TV India's Best Dramebaaz

Omung Kumar and Vivek Oberoi with “India's Best Dramebaaz” contestants. (photo provided)

MUMBAI—The venue was new and ‘hatke’ – the new Taj Hotel a stone’s throw from the domestic terminal, where you have to navigate through airport security, one-way streets and the construction mess happening for the Mumbai Metro. With the tag-line, “Bacche Funky, Total Nautanki!,” “India’s Best Dramebaaz,” goes on air Jun. 30 as a weekend show, and was launched Jun. 18.

Celebrating the dramatic flair and histrionic abilities of India’s youngest acting prodigies in its first two seasons, Zee TV’s acting talent hunt show for kids is back with an all-new third season. Having opened up a world of opportunities for truly deserving talents like Kartikey Raj, Kartikey Malviya, Tamanna Dipak, Praneet Sharma and others – each of whom have carved a niche for themselves, the show’s latest season gives a chance to a new lot of promising child actors to polish their acting skills and emerge as potential superstars.

Enabling the youngest in the country to find “their true calling and letting them pursue their passion for acting in order to build an extraordinary future in the world of entertainment,” (their words!), the show is the true embodiment of Zee TV’s core philosophy “Aaj Likhenge Kal.”

Deepak Rajadhyaksha, deputy business head, Zee TV said, “With a strong legacy of celebrating talent and creating stars out of India’s common man through our varied homegrown non-fiction formats, Zee TV launched ‘India’s Best Dramebaaz’ way back in 2013. Today, we want our children to discover themselves from an early age and work towards an extraordinary future. In the current context, we encourage our kids to think on their feet, be resourceful, use their smarts and find their own solutions. Bringing you the latest brat-pack of funky kids who’re adorable, street-smart and can wriggle their way out of anything with their nautanki (dramatics) in the latest season of our popular franchise, ‘India’s Best Dramebaaz.’”

He added, “The format of the show not only allows the kids to sharpen their performance abilities but also gives them the right kind of exposure to shed their inhibitions and become names to reckon with in the entertainment industry. This season, we also salute unsung heroes who have sown the seeds of an extraordinary future through proactively contributing to society in a humanitarian way. In each episode, our kids will pay them a tribute the best way they can through their dramebaazi.”

Produced by Essel Vision Productions Ltd, this show will have a panel of hosts and experts. Guiding, grooming and mentoring the young acting prodigies through their journey and teaching them various nuances of acting will be Sonali Bendre-Behl, Vivek Oberoi and art director-director Omung Kumar, who began his career as host on a Zee show all of 25 years ago.

Popular dancer and actor Shantanu Maheshwari and ventriloquist Vighnesh Pande will turn hosts for the season and add to the entertainment quotient with their witty one-liners, friendly banter and easygoing camaraderie.

Said Bendre, “A different kind of excitement builds up whenever a new season is announced. I have always loved the show as it brings out the best acting talent hidden among kids in our country. Their infectious energy, undying spirit, and dedication towards the craft inspires and motivates me. I can’t wait to be back on the show.”

Oberoi, who, like Bendre, has also been with the show since inception, said, “The show is very close to my heart as I get to watch and mentor some of the best talents across the country. The show has already given us some young superstars, and there are many such hidden gems yet to be discovered. More than mentoring and guiding the kids, I am looking forward to having lots of fun in the company of India's acting prodigies.”

Kumar added, “I started my career as a television show host about 25 years ago with Zee TV’s show ‘Just Ek Minute.’ Life has come full circle for me as I am back this time as a judge. I have been an avid follower of the show’s previous seasons and thoroughly enjoyed the innocence and energy with which the kids put forth their talent. I am looking forward to mentoring the fresh batch of acting enthusiasts with my expertise.”

Oberoi complimented Kumar for looking “as young” as he did 25 years ago, and Kumar, in turn, wondered why India is not making children’s films. “Whenever I tried, I was given financial constraints. But I am going to make one. The way they remember long dialogues and act without retakes is incredible!” And Kumar has directed Priyanka Chopra and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan!

Oberoi, who was in full spirits, said that judging “India’s Best Dramebaaz,” was a stressful thing for him because during the first season his wife Priyanka got pregnant with a son and in the next season with a daughter! “Now my wife has warned me, ‘The quota is over!’”

Oberoi said that most of the kids were so good they seemed to be born on stage. “Their presence of mind and confidence is mindboggling, and they answer anything in seconds.”

Omung added that, as a first-time judge, he pays more attention to the spark within the kids than the presented item itself. “Vivek looks at something else, and so does Sonali. So we have a balance.” The three judges (Bendre could not be present at the launch) had a rewarding but extremely difficult time selecting 16 from nearly 150 shortlisted names.

With auditions being conducted in cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Guwahati, Ranchi, Patna, Jaipur, Amritsar, Chandigarh, Lucknow, Bangalore, Indore and Ahmedabad, the show has left no stone unturned in scouting the best talent.

Said Oberoi, “Some of these contestants had amazing back stories. One poor boy had a free tutor, who told me that he was coaching him because he had never got opportunities to become an actor himself.”

And Jaikumar from Sivakasi (the town where over 80 percent of the country’s fireworks are manufactured) was motivated by his mother’s accident at one such factory, in which she got burnt. His mother told him that fire extinguishers proved too costly for the factories, so he actually worked with his science teacher to devise a fire-fighting device that was affordable and effective – at the age of 13! He has also won the Union Abdul Kalam award and has gone to Moscow as a part of the Indian team in science!

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