Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa 5: The stars aren't on the dance floor

It’s that time of the year again, when the Indian television gods rain down a torrent of reality shows on our heads. Indian Idol is back on air with its sob stories, Anu Malik’s multi-coloured clothes and a suddenly demure Sunidhi Chauhan. And so is the latest season of our tribute to Dancing with the Stars.

Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa returns with an A-list line-up of judges who represent quite a coup: Madhuri Dixit, Karan Johar and Remo D'souza. For once it’s a line-up of judges which makes perfect sense: an actress with unmatched dancing talent, a director who can spot a star a mile away, and a well-known choreographer who knows the ins-and-outs of dancing like few others.

The first thing that strikes you about the show is the large amount of moolah which has been spent. The sets are lavish – the opening acts had as many effects and props as the Filmfare awards. And the presence of Kjo and Madhuri must be costing a bomb. The contestants, however, run the gamut from the top of the celebrity pile and go right down to its bottom.

The curtain-raiser on Saturday was all about introductions. Malaika Arora introduced the endearing comedian Bharti Singh. Terrence Lewis introduced Remo. Vicky Donor’s Ayushman introduced the two hotties of the show – Archana and Shibani Dandekar. And the best of the lot, Sanath Jayasuriya was introduced by Bhajji dancing on a suspended 15 foot cricket bat. (This was my favourite bit as it’s nice to see a show which celebrates other countries in the subcontinent, instead of indulging in the usual jingoistic nonsense).

The soap stars – Pratyusha, GIaa and Jayati — were introduced by a woman I’m assuming plays a wicked snobby mother-in-law in one of their soaps because they put on a skit where she bossed them around and said and did things which would have driven Germaine Greer insane.

My secret heart-throb, Sonu Sood, introduced Isha Sharvani, who seemed to be channeling the avatar of her character in Kisna. I kept thinking that Viveik Oberoi would suddenly appear on stage riding a stallion, chased by Salman. Also: Madhuri did look awfully pleased to see Sonu Sood, which I found a little disconcerting.

Shaan introduced poor Talat Aziz who looked totally out of sorts. Ravi Kissen was introduced by Rakhee Sawant, who I thought he’d beat with his mike because she refused to let him complete a single sentence.

And then as a good plug for Teri Meri Kahaani, Madhuri introduced Priyanka Chopra who sang, danced, gyrated and then introduced Darsheel Safary. This was only fitting since he’s the same height as her Teri Meri Kahaani co-star Shahid.

By the end of the gala first episode, viewers were likely confused about who the contestants were, as opposed to the hosts and the guests.The sense I got was that the guest stars were Jhalak’s true dream contestants, and they were just making do with the rest. The rumour that some of the stars are there are as part of endorsement deals might be true – going by the fact that Bournvita had a neat plug of their drink when Safary appeared.

Sanath Jayasuriya was introduced by Bhajji dancing on a suspended 15 foot cricket bat. ibnlive.com

There was a little suspense – if you can call it that – thrown in for good measure. This time around there is a 13th star, an aam aadmi who was finally revealed in episode 1. I wondered if this was a Make-A-Wish kind of thing, where some misguided sod hopes to take part in Jhalak before he breathes his last. But no such luck – the 13th contestant turned out to be Sushil Kumar, a past winner of Kaun Banega Crorepati.

As for the first episode, the only thing that stood out was Madhuri’s opening dance, which was spectacular as usual. Ash should take a cue from Madhuri and learn how to make the most of her curves. KJo, who seems to always wear ill-fitting suits, performed in a skit where he mostly swung his arms around. We finally got to see the choreographers, who tend to be more fun than the contestants. Although Talat Aziz’s choreographer did look a little distraught at her punishment posting and definitely deserves an award for managing to make him move even an inch.

The person who stood out was Bharti Singh, who should be a role model for all those girls who seem obsessed by their weight. She’s fat, and entirely okay with being so, cracking the most fabulous jokes about her weight. And she dances like a dream. Jayasuriya is adorable, cannot dance to save his life and does not understand a word when the judges speak to him in Hindi. He was seen chatting up hotty Shibani after he’d finished dancing!

The two hosts – Manish and Ragini (who happens to be Govinda’s niece) – are quite good and possess a practiced ease. But other than a handful of the contestants, the main draw will be the judges. Jhalak faces the same handicap as its American avatar, Dancing with the Stars. At the end of the day, there are only so many stars to choose from. So come season 3 of any programme, there’s no one left to cast. But do watch it once, just to see Jayasuriya dance before he gets eliminated. And to revel in Madhuri’s jhatkas and matkas.

Rajyasree Sen is a bona fide foodie, culture-vulture and unsolicited opinion-giver. In case you want more from her than her opinions, head to www.foodforthoughtindia.blogspot.com and order some delicious food from her catering outfit. If you want more of her opinions then follow her at @rajyasree