The atmosphere is electric as season 3 of Vijay TV's Airtel Super Singers kicked off with its first episode of the year.
Already one of the most popular shows on the Tamil channel, this season has even more to offer. The judges of this season are veteran singers Unnikrishnan, Sujatha and Srinivas, all well-versed in both film and classical singing.
The competition has kicked off with thousands of youngsters singing various genres of music. Twenty singers now face the biggest challenge in the competition.
The stage fairly shimmers with neon lights flickering over silver and chrome fittings. To the left of the viewers are the contestants, seated in what seem to be deep wells. To the right is the audience, while the judges are slam-bang in the middle. There's a sense of tense anticipation as compere Divya announces and introduces everyone. >
The first episode of the season is even more special for two reasons: singer Shailaja has taken Sujatha's place, temporarily. And when contestant Krishna kicks off the event with the beautiful Arabu Naade from Thottal Poo Malarum, you realise that this episode is a Yuvan Shankar Raja special as well. Every song during this episode is a Yuvan number, celebrating his first Live concert, again a Vijay TV endeavour.>
Despite the tension that grips contestants and audiences alike during the competition, the mood is celebratory as well. Quite a few of the singers join in, clapping enthusiastically as songs go on. >
One particular song that wins plenty of applause is Saicharan's performance of Venmegam Pennaaga Uruvaanadho, from Yaaradee Nee Mohini. To his credit, he really does give himself up to it, singing it with a vigour and richness that echoes among the neon-bright studio. When it's over, the judges are equally enthusiastic in their response. >
Shailaja enthuses over it, commenting that "It was very good," before pointing out a few tiny corrections. Srinivas quips, "This is a Hariharan song, isn't it? I knew it the moment you took it high." He gives a few tips about working on his "head-voice," but he too, is pleased with the performance.
Unnikrishnan is quite vocal as well, as he shares his reminisces of singing Nenjodu Kalandhidu, from Kadhal Kondein, and Or Aayiram Yaanai, from Nanda. The latter, especially was something of a new experience, he laughs, as he'd just come back from a classical concert and was immediately required to go at the song in high pitch. "I kept asking, Why on earth did you choose a song like this for me? And Yuvan said, You can do it. Please go on."
There's a bit of a flutter as contestant Sathya comes on to sing. Turns out she's one of two performers from abroad, Norway, to be very precise. The other is from Canada. This is something of a new development: for the first time, participants from outside India are part of the show. "I'm very happy to be here. It's an honour to perform in front of so many eminent personalities," Sathya says, in her slightly accented voice.
We snatch a few minutes with Unnikrishnan as he takes a break to ask what he think of the show and his own part in it. "I think it's great," he smiles in his usual, composed way; his voice very soft. "There's so much talent here, and the show obviously believe sin having a certain standard to maintain. That's a good thing."
So how does he feel when would-be singers sing his own songs, as part the contest, especially when they sometimes give it their own twist?
"I encourage it," he says calmly. "It's a nice feeling when someone chooses your song. I feel like a kind of role model and am proud of it. Listening to them give a different spin is nice too. It shows originality and that's very necessary."
The title winner of Airtel Super Singer Season 3 gets a 3-bedroom apartment worth Rs 40 lakh.
Image: Unnikrishnan, Sujatha and Srinivas | Photograph: Sreeram Selvaraj
Catch Airtel Super Singer Season 3, Monday to Thursday at 9 pm, on Vijay TV.