Mega Star Or Mega Joke?
For many years, I have been a loyal fan of Swarnavahini. For the past one year, I have been a keen viewer of their reality show Mega Star, which finally turned out to be a ‘Mega Joke’. Practically, every right thinking citizen of Sri Lanka and any person who has a basic feel for music will agree that Dayasiri Jayasekera had to be the ‘Mega Star’ in keeping with his singing prowess.
To start with, it was beyond my comprehension how a private channel could invite an all-in-one joker and rowdy thug of Mervyn Silva’s calibre, to be on their panel of judges. Knowing the contempt with which the ‘respectable section’ of the general public holds him, it beats me as to how the other three judges concurred to sit with him on a panel for the duration of an entire year. Throughout the year, he did not hesitate to insult and ridicule some of the participants, especially when they were from the opposition political party, or if they dared to voice their opposition against his comments. He took every opportunity to pick a fight with the comperes and participants and was always the first on the panel to very boisterously argue and voice his displeasure over any issue.
He baited his co-judge, Rosy Senanayake at every turn and it is a wonder how she maintained her composure with him. He took the cake when he made extremely uncouth remarks about the only female finalist at the grand finale and came on to the stage to start a boxing match with the compere. Whatever the unethical political views of this contestant, she deserves respect and dignity as a woman and to be publicly embarrassed in this manner before the eyes of a nation of people is so degrading. It is a violation of a woman’s basic rights.
The final scene of the Mega Star Grand Finale shows Mervyn Silva going to the stage with his goons and dealing out blows to a man on the stage. Although Swarnavahini were quick to cut out its live transmission without any warning, anyone can log onto youtube.com and view the final scene very clearly. Participants on the show that began with such promise, gradually showed signs of discontent and frustration. A few prominent and capable stars left the show abruptly. In these instances, Swarnavahini did not hesitate to humiliate two of them quite publicly. The show in itself reached its peak gaining wide popularity amongst the viewers and being rated as the most watched programme on TV, purely due to the popular figures featured on the show. If not for the popularity of these artistes, it would not have been the most talked about programme.
It is publicly mentioned in the press that the executive producer of this show ran it according to his whims and fancies. All the promises and conditions laid down at the beginning disappeared one by one. One of the female artists in the show has placed it on record in a Sinhala newspaper that although promised, they were denied the opportunity to sing at the grand finale and the decision to have only three finalists vying for the Mega Star crown was suddenly changed with no warning whatsoever. Very few of the 36 participants had even been invited to the final show.
People were hinting that the producer of the show and the contestant who finally became ‘Mega Star’ have studied in the same school in Kandy, namely Vidyartha College and are close friends and the reason behind bringing four people to the finals. Reviewing the turn of events, it appears evident this fact is true. Just to refresh our memory, on October 17, which was the day that the three finalists were to be announced, the compere of the show started off by saying that an amazing and unusual thing was going to take place on the show that night. When it was finally announced that both Dayasiri Jayasekera and Upeksha Swarnamali were going in to the final, speculation was rife that because of Upeksha’s switch to the governing political party, she had been supported in an organised campaign to obtain the highest number of votes and Dayasiri had obtained the lowest votes.
Some said that people would be angered if Dayasiri was eliminated and would not come to the show resulting in Swarnavahini not being able to sell tickets for the show. Dayasiri was a contestant who obtained the highest SMS votes in addition to high praise from the panel of judges in every round he participated, so to have him get the lowest number of votes at the final stage is more than a joke.
For me personally, the announcement of the final judgement at the grand finale was more than a shock; I was speechless and dumbstruck, as were so many others. This prompted me to once again watch the final Mega Star show telecast during the last two weeks preceding the grand finale. On October 17, which was the day the three finalists were announced, it was only announced once by the compere that the order in which the finalists were called out were random and not based on the number of SMS votes received. Most people did not quite get this comment since it was only announced once. The impression created in the minds of the general public was that today’s winner of the Mega Star crown got the highest number of votes, whilst Dayasiri and Upeksha got the lowest.
In actuality what I feel has happened is that today’s winner got the least number of votes on that day and was the one to leave the show, however due to the personal rapport between the producer of the show and the final winner, in order to accommodate him on the show they decided to have four finalists vying for the crown. It is most likely that the two people who must have got the highest votes were kept lurking on the stage making people think they got the lowest number of votes. In this manner, Swarnavahini led the way for people to think today’s winner was leading. This left him enough time to campaign full time for the finals making him the most voted for person.
On the show preceding the grand finale, today’s winner when asked stated without any hesitation that he was confident of becoming the ‘Mega Star’. A man of the decent and sober calibre of Dayasiri Jayasekera belongs nowhere in the vicinity of a show of this kind. The manner in which he took up the final result with no change in his facial expression goes to show what a gentleman he is. Whatever votes he got, were genuine and uncampaigned votes.
Another evident factor which was prominent at the grand finale was the lack of unity between the TV channel and all the participants. When Sirasa holds their final show, all the final 12 contestants come on stage and perform and they also get prizes, but in this instance most of them have been even denied an invitation to the show.
One can argue that a reality show is based on SMS votes and the final winner was chosen in this manner; however, if that were to be the case then only three people should have vied for the final crown; they shouldn’t have changed the rules under any circumstances casting serious doubts in the minds of the public.
The mayhem that followed the announcement of the winner depriving him from receiving his trophy and gifts, goes to show the disappointment of the people. They knew it was not a free and fair decision, but a manipulated one. Swarnavahini’s attempt to cover up everything by cutting out the live telecast and simply announcing the winner of the show on their 12.00 pm and 8.00 pm news bulletins created an even poorer picture for the viewers. Not a word was mentioned about the disruptions that followed and the picture painted was ‘all’s well and ends well.’
In conclusion, may we suggest to Swarnavahini to think twice, thrice and even four times before organising reality shows in the future. Firstly, start off by inviting decent and respectable people to be on your panel of judges and then remember to maintain basic ethics. If you lay down conditions, live them to the end and please don’t produce any more Mega Jokes in the future!