Shilpa Shetty Kundra, who is judging the kids talent hunt Super Dancer 2, is amazed at the level of talent displayed by the children.
The best thing about the little ones as contestants, she says, is that they don’t take the competition too seriously. “They are happy even about their friend’s performance and cry when one of them is eliminated,” she adds. Here she talks about the ongoing debate on whether children should be a part of reality shows, how it affects them and the difference between city and small-town kids.
There is a debate going on about whether kids should be participating in reality shows. What is your take on it?
I think it’s a beautiful environment for a child to grow. They learn that there is magic in mehnat. It is inculcated in their subconscious at such a young age. We provide an ambience like school, but yes here it is more about dance.
However, they also learn values, about friendship, caring, and camaraderie. I cannot speak about other shows, but Super Dancer 2 shows a certain empathy towards the children who can’t afford to fuel their passion. In fact, the channel that’s airing the show goes beyond it and has taken up causes, too. Last year, there was a child contestant Harsh Dhara, who had hearing and speech impairment. So, the channel associated with a centre that works on such special cases. This year, there is a contestant Abir Rehman, whose younger brother Arav has a speech problem. The channel has funded his entire speech therapy.
What is the psyche of the children when they come in the show?
First of all, the talent is pretty unreal. Each child is distinct, but one common thread that binds them is the fire in their belly. It’s so many hours of rehearsals, but they love it. It’s not as if they are pushed into it. You can’t be part of a competition of this level if you are not enjoying it. Each one is there because he or she wants to be there. You have to understand that they’re children and not taking the competition seriously. They are happy even about their friends doing well. They cry when their friends are eliminated! It’s competition for us, not so much for them.
What happens when a child is eliminated?
That is the worst thing. We feel like killing ourselves! But, we are all involved and conscious about it. It depends on the way you speak to a child. You can’t tell them they haven’t qualified or will not go to the next level. It is not rejection but the need for a revision. We make sure that when we tell a child about it, we say it with a lot of love. We bond with the parents and create a family kind of atmosphere. We tell the parents if the child doesn’t make it to the next level, they shouldn’t cry, and be positive. Even the producer is very conscientious. There are physios and doctors on the sets and the environment is conducive to the child. To give you an example, a contestant, Vishal, was sent back in the auditions in the last season. Instead of feeling dejected, he came back better and stronger. He worked on his talent, strengthened his weak areas and was selected this year.
Do you see any difference between the kids from cities and small towns?
Yes, kids from small towns still have that innocence and vulnerability whereas those from cities are exposed to so many things that somewhere they lose their innocence. Also, since the small-town kids are lesser privileged than the city kids, they’re thankful for whatever little they have in their lives. This teaches me not to be overindulgent as a mom. Also, since they’re not that exposed to iPads and TV, they focus their energies on their passion. Even parents sacrifice a lot to hone their children’s skills. One couple shifted base from the interiors of Kolkata to the city because they did not find a dance school there. I feel blessed to be sitting among such people.
In an interview, you said that your son Viaan will not be able to compete in this kind of a show…
Yes, it’s true. The kids on the show are amazing. Their grasping power, memory and flexibility are incredible. Also, my son is into gymnastics. I think parents should encourage whatever the child wants to do rather than those activities that they wanted to do!
Would you allow your son to participate in any reality show?
When a child is part of any kind of event/show, as a parent, I’ve to be around to encourage it. Honestly, if he had an extraordinary talent, I would’ve wanted to, but reality shows take up too much time and as a hands-on mother, I wouldn’t have the time to be there completely. Also, as a celebrity’s child, I feel they already get so much attention, added fame might take away his innocence at this age, which we, as parents, fiercely protect. So, on these bases and my time constraint, it’s a no.
What is your plan for Children’s Day?
Everyday is Children’s Day for me. I don’t believe in these things, but, on this day, I tell my son that he can have his way. Luckily, he loves cooking, so both of us have made special dishes — strawberry jam and banana milkshake. Viaan knows how to make sponge cake and pizza, which I think is amazing for a five-year-old. Since I have a YouTube channel, I will upload the video. He enjoys being on the sets with me. He understands that it is not just fun and games, but hard work, too. I think parents should encourage an activity where they do something with their children. I love cooking with him, taking him to the beach, playing Lego — these are the things he will always remember.