Om Shanti Om: How to know you're watching a bhajan reality singing show

Rohini Nair

Aug,28 2017 20:23 12 IST

We'll admit, when we first heard of a bhajan reality show that was about to hit our TV screens, we were intrigued. What might it possibly be about? Mismanaged mata ki chowkis? Anoop Jalota revealing how he infused the right note of divinity in his stage performances? Anuradha Paudwal talking about what those who sang Bollywood songs were missing out on? True life accounts from bhajan singers who had out-of-body experiences while performing their favourite devotional songs? The secret world of satsangs?

Baba Ramdev on Om Shanti Om. Youtube screengrab

Baba Ramdev on Om Shanti Om. Youtube screengrab

The truth, it turned out, was far more prosaic: this was a singing reality show, but one where the contestants sang only bhajans. And oh yes, it was to be judged by Baba Ramdev. Aiding him in this task of screening the most spiritual singers in all of India would be three ‘gurus’ — Shekhar Ravjiani, Kanika Kapoor and Sonakshi Sinha.

Still nursing faint hopes of seeing a mata-ki-chowki-gone-wild, we tuned in. And because we are now one-episode veterans of Om Shanti Om, we thought we'd put together this handy little guide on 13 signs you're watching a bhajan reality show:

1.The songs are all bhajans — even if they're being rapped by Baadshah.

2. The contestants aren't called contestants. They're referred to as Divine Voices. Example: ‘Let's call on stage, our first three Divine Voices of the evening…’, or ‘Judges, how would you rate this performance by the Divine Voices’.

3. The maha-judge’s entry is marked with the strident blowing of conch shells and chanting of mantras. Strewn marigold petals may or may not be involved.

4. The regular judges get to do aartis during their introduction sequences.

5. Everyone dresses in tasteful Indian wear, including the back-up dancers, who do tasteful Indian dance moves.

6. The host’s props include puja ki thalis and prayer bells.

7. The show is sponsored by Patanjali puja samagri.

8. The celebrity performers for the evening sport prominent streaks of tilak.

9. The proceedings begin with everyone chanting 'om'.

10. The judges wear intensely spiritual expressions when they listen to the Divine Voices. The hallmarks of the spiritually-blissed-out expression include, but are not restricted to, having the eyes closed, with some gentle swaying of the upper torso, and wide ecstatic smiles. A gentle, elegant wrinkling of the brow, as though focusing internally on some mild physical discomfort, is a bonus.

11. The performances are interspersed with small, byte-sized pravachans.

12. The audience is told at every given opportunity: ‘bhajans are cool, yo!’

13. The amount of pranaam-ing trumps even the self-promotion.

This was our good deed for the day. Now pardon us, we have a mata ki chowki to get to.