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Making of ‘The Voice India’
MUMBAI: When the globally top-rated music reality format ‘The Voice’ flew across the seven seas to India, &TV knew they had something big in their hands.
Though the excitement surrounding the show is evident on the faces of the channel’s programming team, it was quite a challenge to implement it on a par with the international versions.
Says &TV business head Rajesh Iyer, “‘The Voice’ is a leading singing reality format that fits well into our programming strategy. The format is very different, the twist in the show with blind auditions and a chance for the contestants to pick their mentor is fresh, something that you don’t find on television these days.”
&TV had about two to three months of talks with the format owner Talpa Media to acquire the rights. Once the deal went through, they commissioned Endemol, now known as Endemol Shine India, to develop it for Indian audiences.
Endemol Shine India MD Deepak Dhar states, “Most of the other formats lack any surprise element. In this show, the anticipation is very good and positive. The format is very different, truly about ‘the voice’. It has the coaches at their attentive best to pick the right voice.”
Endemol had seven months to put the show together. The creative and production teams first sat together to watch all the international versions and analysed the elements they could tweak.
Besides, the production team held workshops to ensure each piece of the puzzle fit perfectly. Helping them with the development was Jarno Kortekaas, a consultant for Talpa’s international productions business.
Endemol Shine India head of non-scripted programming Priya Bhave says, “So between Talpa and Endemol, we had extensive workshops, and when the shoot started we pretty much knew the drill. At the production workshops, we sat with the technical teams to analyse the international set and understand the issues.”
Bhave reveals that looking for talent was of paramount importance when they started work in November. “We had a map of India to make sure that we get talent from across the country.”
Event management company Only Much Louder (OML) assisted them with the casting as they scouted for singers in more than 39 cities.
“We put colourful sticky notes on the map. Thus, we know we have got somebody from Sikkim, from West Bengal, from the across country,” she explains.
“The difference between our show and any other singing show is that here the contestant cannot see the coach and vice versa. Hence, it is very disconcerting for the singer to sing to somebody’s back. Similarly, it is very disconcerting for the coach to figure out because there are many instances when you look at the voice and you are not sure if the voice fits the personality,” Bhave mentions.
“We went beneath the surface of the country to pick as many as 110 singers and looked at the auditions very closely,” Dhar adds.
The production house needed contestants possessing some singing abilities to maintain the standards that &TV wanted to set.
“The mandate was not just to create an impactful show, but also to create a platform that brings forth the best talent from across the country. It took us six months to scout for talent,” Iyer reveals.
The next big process was production. ‘The Voice’ is present in over 48 countries, and the team saw all of them and liked the set of the seventh season of the US version the most.
Omung Kumar designed the set, which is housed in RK Studios in Chembur.
Although the set floor is eye catching in every respect, the red lights in the background are particularly striking.
“If you see a blind audition where the singer is performing, below it on the periphery are new unique lights. Those were from Hong Kong and are called LED Matrix lights. We have also procured some LED screens from abroad,” Bhave explains.
Another exciting element is the famous revolving chair. Nevertheless, while it looks exciting as a finished product, Bhave reveals that implementing it was a nightmare.
“While the chair was easy to make, the revolving element was tough to come up with. We were apprehensive about the chair failing to revolve in the middle of the audition. Thankfully, nothing of that sort happened, but we spent one week making sure that the chair revolved properly,” she recalls.
The team also had a lighting console that had to work in harmony with the chair. Thus, when the coach presses the buzzer, the chair revolves immediately and the light turns white.
The set also has a family room where the contestants’ family can see the singers talk and perform in front of the coaches. In the stress room, the contestants relieve their stress before going to the main stage.
There is also a live band to accompany the contestants during the performance, which meant the production team had to ensure that the contestants had some basic rehearsals.
“We have a crew of more than 400 people. There is a department for everything. We took care to select interesting people and their back stories,” she adds.
The blind auditions have been shot and the editing is in process. The shooting will commence for the ‘battle’ phase in mid-June and the team is creating a boxing ring where the names of the contestants will be announced.
Iyer adds here that while structurally the format remains the same, they have increased the number of ‘blind audition’ and ‘live’ episodes by 10 for each phase, keeping in mind the preference of their viewers. Thus, the property has 10 episodes of the blind audition segment, followed by six episodes of the battle stage, and 10 episodes of the final live segment.
“We have started working on the battle phase because we already know who the 14 are. Thus, each coach gets 14 members after the blind auditions. In the battle phase, the 14 are broken into challenger duos by the coaches. Because it is a battle, not a duet, the coach sits with the singers and divides the song and line. Then the band also has to co-ordinate and change its instrumental arrangement,” Bhave explains.
The 13-week property has Sunidhi Chauhan in a glamorous avatar, Shaan in his fun-loving self, Mika as the fun character, and Himesh Reshammiya in his new suave look.
Dhar says, “The idea was to have the right judges who represent different schools of music and the right target group. The judges have a lot to participate in and are emotionally involved in the show.”
Bhave adds that everyone has seen original ‘The Voice’ so there was not much persuasion needed.
Though the shooting has been going on for 12 hours a day, the team is making sure that the contestants are not under too much pressure.