Happy to work with any ‘Asia's Singing Superstar’ contestant in movie: Mahadevan

Shankar Mahadevan with the participant.

Shankar Mahadevan is a man on a mission these days.

Lounging in his vanity van in between shoots, the musical powerhouse reveals he listens to every demo tape that crosses his table.

"I am always looking for that spark, the next big thing in music who could be the game changer that this industry needs," says the singer. "Sitting here and looking at the finalists on 'Asia's Singing Superstar', the talent that exists on that stage, I am happy to work with any one of them in a movie."

Word going around the New Delhi shoot of 'Asia's Singing Superstar' is that Mahadevan who makes up the SEL trio of Bollywood composers, Shankar, Ehsaan and Loy, has already promised to work with contestant Shrinidhi Ghatate who is also a crowd-favourite vying for the title of the Zee TV Middle East produced show.

Quiz the musician and Mahadevan neither confirms nor denies, but rather says: "I actively encourage virtually unknown singers to step up and find a podium that offers them the chance to shine. You never really know who is listening."

Fellow judge and Pakistani singer Shafqat Amanat Ali agrees, saying: "This is truly a global platform, with residents of India, Pakistan and the UAE competing as one unit. Where else can you find such a draw that rises above the politics and celebrates the love for music."

From Karachi to Delhi

But politics is never too far behind, with the show's grand finale experiencing the absence of special judge and Pakistan's ghazal maestro, Ghulam Ali, who was replaced by veteran Suresh Wadkar.

That said, both Shafqat and host Ehsan Khan are leading the way for the show's fellow participants from Pakistan, be it Midat Khan or Mohammed Zubair from Karachi.

For finalist Midat Khan from Karachi, the journey to New Delhi has been long and winding, but one that she says she will cherish forever.

She says: "A few months ago, had someone told me that I would be travelling to India, I would have simply laughed."

The 17-year-old aspiring singer recalled seeing the advertisement for the reality TV show and was one of thousands of hopefuls competing in the selection process.

She says: "We knew only six would be selected and out of the lot, I was the only female to make the cut."

So, has India welcomed her and her father, who travelled with her?

"When I got off the flight, there were the same people, the same language, the same kindness that I see back home in Karachi; who says India and Pakistan are any different from each other," she asks.

When age is no barrier...

While Midat's journey took her across the border, for Dubai-based contestants Yasmina Alidodva and Ian Cris Tocle, stepping up on stage has been nothing short of an adventure.

As the only two non Hindi/Urdu speakers, the Tajikistani and Filipino nationals, have embraced all things Bollywood in this short time span.

Says the 12-year-old Alidova: "Our participation in this competition is thanks to our respective mothers, who saw the advertisement and decided to encourage us to participate."

The duo state they can now understand basic Hindi, while Arijit Singh and his 'Tum Hi Ho' is their favourite track.

For nine-year-old child prodigy Sneha Shankar, the show is nothing but a stepping stone in her singing career.

Mahadevan's firm favourite, the young 'genius', as he calls her, first shot to fame in Zee's 'Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Lil Champs' at the age of eight years, and there has been no looking back since.

Both Ali and Mahadevan worry as the show mentors, constantly advising her family to ensure its not all work and no play for the young talent.

Quiz Sneha and she says: "My mom is always by my side. I always find time to play as per schedule."

As her mother prompted her to regale about her burgeoning event calendar, young Sneha shyly admitted she enjoyed painting when she wasn't practicing her singing.

"Tell them about your stage shows," prompted her enthusiastic mother.

Sneha just smiles back.

Worldwide recognition

While reality singing shows have garnered a fan following in India, the concept has also drawn criticism for the lack of opportunities that are made available to winners and the other talent that is discovered through such platforms.

Veteran Mahadevan has a different take.

"Once you have been given the stage to show the world your talent, that is when the true test begins," he says. "You can't be complacent, sitting at home and waiting for the offers to pour in.

"The onus is on the contestant to make the most of the opportunity that is presented to them and network hard to get ahead."

However, probe further and Mahadevan denies talent often finds itself returning to obscurity following such a public forum.

He says: "I can assure you that is simply not true. While not everyone will go on to become a Bollywood singer or cut his or her own private album, they all get work, be it through private concerts, corporate gigs, singing at weddings.

"It pays the bills; even I do it when needed."