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Sanjaya Malakar, an American Idol, in India

Sanjaya Malakar always figured he was destined for fame; ask him and he says as much.

Watching the emergence of American Idol as a national phenomenon, the skinny teenager with the funky hair knew he'd found his shot. He hasn't looked back since.

Though he finished in seventh place on the show's sixth season, he remains its enduring image. With a brilliant smile, bright eyes and off-beat style, Sanjaya is still one of the show's most popular contestants.

So when notoriously caustic American Idol judge Simon Cowell grumbles that Sanjaya didn't win a thing, he's incorrect. For while Sanjaya didn't take home a trophy, he certainly won America's heart.

"It all happened so fast," the bashful youngster says softly, speaking on his fame. "Like, overnight."

Here, speaking from his suite at the JW Marriott in Mumbai, Sanjaya catches up with to discuss his trip to India's mega-metropolis and his future as a musician.

What brings you to India? How's it been?

We just finished shooting a commercial (for Nationwide, a US Insurance company). It's been a blast. I've never actually shot a commercial. It's been a really cool experience.

Have you recorded any music?

Not here, but I'm currently in the process of recording my album, and writing music for it.

How often do you come to India?

I've only ever been here once before, in fifth grade, just to meet family and see India for the first time. So, this is my second time here. It's a very different experience because the first time I was staying in my family's houses and in little villages. We went to Bangladesh as well. I was in this little grass hut in Bangladesh and now, I'm staying in nice hotels, all lavish. So it's definitely a very different experience. But it's cool to see the two different sides.

How has the reception been thus far in India? Do people recognise you like they would in the States?

The recognition isn't at all like it is in the States. I think that, when people recognise me, they're a little more coy. They're not as likely to come up to me and say, "Oh! Sanjaya! I'm a big fan!" If they recognise me they're going to be a little more reserved, and acknowledge it from afar. So, it's very different than in America; because in America, people will come right up to you and talk to you.

Text: Matthew Schneeberger | Video: Rajesh Karkera

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