27 December, 2008 – It is an episode of Bhutan Star. Yet another contestant is being screened out. It is a long drawn out process as the MC, with exaggerated melodrama, to build up the suspense as far as he can and wrench tears from the latest victim. The emcee does not relent until the contestant breaks down.
Sensitive viewers are disturbed. It is a replay of Indian idol, translated into Dzongkha. They believe that the prolonging of suspense is clichéd cruelty. They would rather listen to the singers than the long interludes.
Others are riveted. It is emotional stuff and it works. Viewers around the country are glued to the screen. Some are crying. Talented Bhutanese singers, in their first public experiences, are perfect material for such drama.
In terms of publicity, the drama in our grave, elected parliament is nothing compared with this television spectacle. Parliamentarians may be refining laws that will define our future but the masses are waiting to find out who will be the first Bhutan Star.
But the wait is incredibly long. After nine months of competition, the contest has been painfully filtered to five singers. After a much-awaited lead up to the grand finale, they performed their hearts out on December 19, 20, 21. Now these participants, as well as their large following, have to wait 10 days for the results.
This 10-day period is not just a stretch of the suspense. For all purposes this is a period for the organiser Jigdrel Trokhang, BBS, and B-Mobile to make money. Bhutan Star will be decided by the number of votes called in on the mobile. It is a free-for-all where people are allowed to vote as many times as they want, from the same ‘phone, at Nu 5.00 a call.
So the voting is going on, with the contestants and their supporters garnering support from family, friends, and now from sponsors. The singers are desperately voting for themselves, seeking funding for the calls.
Is there something wrong in all this? Yes, in media terminology it is called “the lowest common denominator”. This system of voting means that the final star is not the most popular, and not necessarily the most talented, but the one who brings in the largest revenue. It is pure commercialism.
We saw a group of very talented singers perform over the weeks and months. Now the best of them are busy looking for money to vote for themselves. There is an unfortunate loss of dignity in this great anti climax. As the first such contest, what are the standards we are setting?
We need to do better than this.
“Music can save people, but it can’t in the commercial way it’s being used. It’s just too much. It’s pollution.”