On September 10, a television production team announced starting The Poet Idol, supposedly the first reality show in Nepali poetry. The show that will decide winners also through voting also revealed its judges during the event.
The Poet Idol is not a franchise show as most reality shows in Nepal are. Aman Pratap Adhikary, the show’s director, says, “With a goal to go global, we have introduced the reality show that would purely be dedicated to Nepali poetry.”
While most reality shows are well received in Nepal, the poem reality show is totally a new concept here. Shows like Pratibha Ko Dabali, Nepal Idol, Boogie Woogie, Ko Banchha Crorepati, Comedy Champion, Voice of Nepal and Roadies are some popular reality shows in Nepal. Most reality shows are based on dancing and singing.
The very different nature of the show has made The Poet Idol face an uncertain future whereas stakeholders are also divided about its possible contribution to Nepali poetry in the future.
Competitions in Nepali poetry
If you look at the history of Nepali literature, Nepali poetry, in particular, there is a long history of poem competitions. Bal Krishna Sama, in his book Mero Kabita Ko Aaradhana, mentioned poem competitions that used to take place from the time of Chandra Shumsher Rana at Durbar High School. Even if you look at modern times, there is also a notable history of poem competitions.
The National Poetry Festival to be hosted by Nepal Academy is considered the biggest poem competition in Nepal. Since 1965, the competition has been taking place every year on June 23 (Ashad 9). In the first National Poetry Festival, comedian Bhairav Aryal won the title.
There is an interesting history of the academy’s poetry festival in Nepal. King Mahendra Bir Bikram Shah, a poet himself, used to set the title of the competition for the youth of the nation. But, after 1990, the format of the competition changed; the participants were allowed to write poems in the title of their choice.
Besides the National Poetry Festival, there are other national-level poem competitions too that have been contributing to the growth of Nepali poetry.
Most of the competitions are announced through public notices; poems are collected either through the post office or by mail. Lastly, the poems are evaluated by the judges and the one with the highest score wins the competition. This means the judges decide the winner without meeting the poets.
Meanwhile, the format of competitions in Nepali poetry is changing in the digital age, and The Poet Idol takes it one step further. After the Covid outbreak in 2020, many competitions took place virtually. Poets either send their poems in audio/audiovisual formats and organisers choose the best one from the submissions.
The judges determine the winner by reading the poem and listening to the recitation of the poem by the poet.
But, The Poet Idol is even more different from that.
Director Aman Pratap Adhikary says he is doing this show in memory of his father, Kshetra Pratap Adhikary, a popular poet and songwriter who is also referred to as Gambesika Kabi (the poet of villages), the title he earned from his anthology, Gambesika Geet (the songs of the villages).
Previously, Adhikary has worked for popular reality shows like Roadies and Ko Bancha Crorepati. In the first edition of The Poet Idol, he listed Biplov Pratik, Upendra Subba, Surakshya Panta and Anup Baral as its judges. Divya Dev will be the host of the show.
According to Adhikary, the initial audition will be held digitally where people from anywhere need to send a two-minute poem in a video. Afterwards, the performances will be brought to the studio, and 14 poets will be selected from there.
Alongside, the audience can also vote for their favourite poet. One poet will be eliminated in each episode. Lastly, the one to get the highest votes from the audience and marks from judges will be announced as The Poet Idol.
The poetic reality check
The announcement of The Poet Idol has been receiving mixed reviews as far as its contribution to Nepali poetry. Some people are considering it a stunt and some of them are taking it as a best practice to commercialise poems.
“Making poetry popular digitally is good news. The reality show should now aim at making the tradition of poetry recitation more specialised, thereby making the audiences easy to receive Nepali poetry,” senior poet Tulasi Diwasa says.
With the span of time, the pattern of poem writing has changed significantly and many people believe that this reality show is going to be relevant. People who love slam poetry are openly appreciating the show.
But, there are some dissidents within the poetry fraternity. “Reality shows are supermarkets of the fool; it is an industry to fool the world,” poet Binod Bikram KC says, “It is ridiculous that reality shows beget extraordinary talents. One programme cannot give birth to talents; it needs an entire ecosystem.”
Poet Swapnil Smriti also says reality shows are meant to make money, hence suggesting believing the Poet Idol contributing to Nepali poetry is irrelevant.
It means the implications of the show in Nepali literature are still not clear. You have to wait and watch.
This story was translated from the original Nepali version and edited for clarity and length.