Everybody knows Sanjaya Malakar. The 17 year old Indian American kid from Federal Way, Washington has created waves on season 6 of American Idol — more so because of his unusual hairstyles rather than his singing. He is the talk of the town — on fan sites, blogs, and the butt of jokes on late night comedy shows. In spite of being on the receiving end of harsh criticism from the judges and being called the worst singer of the show till date, Sanjaya has so far, easily managed to survive the battle for this year’s American Idol title. This goes on to show that even though he has millions of detractors, he has just as many fans — most of which consist of teenage girls, who are voting for him week after week.
When talks sway to his fans, commonly known as “Fanjayas”, we can’t forget one such Fanjaya. Recently, on the top 11 show we witnessed 13 year old Ashley Ferl crying buckets of tears while watching her favourite contestant perform live. And no, they were not tears of pain or discomfort, but tears of joy, apparently. Later when asked about her favourite idol, she confessed that Sanjaya is just “so phenomenal” and that she votes for him every week.
But no support is complete without a bit of public dispute. Sirius Satellite’s controversial radio jock Howard Stern is urging people to back Sanjaya in his hopes of destroying American Idol. He is determined to corrupt the entire show and his efforts are fully supported by Dave Terza, the creator of votefortheworst.com — an anti-idol website, which is also supporting Malakar in his fight to win and be crowned the next American Idol.
On the other hand, judge Simon Cowell has declared that if Sanjaya wins, he will quit the show, even though he is under contractual obligations. A TV show quoted him as saying ‘I won’t be back next year if he wins.’ And that’s not all. A 22 year old MySpace blogger had gone on hunger strike and vowed not to eat until the teenager is voted off the show. But after surviving so many eliminations, Sanjaya is still standing tall and the blogger has given up, calling off her hunger strike after more than two weeks. Yes, Sanjaya has overcome yet another detractor. There have also been reports of record labels queuing up to sign Sanjaya once he’s off the show because record companies are keen to cash in on his popularity and feel that he would “bring a younger fan base which would result in generating heavy sales.”
If you ask for my opinion, I am neutral on the issue. I am not a Sanjaya fan and neither am I a hater. Yes he does have a sweet smile and is very charming and charismatic. In fact I don’t think he has that bad a voice either (it’s more of a soft and gentle classical Indian voice), but I do feel that he is more of an entertainer than a singer or an American Idol-kind of stage performer what with the different hair-do’s each week. Be it the poker straight ironed hair (leading Idol show host Ryan Seacrest to quip — ‘I’m sure one of them has extensions, not sure which one though’ referring to Sanjaya and judge Paula Abdul), the curly ringlets, the outrageous Mohawk with seven ponytails in a row (the media called it a faux-hawk) or last week’s recently cut gelled back hair neatly pulled behind the ears. Randy Jackson seems amused by Malakar’s hairstyles and almost always seems to comment on it, if not on his singing. But being an entertainer is not enough for American Idol, one needs to possess huge amounts of talent and a powerful voice, which sadly, Sanjaya lacks. This doesn’t stop his die-hard fans and admirers from voting for him though, so we shall all have to sit back and continue to watch this Indian American teenager sail through the show for God knows how long.
No one knows how far Sanjaya Malakar will go. No one knows if he will be the next American Idol. But one thing is certain — love him or hate him…you can’t ignore him. I mean, look at me! I don’t love him and nor do I hate him, and yet I am here writing about him. Sigh. How I wish I was writing about Blake Lewis or Chris Richardson instead. But such is life I guess. Unpredictable — just like Sanjaya’s weekly hair experiments.