I first heard of Sur KShetra when I was out for a spot of fine dining and came across this massive billboard of Pakistani singer Atif Aslam and his Indian counterpart Himesh Reshammiya posing side by side and the backdrop of fluttering flags of both the countries. There was a bold heading that read: Atif vs Himesh.
In all honesty, the first thought that came to my mind when I saw it was that both of them were going to engage in hand to hand combat or Kabbadi seeing Himesh’s flaring nostrils and that grim pout (we shall see more of the pout later) even Atif Aslam had his arms folded tightly across his chest as a sure sign of steely, silent resolve. Fast forward to a month and several television promos later, it was revealed that a mega musical talent show by the name of “Sur-Kshetra” featuring contestants from both countries, mentored by Atif Aslam and Himesh Reshammiya respectively, was going to light the screens on fire. The mystery was solved, and my hopes of seeing some fist fights were dashed.
Indian reality television is motley of kitsch, sentimental, mostly over the top glitz and glam, and Sur Kshetra is no different, they even tried to add a bit of ferocity by throwing in the patriotic scheme, with an apparent focus on “healthy competition” rather than the hostile state of affairs between the two nations. However, what we get is this – the young contestants sashaying in, spewing out dialogues like how (“InshAllah”) they shall bring the glory home and we love you, contestant from opposing country, and this is totally just a competition but we shall also crush you – Desh ko jeeta kar rehna hay, y’all. Plus, did we mention that we love you? This is only “Suron ki Jang”, okay?
By the way, “Yeh Suron ki Jang hay!” is repeated every two minutes by the presenter, the judges and the jury lest, God forbid, we forgot the theme of the show at any given point. I almost expect Ayesha Takia – the host of the show – suddenly pulling out a Kalashnikov from her airy, sequined dress later in the series if the producers make anyone say this aggravating line one more time. “It might distract everyone from Himmesh Pouty McPouterson though,” my sister notes.
On a similar note, Atif/Himmesh already have their weapons of destruction – bad music and Himmesh’s dry lips. Chapstick?
Speaking of Ayesha Takia, she’s the sweet, sugar coated eye candy in the entire show, and will make any one vomit rainbows with the visual assault of bedazzling dresses, and her constant giggles. On the judges’ panel, there is Asha Bhosle, Abida Perveen and Runa Laila – who’s serving as a neutral judge because she’s from Bangladesh. However, for the life of me, I can not understand what made Abida Perveen decide to jump aboard this bandwagon. She looked slightly uncomfortable and ill at ease at the beginning of the show but quickly managed to give out swift and sweet critique to the participants. Plus, I swear, her fluffy, curly hair has a personality of its own. There were times when I could visualize Abida’s hair as the fourth, silent judge. Insert slow-mo, spinning 360 degree camera shot of The Hair.
Asha Bhosle, unlike Abida Perveen, is in her element throughout the episodes, even singing out snippets of the song after the contestant’s performance to correct them which always lead to thunderous applause from the audience, and awe from the participant. “She should have been a mentor – She’s too enthusiastic,” my sister says. I disagree. That would mean renaming the show:“Sur Kshetra – And Asha Ji Kay Surs Aur Her Anecdotes about Sister and How Awesome Bhaarat Is” I’m not sure anyone can stomach this much of Asha Ji and her sister’s greatness without throttling themselves at least once.
The driving force behind the show are definitely not the contestants because I found them a pretty weak bunch. They are potrayed as Hindustani Surandaaz and Pakistani Jaanbaz (This is for real. I’m not making any of this up, and none of them have Kalashnikovs. Sorry) Also, they have no definite personalities of their own. There is no oomph factor; each one of them sounds the same, to the point that even Atif Aslam’s sullen face becomes interesting in comparison.
While there are overflowing reminders of Aman ki Asha, and Atif’s declaration of how Pakistanis are extremely caring, and Asha Bhosle slyly responding that Indians have opened their hearts and souls to Pakistani artists – a subtle snub at all the moolah they end up raking in their neighboring country[Insert Asha and Atif giving evil aaaez to each other] There is a very prominent tension on the set – scripted or not – and it has also been riddled with controversies. MNS chief Raj Thakray’s threat to disrupt the shooting of the show because of the presence of Pakistani artists in India is one of them.
Anyway, Sur Kshetra is pretty amusing. I wouldn’t be surprised that after this exchange of peace and love, Atif, Himmesh and the gang will end up at Wagah Border and with the power of their sangeet, so God help them, solve the rift between both countries.
———-I was told to write a review on Sur Kshetra for a class assignment, and I came up with this. Will be back with regular posts super soon.