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Roadies Online Auditions Much Harder Due to Paucity of Time and Absence of On-ground Vibe: Nikhil Chinappa

Nikhil Chinapa. Image: Instagram

Nikhil Chinapa. Image: Instagram

Nikhil Chinappa on hosting MTV Roadies auditions online, and planning music festivals in a post-coronavirus world.

Reality show Roadies is all about the adrenaline rush and vibe between judges and contestants on the ground. Unfortunately, due to the coronavirus lockdown, the show hasn't been able to hit the ground in its 17th season. Auditions have been taken to an online platform, as judges interact with candidates in virtual mode.

The experience is different, but also much harder, says Nikhil Chinapa, one of the judges. He is a popular DJ as well, and has co-founded multiple musical events like Submerge, Sunburn and VH1 Supersonic. Even though Unlock 1.0 has begun, people gathering for concerts and EDM festivals does not seem like a possibility anytime soon.

Nikhil talks about how artists and live performers are learning to adapt with the times and use technology to come up with solutions for absence of on-ground events.

How is the Roadies online audition feel different from on-ground experience?

We miss the personal banter between all four judges and Rannvijay... and of course the virtual auditions only have two judges, but the task for us has remained the same – to find worthy contestants for this year's format, Roadies Revolution. I've personally found the virtual auditions to be a brilliant adaptation to the times we live in, what we're all calling the COVID-19 era. Through it we've discovered some brilliant individuals – just the way we do at the on-ground auditions and the task of selecting just one (or maybe two) for the eventual journey, is going to be a tough one.

Is this easier and more cost-effective? Will it affect the onscreen experience?

The auditions are much, much harder to do in the virtual world both because of the paucity of time per contestant and the absence of the on-ground "vibe" in the audition room. I don't see it affecting the show on-screen as eventually all the selected contestants will be on the same journey.

What do you miss the most about hanging out with the other gang leaders?

Eating each other's food.

A lot of reality shows are turning to online platforms. How do you see the TV industry coping with the lockdown?

I don't know what anyone else is doing, but I think we've adapted brilliantly. While the world in lockdown was fixated with Instagram live, we chose to abandon the IG-Live platform and instead decided to do a multi-person audition using a different platform, streamed onto our MTV Roadies Facebook page. While the world was slowly turning its back on Facebook, we chose to do the opposite, with some clever tweaks and adapts – and the result is apparent in the millions of organic views that the online episodes have generated.

What has the lockdown meant for DJs and live performers like you?

The artist community is learning to adapt as well. We've quickly realized that simply going live wasn't going to be enough and that we need to give people a reason to tune in. Some of us have started to create virtual hangouts and chat rooms where people can listen to music and also get to know each other. Technology too is coming up with multiple solutions and the tech-world is scrambling to adapt and offer better solutions.

How and when do you see things going back to normal?

You need to stop thinking about things going back to normal. This is the new normal and there's no way to sugar coat the fact that the world is going to have to get used to living with COVID-19 for the foreseeable future. In order to survive and thrive, we need to adapt to this world and some of us have already started doing that.

How are you coping with the lockdown, personally?

Every week I'm usually on several conference calls developing strategy with the MTV team both for MTV Roadies as well as for the broader channel. I'm also working with the Vh1 Supersonic team on our music festival in February 2021, which we fully expect will go ahead. We have tremendous faith in our government, doctors and scientists and we know we'll find a way to have our festival, under guidelines by the government of course, by February 2021. I'm anticipating that we will need to adapt and make several changes to the way we conduct the festival, but as a team, we're crossing our fingers and plowing on with our plans.

I'm also consulting with the team at Submerge on a series of online activities they're working on. They recently did an online music forum called 'The Exchange' which was very successful and they're planning the next one for early June.

Most of my time though is spent in keeping our two-year old occupied. It's a full-time job for my wife and me, but I'll admit it's a lot of fun as well!

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