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Statement / 2011

A documentation of children who come to Mumbai and compete in T.V singing competitions. With stars in their eyes.

Sa re Ga ma pa Lil Champs is an Indian (Hindi) Vocal Talent show for children aged 8-15 and is aired in 158 countries across the world. It is also known as one of the most successful talent shows of India. Watched by millions of people across the world, its patron network ‘Zee’ takes immense pride in the fact that is the only show where the childrens’ lives are not exploited for the drama of their humble lives, or TRPs and that they are only interested in mentoring and showcasing raw talent in India focusing on vocal skills.

Most children in this show come from humble backgrounds towns/villages with diverse religions and cultures. They come with big dreams, enviable dedication and a competitive spirit to win. They are well aware that winning such a contest will change their lives forever and perhaps make them successful, rich and famous. At the least, it makes them into minor heroes and heroines in the locale that they come from.

My project began with the intention of exploring these children’s lives as I once used to participate in exactly such contests, with the exception of no television or career worthy opportunities. There was instead brass trophy, which my mother was only too happy with. Moreover, at the time our ambitions were limited, and opportunity outside of a small town for a young girl like me was risky. Interestingly 20 years later, as a photographer I see how radically the opportunities and choices have come to life.

The childrens’ lives begin to change the moment they are accepted to participate in the show. They are invited to live in the city of Mumbai in accommodation provided by the network for months at a stretch while the show is being recorded. Accompanied with a guardian (parent/uncle/siblings), they are happy skipping their academic education to live in the entertainment capital of the India, Mumbai. Schools themselves take pride in this opportunity and accommodate their studies for later. Most children you see in this project had never imagined that one day they’d get to even see the city Mumbai, the land of the successful, beautiful and famous; when here, they get a taste of what is expected as a price of fame. They are placed in highly disciplined schedules, motivated and perhaps even chided to believe in themselves, fiercely compete, practice, do yoga and experience emotional healing, grooming as well as diction lessons. They are styled and groomed as they have only seen famous people are, to look good on television. They learn to look at themselves in the mirror as someone important.

Indirect parental pressure to win, mentoring by celebrity musicians and judges, the exposure on television, meeting the likes of their own begins to change these children into semi-adults with anticipatory fame that challenges every facet of their impressionable personalities. Their insecurities and securities rise and fall in extremes at every show recording as one can always be eliminated. At the least these images explore the dreams and ambitions of children who want to make their families proud, and have them rise in stature within their own communities.


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