What is the story about?
Eight aspiring hip-hop stars--A-Gan, Albela, Loud Silence, MC Headshot, Rhyming Man, Siyaahi, Supermanikk and The Rushi Gosavi--battle it out for the title of India's next rap superstar.
One of the most common trappings of reality shows or talent hunts of any kind in India is the sheer number of stereotypes that are present in every episode. They are obsessed with putting outa spectacle for audiences to enjoy, that it sometimes takes away the spotlight from the hard work that goes into building each episode. Despite a flourishing hip-hop movement that has captured the country's imagination after the release of Zoya Akhtar's Gully Boy, there has been no effort to understand and break down the phenomenon for audiences that don't have the first idea about the creative processes involved. Red Bull Spotlight steps into this breach, with its six episodes coming like a breath of fresh air.
The show is in a zone of its own. The word "bro" is repeated so many times that it becomes gimmicky after a points, and the product placements sometimes get in your face too much. Yet, these are minor nitpickings in what is essentially a fun-filled rendezvous through Indian hip-hop. Director Nisha Vasudevan understands that this phenomenon is still confined to a minority, and she wisely structures the episodes by taking one aspect of hip-hop, such as scatting or production or battle rap, in each episode and keeping the focus on it. While the contestants duel with each other in every episode based on the theme, Vasudevan and her team, as well as emcees Seedhe Maut, also try to break down the process for audiences who don't know anything about hip-hop. There are certain sequences where I found it difficult to keep up, but the music production is very good and the tracks in the finale are, to borrow the phrase, "dope enough".
Music & Other Departments
The production quality is great. Xplicit's production of the tracks performed in the finale is solid.
The third episode with Sez On The Beat is a fun experience, with the contestants jamming with each other for two tracks.
Perhaps my biggest criticism of the show is that, for all its efforts at promoting a multilingual narrative, it is baffling why there are no subtitles during the rap portions. I could understand rap being performed in three languages: Hindi, English and Bengali. However, one of the contestants, A-Gan, rapped much better in Tamil, and it would have been more effective if there was a translation of what he rapped about. This lack of subtitles is a big obstacle.
Did I enjoy it?
I enjoyed it a lot....and I'm not even a hip-hop fan!
Do I recommend it?
Give this show a chance. It will be a novel experience.