulously hung in the air for nearly two seconds.

I had a sinking feeling about my fate but shuffled onto the stage regardless. Standing before the microphone, I looked around at random faces in the audience, willing them not to do what I knew they inevitably would.

Then, taking a really deep breath, I began, "OOOh...". And sure enough the cooperative audience immediately picked up the plaintive cue and chorused a full two-minute "OOOOOOOh" before I could even move to "Khilona..."

Imagine. You are a eleven year old kid, alone on stage, with wobbly knees and a cold steel microphone glaring at you...and the audience gleefully and viciously steers your song away from you.

Disaster. Sheer, unadulterated disaster.

I never took part in a singing competition ever again.

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