You may not know it, but there's a variation of the Sanjaya situation going on right now on U.S. TV. For all you South Asians who cringed as Sanjaya Malakar made it through the various rounds of "American Idol" on Fox (some of us, including my 4-year-old twins, liked seeing Sanjaya do his thing), it's cringing time again.
This time, it's not a singer of Indian descent, it's a dancer of Pakistani origin. Kashif Memon, who works at a sandwich shop and nurtures dreams of being a Bollywood star, is making waves on NBC's summer show, "America's Got Talent."
He had made it through two rounds already and last night performed in the semi-finals (he was in the top 10). We won't know if he made it into the top 5 via the results of the at-home voting till next Tuesday, July 24 (8 pm on East and West Coasts and 7 pm Central). But judging from the in-studio reaction, he struck a nerve. According to the show's site, here's what the judges had to say:
Kashif was hoping his performance could bring him closer to following his dreams of being a Bollywood star. The audience danced to his performance. Piers thought he had no talent to be on the show, Sharon thinks that he was amazing, and David thought he had charisma.
[David, by the way, is David Hasselhoff, who is famous for "Knight Rider," "Baywatch" and jokes about his own poor-quality singing's popularity in Germany.]
What Memon lacks in talent (he makes Sanjaya look like Tony Bennett), he makes up for in sincereity. But when mainstream Americans watch him, are they laughing with him or at him?
Over at Solitude And a Cup of Tea the blog, there's a "surefire way" to increase viewership, what she calls "television talent competition success formula #273" -
Bring in a South Asian contestant who lacks talent and confidence. Keep him/her on the show until the competition is close to the end. Then dump him/her unceremoniously.
Take a look at his latest performance below. You can see his popular YouTube clips from previous rounds (along with blogosphere reactions) here. See Pakistani reactions to him at Pakistaniat. And, of course, there's KashifMemon.com.
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EARLIER ON SAJAFORUM.org: