Mission Ustaad, the unique 9X reality show which blended entertainment with information and awareness, reached its culmination on Saturday night. The show had four pairs from the music industry – Sunali and Roopkumar Rathod, Mahalaxmi Iyer and Kailash Kher, Vasundhara Das and Mohit Chauhan and Shweta Pandit and Naresh Iyer composing their own songs for a cause. A UN initiative, the songs had to have a message around a social cause which could be unemployment, education, female infanticide, poverty and so on. It was about reminding India about the Millennium Development Goals the UN had set up, and the pledge our country had signed to realize them.
We caught up with Javed Akhtar, one of the judges on the show which had A R Rahman and UN South East Asia ambassador Lara Dutta too on the jury seats.
What are your thoughts as the competition draws to a close?
It was a different kind of a concept and obviously the experience of having judged it is different. Normally, entertainment is perceived to be mindless and informative, but Mission Ustaad was a mix of both and I feel we achieved a fair balance of the two. Since it was just not another music reality show, and had a definite agenda, a cause behind it, it gave me an opportunity to voice my thoughts, my views about the various issues plaguing our country. At least, an effort was made to reach out to the audience.
But the show doesn't seem to have got high TRPs..
Well, you have to understand that our show was on a new channel. But it has managed to give 9X a niche, an identity. It has given the channel a face. Besides, even if we managed to convey our message to a small percent of audience, we have succeeded.
What do you have to say about your co-judges?
(Smiles). Well, I have worked with A R Rahman. He's a genius. Lara was a pleasant surprise. I came to know that she is the youngest ambassador of South East Asia, UN. She was very well informed, clear-headed and made her comments with tremendous precision. She always made a valid point.
They all were good at some point or the other. They composed some great songs with some great messages. I was particularly impressed by Roop Kumar's range. I always knew he was a good singer, but Mission Ustaad brought across a completely different Roop. I was very impressed. And of course, Kailash is Kailash. Vasundhara is a great performer. Mahalaxmi is a fine singer. After Alka Yagnik and Kavita Krishnamurthy, she and Sunidhi Chauhan are the new generation of singers. Naresh and Shweta are the young blood, plucky and talented.
You have judged a populist reality show like Indian Idol and now something like Mission Ustaad. How would you compare the creative satisfaction you may have got from judging these two shows?
Well, Idol was totally different. Mission Ustaad was more about content, composition and who could bring across the message more effectively. Idol was about who could sing a song more magically. I enjoyed both. Yes, I will do more reality shows because I am all for encouraging new talent. Since 1972, the year I got into the film industry, I have always supported new composers, new singers, and newer kids. It makes me proud to be of some help to these younger talents. For instance, Amit Paul who I clearly thought should have been the Idol 3 winner but couldn't, is singing my songs for my forthcoming films.
Finally have you seen Farah's children? (Farah Khan is his niece)
Of course I have. They are beautiful babies. It was a joy to see them.
Author: Suhaani Rai