Thousands of fans flocked to the Sugathadasa Indoor Stadium on Saturday 25th March 2006 to witness the country’s biggest musical event in recent years – the Sirasa Super Star finals – which saw the emergence of young Ajith Bandara as the ultimate winner. He edged out Malith Perera in the grand finale and won the Rupees one million cash prize and the glittering trophy.
Sirasa SuperStar is a musical reality show conducted in Sri Lanka by the TV channel Sirasa TV. The competition's first season began in mid 2005 and ended in March, 2006. Sirasa SuperStar is somewhat similar to the famed series of American Idol but there were several notable differences.
The second season is expected to start later this year as the 1st Season Finale was held on the 25th March 2006. Ajith Bandara became the first ever Sirasa Superstar as he won convincingly over Malith Perera. It is considered by a long way to be the most popular TV program in Sri Lanka.
Since it began auditions last year, it underwent lots of destructive criticism. Yet, the program survived for 9 months and found its way till the end. Even though, Sirasa TV was continously accused for making it a SMS voting-money making show, no one can deny that, it has assisted in bringing out the hidden Lankan talent in to the musical arena, while it would have, by other means expanded the budget of the Maharaja Limited too.
Auditions were conducted in 5 cities around Sri Lanka. They were Colombo, Kandy, Habarana, Beruwala & Bentota. Tens of thousands took part in the auditions but only a few hundred made it through to the second round. There too the competitors went through rigorous tests and obstacles to pass through to the third and final round judged by the judges. There the judges picked the final 48 who were to be judged by public voting.
As in any reality show the auditions were dramatic as many shows of frustrations, inability and arrogance were displayed to the amusement of many viewers. This resulted in gaining the program a lot of fame.
The three panel judging panel comprised singers Rookantha Gunatileke, Nirosha Virajini & Jagath Wickremasinghe. But the three boycotted the competition after the selection of the final 48 in protest to the public voting system. They felt that they should have a part to play in the selection of the Superstar. The judges had many critiques and applauders. Those who had the brains were very delighted with their judging as those others who has political grudges with Sirasa TV & had out of time ideals loathed the judging. Yet, many now praise their service in selecting a highly talented final 48.
At first the Sri Lankan spectators were aliened to the SMS and Televoting systems. This was a backdrop for highly talented singers who had small backgrounds as they bowed out of the competition far earlier than they should've.
The first voting round was conducted in 6 groups with 8 each the 4 lowest vote getters were eliminated from each group. The remaining 24 was divided into 3 groups of 8 and underwent the same axing.
Finally 12 were chosen for the final stage of the competition. Ironically all of them were male artists. It was evident that the voting was done not solely for the singing ability but for the likeability factor,too. This made the competition somewhat monotonous.
But according to highly reliable sources inside Sirasa, public voting is not considered the only basis for the elimination. Inside politics in Sirasa played a major role and many critics believe this is the reason why many talented artists were eliminated early in the process.Sirasa TV has had a history of controversial SMS votes,such as the ones during the last Presidential Campaign, where they were accused of favouring one candidate and rigging the vote in his favour.However, it's pathetic to note that, we have a few irrational people, who think that the leader of a country could be and will be determined by SMS voting.
The final round of the competition started on the 7th January 2006. The contest was widely expected to be won by Shihan Mihiranga, the playboy typish singer who was a lesser vocalist and a better performer but had mesmerized the girls of Sri Lanka. Yet he was eliminated on the 8th week of the competition. Another hopeful, the highly talented Mohan Dharshana was knocked out during the first week of competition to the dismay of many. Some contestants who were less talented hung on for more than they should have. Also the classical singer Dharshana Pramod Nissanka made it till the 9th week mainly due to his tender age of 16 and due to high support from friends and family as well as the granny factor. He moreorless played the role of the nice kid any parent wants to have. Ajith Bandara, the highly rated pop singer who was the oldest of the finalists (29) defeated the odds by making it to the finale and winning the competition. He has been a stronger candidate than many expected. Some believe that this is due to the fact that he lives in poverty and is a wood polisher by profession. Amila Perera was the rocker in the competition. His powerful voice has mesmerized Sri Lanka and especially the boys like him a lot. But, the fact that he rarely smiles and the fact that he speaks less has been a concern for many of his fans. Yet the rocker has survived many outgoings in the bottom 2/3, but had to bow out as the 2nd runner-up. Malith Perera, a 19 year old Advanced Level student, has been able to attract many with his rare talent to perform as an all-rounder throughout the competition but even an accident couldn't keep him away from losing to the popularity of Ajith Bandara and Malith finished as the 1st runner-up.
The cost of a SMS to vote, cost around four times more then what a normal SMS would have cost, making this whole program a way of making huge fortunes for the organizers.Anyway, all these has thrown aside the claims made by the JVP that this is a moneymaking show, who planned on crowning Shihan Mihiranga and making Dharshana Pramod the 1st runner-up, because things didn't turn out the way, they thought it will.However, the final 12 contestants repeatedly say that they owe Sirasa TV for helping them establish themselves in this field, within a very short time.
With the elimination of Shihan Mihiranga, Malith Perera became the frontrunner to be the Superstar. It was expected that a high majority of Shihan's voters will support Malith. But all of a sudden, Malith met with a car crash while asleep. This gave him neuro troubles and had to undergo surgery. Somehow the Superstar management decided to drop him out of the competition and assure him safe passage through to the final 12 of the 2nd Season. They decided to fill Malith's slot by a knockout between the knocked out finalists. This was welcomed by the Shihan fanclub but was ridiculed by those who disliked Shihan and thought that Sirasa was definitely backing him. Soon accusations emerged suggesting that Malith's accident was planned. Yet somehow, Malith recovered and the proposed knockout was called off as Malith rejoined the final 4, only to sing from his hospital bed. Malith was widely expected to win the competition with the help of the sympathy vote but surprisingly failed to do so, although talent is something he has got abundantly, alongside a lot of charm and charisma as well.
12 - Mohan Dharshana - Soundtracks - Digana - 05th January
11 - Madhawa Dasanayake - H R Jothipala Tributes - Kegalle - 12th January
10 - Asela Eranda - Musicals - Pallekele - 19th January
09 - Theekshana Anuradha - Milton Mallawarachchi Tributes - Galle - 26th January
08 - Waruna Madhusanka Peiris - Classicals - Wattala - 05th February
07 - Nishantha Nanayakkara - Love songs - Udawalawa - 12th February
06 - Manjula Pushpakumara - Clarence Wijewardena Tributes - Polonnaruwa - 19th February
05 - Shihan Mihiranga - Hindi Compositions - Weliweriya - 26th February
04 - Dharshana Pramod Nissanka - Tribute to Mothers Gampaha - 12th March
03 - Amila Perera - Khemadasa Compositions - Menikdiwela - 19th March
02 - Malith Perera - Pannala - 25th March 2006
01 - Ajith Bandara - Mawathagama - 25th March 2006