SAJINI V. SAHADEVAN

Viewers of junior talent hunts have been bowled over by the contestants' performances.

Children are more flexible and ready to imbibe new ideas Deepak Dev

These kids are setting the stage on fire with their performance. Their verve, confidence and mind blowing performance have made them household names. With most of the Malayalam television channels conducting talent hunts in search of that perfect voice, wannabe singers never had it so good. Right from the word go, music directors and film directors have promised to launch some of them as playback singers. After the rocking performance of Amrita television's `Superstar,' comes `Junior Superstar.' And following the footsteps of their seniors, contestants like Ahamed Al Sabith, Lincy Eleena Shaji and Pradeesh have the viewers debating on who will win the crown in the forthcoming finals that will be telecast live from 18.30 onwards on Sunday on Amrita TV. Cashing in on the likeability factor and musical talent of a bunch of talented youngsters are Asianet's `Little Masters' and `Gandharva Sangeetham Junior' on Kairali television. The latter has enjoyed a loyal viewership base owing to its seven-year run. Buoyed by the high TRP ratings enjoyed by the show, Kairali is planning a live telecast of the final round.

Workshop

"We are also organising a two-day workshop for all the participants with music directors like M.G. Radhakrishnan, Vidyasagar and Ouseppachan. This will help the kids hone their skills further," says Mahesh Panju, producer, `Gandharva Sangeetham Junior.'According to George Peter, music director, who is also one of the judges of `Junior Superstar' it's the children's innocence and "lack of inhibition" that holds the audiences' attention. "Children are more flexible and ready to imbibe new ideas," says music director Deepak Dev, who is on the panel of judges for the show on Amrita TV. The screening of the seniors' training and grooming sessions seem to have paid off as the kids "only needed guidance on technical aspects like mike placement, " says Manoj Kammath, producer of `Junior Superstar.' So, with thousands entering the contest, how do these judges tell real talent from the rest? "We select singers who can be moulded into performers. Right from the time they enter the room to audition we observe their body language and the confidence with which they answer our questions. Initially our choice of participants were looked at with doubt as there were better singers who got rejected. Now the "nay" sayers have been proven wrong," says Deepak. A disarming smile and infectious energy have kept the sms votes from viewers pouring in over the past few weeks for Sabith while Pradeesh, despite his diminutive figure, is a live wire on the stage. "Performing before such a large crowd has given me a lot of confidence. I'm game for anything now!" says Pradeesh. And apart from hefty cash prizes, it also an opportunity to gain a foothold in the world of music. Mohan Sithara, music director and judge on Asianet's `Little Masters,' has this to say about the budding singers: "I always include a new singer on every project. Here too I'm on the look out for the right voice to be part of my next film. The children need to increase their efforts and bring a level of professionalism to their performance. I feel the pronunciation and the way the singer is able to convey the emotion of the song defines a good singer." Film director Rosshan Andrews has offered to give the winner a chance to sing on the soundtrack of his next film. "We do everything possible to promote the the singers. They've been wonderful, especially their parents, who said they would poplularise the show with the help of networks like Orkut," says Sindhu Sreedhar, producer of `Little Masters.' "The exposure a child receives through such an opportunity cannot be found elsewhere," observes Philo Gregory, mother of Merin Gregory - a strong contender on `Little Masters.' With their high voltage performances making viewers sit up and take notice it looks like these tiny stars are going to give their seniors a run for their money!