'Indian Idol III' becomes Sony's golden goose

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By Sudeshna Sarkar

Kathmandu, (IANS) When Prashant Tamang won Sony TV's "Indian Idol III" contest and a contract worth Rs.10 million, people thought it was the making of the Darjeeling boy whose father's death forced him to become the family's bread earner in his teens. However, going by the incredible response here, it is Sony that has struck a gold mine.

On Oct 30, Kolkata cop Prashant, accompanied by one of this year's top 10 finalists, Charu, would be performing at the Kalika Secondary School in west Nepal's Butwal town. It would be followed by two more concerts at Jhapa in November and Pokhara city, where he has already staged a packed show.

The November gigs are also expected to be super hits with Idol finalist Amit Paul, dubbed the boy with the golden voice by the judges, making his debut in Nepal.Prashant's two earlier shows in Kathmandu and Pokhara with Ankita and Dipali created a kind of mass hysteria.

So great was Nepal's joy at the victory of the boy of Nepali origin that Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, who has been refusing to meet powerful lawyers and student unions pleading indisposition, invited Prashant and his companions twice.

At the second meeting, Koirala even gave a gift-wrapped present to Prashant.

All this adulation is keeping Sony's cash register ringing, with the company collecting hefty fees from each show.

So great is the craze in Nepal, not just for Prashant but for the top 10, that DMI, the event management company that first brought them to Kathmandu, has now become the Sony franchisee in Nepal for staging concerts starring "Indian Idol III" contestants.

Nepal's corporates are rushing in to cash in on the craze.

Surya Nepal, ITC's joint venture in the Himalayan kingdom, sponsored the first Prashant shows to advertise its Springwood brand of men's wear.

Now McDowell will sponsor the Butwal show.

And it's not just a Nepal phenomenon.

In November, Ankita, who had never set foot abroad till last month, would head for the Big Apple with Emon for more shows there.

They would be followed in December by Prashant and Amit, who would entertain NRIs in New York, Washington, Dallas and Los Angeles.

From the US, the new singing sensations are to perform in the West Indies, South Africa and Hong Kong.

That's only for now.

Raju Singh, the DMI chief, predicts that the craze for the Idol III top 10 would last at least till May 2008.

"In the earlier contests, only the first two or three contestants were talented singers," he says. "So the others did not stay in people's memory. But in Idol III, all the top 10 have star qualities."