Where will Pakistan Idol take you?

Sabahat Zakariya's roundup of the week's cultural zeitgeist

Where will Pakistan Idol take you?

Used to his rock star persona carrying him through most of his foot-in-mouth moments, seems Ali Azmat was unprepared for the barrage of social media outrage he faced for taking cheap shots at aspiring Pakistan Idol contestants during the qualifying stages. His resultant tempering of his Punjabi buffoonery may have saved the collective Pakistani moral consciousness (one that outrages selectively upon seeing aspiring singers being insulted but participates with unmitigated glee in racist and bloodthirsty comments during cricket) but it also fizzled out the excitement the show generated in its earlier stages. The selected finalists are good enough singers and Hadiqa Kiyani's outrageous updos and controversial earrings may have created some ripples but ultimately Pakistan Idol hasn't really managed to become the phenomenon it was poised to become. A reality show without trumped up competition or a standout glamorous star can't really be expected to keep audiences interested for very long, unless you're Masterchef Australia, in which case you need the powerhouse charisma of all its brilliant hosts. Mohib Mirza doesn't exactly fit that bill.

Also, there is the question, where exactly will a Pakistan Idol title take you? To Bollywood? Highly unlikely. The Pakistani pop scene (dead anyway) has never had any use for playback style singers and the (yet again) nascent film industry has so far produced nothing that would suggest a revival of musicals. It is this sense of a dead end, no recording deal as the ultimate prize, no lasting fame to look forward to that makes the stakes at Pakistan Idol no higher than an inter-school singing competition. Under the circumstances lack of interest among voting audiences is only an inevitability.



John Green, whose 'The Fault in our Stars' was the biggest crossover YA hit of recent times has a YouTube channel by the name of vlogbrothers you should click through if you even remotely identify as a geek. Hosted by John and Hank Green, the vlogbrothers channel has more than one million subscribers, attracted by the presentation of history, science, literature, what you will, in a package full of charm, quirky humour and arresting animation. Though the brothers say, "Really, it's not about anything in particular. Whether we're talking about our lives, making each other laugh, or trying to get something more important across, people seem to enjoy it". Ostensibly for Nerdfighters (name given to young followers of the channel), a lot of older people can also brush up on their facts or listen to Green dish out relationship advice. You have to see it to be bewitched by the brothers' charm. Get that proxy working now!



However counterintuitive the idea of a tournament of books sounds, you need to follow 'The Morning News Tournament of Books' to appreciate how well this concept has been executed for the last nine years. Every March the tournament picks 16 of the 'best' books from the preceding year and pitches them against each other in a world-cup style battle royale. The cleverly written judgments that decide each match are in themselves incentive enough to follow the tournament (even if you haven't read any of the books in the competition), but if you have read a few your pleasure will undoubtedly be enhanced (sort of like the difference between watching a neutral match versus one that involves your own team). Then there are the moderators and readers who pitch in with well-thought-out responses to match results (sort of like the antithesis of twitter after a cricket match). Last year I had a lot of personal stakes in the books that were being judged but this year I unfortunately haven't read any, though Jhumpa Lahiri's 'Lowland' and Mohsin Hamid's 'How to Get Rich in Rising Asia' are part of this year's round of 16. Exciting! Go to http://www.themorningnews.org/tob/2014/how-it-works.php#.