BY JYOTHSNA HEGDE
Atlanta, GA, October 18, 2023: As the mellifluous strains of Bollywood music engulfed Impact Hall at Global Mall on October 7, 2023, new champions emerged from an abundant repertoire of talented singers at the Atlanta Indian Idol (AII) Championship presented by India American Cultural Association (IACA). Avinash Lanka, who wowed the judges and the audience with his euphonious rendition of ‘Kesariya’ from Brahmastra secured his victory in the Adult category. Aashi S Allani who stole everybody’s heart with Khamoshiyan from the movie ‘Khamoshiyan in her dulcet voice, took home the crown in the Junior category.
The champions received their awards from the presiding guest of honor, Hon. Madan Ghildiyal Consul, Consulate General of India, Atlanta.
The championship round was the culmination of several qualifying rounds held several months before the event. Twelve finalists each in both categories were selected from over 81 singers. Charged with energy and melody, the four-hour program showcased singing talent from across several states, apart from the peach state. Auditions poured in from states of Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, New Jersey, Tennessee, Texas, along with Georgia, with finalists selected from CO, IN, and IL.
Jyotsna Rao who sang ‘Bhare Naina’ from the movie ‘Ra One secured first runner-up position and Sripriya Srinivas who sang ‘Ghae More Pardesiya’ from the movie ‘Kalank’ was the second runner-up in the senior category.
Ananya Muni with her ‘Paani Paani Re’ from the movie ‘Matchis’ was the first runner up and Akshitha Jagadeesan with her rendition of ‘Nimboora’ from the movie ‘Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam’ was the second runner up in the junior category.
Dr. Raktim Sen, the program director of AII awarded Director’s choice awards to Alorika Dutta (CO), Rishi Manoj (GA), and Madhuvani G Kamarajugadda (GA) in the Adult category and Saianshi Bhatia(GA), Sharvari Bhusari (GA), Shreya Bojja (IL), and Rithvika Tabjul (GA) in the Junior category. The award, as the title suggests were his picks for the evening.
“I had never witnessed, as I did this year, the level of talent we had in the finale. Among the 12 adult finalists, 5 were junior finalists in previous years and of which 2 were junior champions! Two others were returning finalists , including the eventual champion. Of the juniors 4 were returning finalists from previous years! Also, out of the three judges, Asawari Gadre-Joshi and Dr. Souryadeep Bhattacharyya are previous champions. The third, Dr. Kakali Bandyopadhyay and our statistician, Neeta Shenvi had been with the program since its inaugural year!” Dr. Raktim Sen, Program director of AII said.
The championship engaged the audience and participants with judges who provided feedback and encouragement after each performance. Contestants were judged on various aspects of their performance including rhythm, diction, tonal quality and accuracy and overall mastery of style, among others.
An attractive feature included the Onsite SMS polling system by TextByChoice which allowed the audience to vote for their favorite singers by texting codes attached to their names. Jyotsna Rao, the 1st Runner-up in Senior category, also won the Popular Choice Award in the senior category, while Vidith Shastrula ‘s mellifluous rendition of ‘Dil Se Re’, from the movie ‘Dil Se’ earned him the award in the junior category.
The evening began with beautiful renditions of the national anthems of the USA and India by past Prisha Jhari (finalist 2022), who sang the National Anthem of India and Lavanya Muni (2022 Junior Champion) who sang the National Anthem of India. The Judging panel included Dr. Kakali Bandyopadhyay, Sitar Player who has taught Indian Instrumental music at Emory University, Dr. Souryadeep Bhattacharyya, a premier “Gandabandhan” disciple of the legendary sarodiya Pt.Alok Lahiri, and Asawari Gadre-Joshi, Classical and light music vocalist.
Emcee for the evening Shaveta Jain, Mrs. India International, Founder and co-Creative Director, BeTheYou, delighted the audience with her grace and charm.
In its tenth year, the organizing committee decided to dedicate the event to victims of wildfires in Maui with Melodies for Maui. A part of the proceeds will be donated to the Red Cross.
“The competition this year was very special in that it was its 10th anniversary! However, due to a very last-minute venue change, things became very uncertain. Several individuals came forward to help. Mr. Shiv Agarwal made Impact Hall available to us; Mr. Anuj Wadhawan of The Vogue Events, took it upon himself to transform the place; Mr. Mustafa Ajmeri personally supervised all the needs. Our Media Director, Jyothsna Hegde, had to go back to the drawing board to create new promotional material to get the news across. We had to assemble a new technical team. The ever-reliable Jogy Jose of Divinity AV cut short his vacation to join the team and deliver the best sound ever! Rutuparna Joshi took care of the graphics and new video system. The backstage team, Chaitali De and Arindam Chowdhury improvised throughout the day to manage the contestants and backstage; Niloy Bhattacharya provided his technical expertise with audio and help with the new video switching setup; Kamalaksha Das needed to modify his equipment setup to get the pictures and video right under very challenging lighting conditions and viewing angles. Nothing was easy. But we pulled off a memorable finale. Nizar Bhijani from TextByChoice, who has been with us since the very first show extended his courteous support this time around as well. Priya Ranjan Misra personally oversaw several arrangements and offered his unwavering support. I am forever grateful to all these individuals for going an extra yard during a moment of need. My heartfelt thanks to the finalists and their families for extending their helping hands and their unflinching support during a period of crisis. You all are true winners!” Dr. Sen said.
Atlanta Indian Idol, the brainchild of IACA’s current Board member Chand Akkineni, founded by Chand Akkineni and Dr. Raktim Sen made its foray in 2013 opening to resounding success. “Atlanta Indian Idol winner and some of the contestants in 2023, coming from outside states, confirms the growing popularity of the event during the last 10 years. AII became a platform to recognize the singing talent and reward them,” Akkineni said.
Kaushal Tripathi, President, IACA, Ani Agnihotri, Chaiman, BOD, IACA thanked all sponsors including Silver Sponsors Tangent Services Corporation, Silver Sponsors Deepak Sharma, C.B.Yadav and Gallega, Bronze Sponsors Neelam Sharma, Dhanajay Gupta, Dr. Paddy & Chandler Sharma, Dr. Raktim Sen, Priya Rajan Misra, Tejas Bhandari, Chirag Patel, and Vishwanath Ganti, Donors India Imports, Dr. Saurabh Desai and Media partners, Khabar, NRI Pulse, NRI2NRI, TV Asia, Atlanta Dunia, S&S Digital Media, TV9, TV5 and Mana Tv.