Famous five from the fringes

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Posted: 16 years ago

hey guys...i found this article on the net....dont know if has been posted... i guess not coz' i havent seen it...anyways, its about neha (peehu)...


Famous five from the fringes
City gazes at suburban talent's star trek on the small screen

Ruprekha Banerjee. Claim to fame: winner, Fame Gurukul on Sony. Address: Agarpara.

Aditi Paul. Claim to fame: semi-finalist, Indian Idol on Sony. Address: Dum Dum.

Shilpi Paul. Claim to fame: semi-finalist, Super Singer on Channel [V]. Address: Ichhapur

Preetam Das. Claim to fame: winner, Pogo Amazing Kids Awards on Pogo. Address: Barasat.

Neha Marda. Claim to fame: starring in Saath Rahega Always on SaharaOne; winner, Boogie Woogie on Sony; finalist, Kaboom on STAR Plus. Address: Bally.


Scroll down the year's small screen success chart and Calcutta can well preen at the number of "local names" taking the talent hunt elevator to telly stardom. But take note of the fine print — not a single name hails from the city 'proper'.

Facilities, funds, contacts, opportunities — name it and you have it within reach in a booming metropolis. But those from the fringes have to reach out across that extra yard for any of the above, and often remain empty-handed. "If a music director finds a girl singing well in the next building, why would he bother looking for someone in the districts?" shrugs Aditi Paul, who charmed judges Anu Malik, Farah Khan and Sonu Nigam to reach the final 11 of Indian Idol on Sony.

Born in Dum Dum, Aditi had receded further from the city with her admission to Patha Bhavan in Santiniketan before she was seven. "The hostel was an isolated world. It did not even have cable TV. Though I was training with Supratik Das there, I had no idea which path to take. When I shifted back to town at 24, I took one look at the girl next door and cringed: 'she's doing so much in life and look how deprived I was for 18 years'."


Yet this does not mean that talents from out of town give up. Rather, they try that much harder to make it. Look at the family of Preetam Das in Barasat. A bumpy 28 km away from the seat of city action, the young artist is cut off from every brush with painting glory. Yet, the Class VIII student takes part in every contest of consequence in Calcutta and beyond, so much so that in winter he hardly has a weekend free. That is where his father comes in. Paresh Das, a draftsman with the land reforms department posted in Basirhat, travels every fortnight to Calcutta. His points of inquiry are Nehru Children's Museum and two shops for art tools on Lenin Sarani where announcements of contests are put up.


"The time I reach is too late to visit both areas on a single day." That means another day, another trip and another late return home. And on the day of the contest, father and son travel to town starting a good hour-and-a-half earlier than his city-based competitors. "The contests often start as early as 7.30 or 8 am. Once we were turned away for being half an hour late at a contest in Millennium Park," recalls Preetam.

The distance had almost cost him the Pogo bus as well. "I had my exams on the day of the regional selections. The organisers heeded our request of calling me towards the end." So, after writing a history paper at Banamalipur Priyanath Institution till 1.30 pm, he had to run, without lunch, to reach the Amherst Street screenings.

The constant travel can take its toll on the health of the young guns. Neha Marda of Bally, who now stars in SaharaOne's new serial Saath Rahega Always, came into focus with her moves in Boogie Woogie and Kaboom. Says her trainer Gopal Krishna Lalji: "One cannot always afford a taxi. When she was 13, we went for a show in Burrabazar by train. The poor child fell sick on stage." Given a second chance later in the day, she grabbed it and the contest crown.


Neha herself downplays the disadvantages. "Rather, I have taken advantage of my district home — no traffic, greenery all around, and we could always travel to Dharamtala for shopping," chirps the 17-year-old, from the Sahara sets in Mumbai.

She is lucky. Her dream run ended a newcomer's struggle in just three days, in which her show reel reached an agent in Mumbai and then the table of a SaharaOne talent scout. But her classmates at Bina Dance Academy in Rishra did not even get to know about the prelims of Kaboom in the city. "I know some of them are just as talented but unlike Neha they are not in touch with Calcutta," rues the teacher.

Yet, Shilpi Paul, who reached the top 10 in Channel [V]'s Super Singer in March, believes talent will always travel the distance. She has stayed put at her Ichhapur home after her Mumbai tryst with Adnan Sami, A.R. Rahman and Himesh Reshammiya, even if it's well past 10 pm when she returns after jamming with a fusion band in Ballygunge. "We have a wonderful musical atmosphere here. I can hardly get better training in Calcutta," the 20-year-old claims.

But Aditi did not have it her way. She had enrolled with Pandit Ajoy Chakraborty's school in Tollygunge, but the journey proved too much. The Indian Idol semi-finalist has learnt the hard way how crucial it is to stay in the thick of things. So, she shifted base to Mumbai in May. "The playback music world is centred here. I can get work in Calcutta while sitting in Mumbai, but not the other way round." The move has paid dividends. She has sung for top serials, Jassi Jaissi Koi Nahin and Kaisa Yeh Pyar Hai, on Sony.

It is television that is proving the great leveller, bridging the great divide between us and them, the city and its suburbs. The beam is the same, no matter where you switch the set on. And once you reach the selection arena, the address no longer hangs as a millstone round a contestant's neck. It is this level playing field that gives a girl from Bally the spunk to say: "It doesn't matter where you live. You shouldn't use that as an excuse."

Pictures by Sanjoy Chattopadhyaya, Pabitra Das and Sudeshna Banerjee


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