Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Thursday, December 1, 2005

By Tausif Salim
Illustration: Sabyasachi Mistry

When the first Ads of 'Close up 1' musical talent hunt, started appearing on the newspapers and TV, many people started criticising the program saying it was a 'copycat' effort to the recent popular show 'Indian Idol'. But now, after seven months of searching, sorting and a lot of singing, the show has turned out to be one of the most popular ever, regularly turning up 7 figure sms votes.

The program was launched in April backed by a great deal of preparations and campaigning, inviting talented singers aged 16-30 from all over Bangladesh. The telephone and online registrations proved convenient, and the huge turn-up of about 40,000 participants showed how much music was loved and revered by the people of this country. The initial audition and selection rounds were held in 11 districts, where 11 famous musicians played the role of adjudicators. Finally, the best 108 out of the thousands were selected, and taken to Dhaka for round 2.

The contestants were now facing a harder challenge; to sing on stage in line with the background music, as the three judges, Kumar Bishwajit, Shakila Zafar and Ahmed Imtiaz Bulbul checked for scale, rhythm, clarity and overall performance. The excellent 108 were distilled into the super 40 for round three, and this is where things started to get really exciting.

There were intense preparation and training sessions that the contestants were made to go through during this time, giving them the opportunity to hone their skills. With the task of impressing the crores of TV audience as well as the judges, the contestants pulled off one stunning performance after another and proved they were right up to the challenge. The viewers were apparently spending a busy time with their cell phones, as millions of sms started pouring in. Each round witnessed the sad departure of talented musicians, and triumphs of even better performers. The barometer reached its peak on 24th November, when an unbelievable tie between Rumi and Nowrin saw 11 contestants being selected for the 4th round, instead of 10.

The most noticeable thing, perhaps, was the human drama infused into this ambitious contest. As contestants put in their heart and soul and challenged their best, it was heartbreaking when some had to leave in spite of being excellent. There were also some who were overwhelmed to be selected, and both ways, there were a lot of tears involved. The most memorable incident of the whole arrangement until now was in the third round, when a contestant Rashed performed a song with so well that everyone in the audience had trouble holding back their tears. The songwriter, Asif Iqbal, was particularly overwhelmed, stating that the song was written as a tribute to his late mother.

Overall, Closeup1 has been successful in its objective: which was to unearth the thousands of hidden talents from all over Bangladesh. Although the concept was similar to international talent hunts, there has been originality in the implementation, and in some ways, it has done even better. The next generation of singers have been discovered, but the hunt for 'the close up1' still continues. So watch out, and just as a word of advice, keep your cell phones handy if you don't want to risk seeing the back of your favourite contestants.

By Ferzeen Anis

It is a topic that has been argued and refuted for long. Do the noble citizens of this country really lack civic sense? Looking around us, many may have to nod an embarrassed 'yes' to the question, while the remainder keep their lips pursed obstinately, refusing to take blame for others' doings. In every sphere of everyday life in Dhaka city, one faces unmistakable examples of people showing off their limited knowledge of how to present themselves in society.

Take, for instance, the ridiculously common incident of people spitting on the roads. Now, if such preposterous behavior was restricted to the poor and ignorant, life may have been easier. However, besides the betel-leaf-eating-and-spitting community, people from almost all walks of life are seen to be showering saliva on our streets and highways. I once had the misfortune of observing a perfectly respectful looking man spit on the grounds of a historical site in Dhaka city. Even youths and teenagers who love strolling along roads have this obscene habit (once again, I have the misfortune of having a couple of such friends). Add to that the fact that the spitting is preceded by a rasping, gurgling sound as the 'spitter' in question draws up all the saliva in his mouth like a cannon ready to shoot… …well, you get the picture.

Then of course, there's the inane habit of the male species to goggle at every member of the opposite sex that walks past them. Don't get me wrong; I'm not trying to be a feminist here. Besides being a discomfiting everyday incident for all women in the country, what message does this send to people from other countries? Bangladesh has already been branded the most corrupt nation in the world; she doesn't need to be disrespected further by being called a nation that harvests perverted minds. And if people were really aware of this, why do men, especially from the lower classes, find it a necessity to stare of women from abroad? Not only that, but we also seem to have a habit of staring at anybody who is foreigner, and go to the extent of pointing at them. Why can't one just leave them to themselves, I ask?

While one may excuse the afore-mentioned 'qualities' as the result of ignorance, what about the evident lack of civic sense in respected people? Men in business suits picking their noses, people sneezing and coughing without covering their mouths and wiping of the mucus with their hand (EEEEEEEEWWWWWWW!!!) … these are common scenarios. I recall that once, while traveling by bus to Cox's Bazaar, my cousin and I were seated (in business class on a good bus, mind you) next to a middle-aged couple. One hour into the journey, the man started taking off his shoes and socks and proceeded to sit cross-legged on his seat.

Imagine my horror when I stared into blackened soles and a nasty, rotten odor started wafting towards me! Believe it or not, I had to sit with my nose in a handkerchief the entire journey! And the same person got down at a stop to go to the washroom, and when he returned, started wiping his wet hands on the bus seats! Makes you wonder whether you should really travel by bus any more.

Hygiene in public places and in peoples' homes is another disturbing issue. While you may refrain from using public toilets due to the stink, even if you do get into one some day, make sure you touch the taps with a cloth…because they have surely been marked by the 'remains' of previous visitors. Even when one throws parties at home, one should disinfect the entire house the following day, food must have been wiped off on tablecloths and curtains (I've seen this happen in action) while your toilet may be reduced to the same state as that of public ones. In fact, I have a relative who, whenever she organizes a party, buys supplies of detergent and disinfectant along with party requirements!

You may think that this can only occur in the presence of not-so-well-educated people, but I've met worse situations in both formal and casual parties. The most appalling of these is the dinner habits of people in the country.

Along with using forks and spoon like a jam session for an underground rock band, people seem to love to slurp at their soup, gobble and grind (with extreme sound effects) their food, and spill food all around. I found it quite difficult to digest my food when I saw some grown ups carrying out an 'exhibition of crushed food' using their own mouths as the galleries. And of course, this behavior continues not for a second, but for even four or five helpings of food! And then they dare to show sympathy for people affected by the Monga!!! Of all the impudence!

Even worse is the fact that Bangladeshis love to display their obscenities not only in their motherland, but in foreign countries as well. Is it any wonder that we have such a tainted image as a nation abroad, when our emigrants ogle unashamedly at the people and places there, behave like monsters at dinner parties, and sometimes show no respect for historical or religious sites? What message is being sent to people if we go abroad and stand in awe of their achievements and monuments and museums, as if we have absolutely never met such history in our motherland? I've heard of Bangladeshis going abroad and stand rooted in front of monuments or a display of magnificent jewelry with their tongue hanging out…on live television. Atrocious, wouldn't you think?

I'm not blaming the entire nation for the misdeeds of some people of the country. But as hard as I may try not to admit it, the fact remains it is not the minority but the majority who exhibit such lack of civic sense. The list is countless. Smoking into peoples' faces, interrupting conversations, eavesdropping, scratching body parts like an orangutan publicly, wasting electricity and water, bullying, destroying public property, especially writing on school tables and chairs and writing obscene words on the city walls; do I need to say more? I as an individual am powerless to refute these actions, but as a whole body of people, can we not make move to make the world a better place to live in? Can we not admit our own faults and correct them as well as those of our near and dear ones? We can start right at home. Take a step forward to resurrect the image of our country and her pride. And if you say you don't give a damn … … well … just goes to show your shortcomings, doesn't it?


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