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'Sexiest indian man Alive'

Abhilasha Ojha  |  New Delhi 

may be out but he's still in demand.

When sang Donna Summers’s Dim the Lights, Kathy, one of his many fans, watching the episode in her home, cried at the rendition. “I cried again,” she mentioned on Facebook, “this time when Noop got out.” Kathy, a member of one of the many fansites is not alone. Like her, thousands and thousands of fans have wept bitterly after Desai’s ouster at such a crucial juncture.

Not that Desai is too worried. A grad student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the 22-year-old took a semester off to be in the competition and already plans to focus on an album. “I dig the vibe of R&B. So, yes, in all probability, that’s what I’m going to showcase,” he mentioned in an interview on Fox TV immediately after his ouster. Born in South Africa, Desai, the only child of of Manoj and Nalini Desai, is regarded by his family members as a shy guy.

The child of academic parents who came to the US in 1977, Desai rarely sang at family gatherings. But that was then. For this season’s American Idol, a majority of his family members were flying to Hollywood every week to cheer their lad at the show. By his own admission, Desai, who also calls himself a foodie (he even did a 60-page thesis in school on the subject of barbecue!), remembers eating away to his heart’s delight while putting on a lot of weight and wearing “thick, big glasses”. So, where did the weight go? “I lost it, thankfully, four years ago,” he mentioned in another interview.

Today, despite his ouster on the show, he has journeyed to instant success with this year’s to become everyone’s Noop Dogg. He was the underdog and with his stiff and wooden manner it took Desai a while before he could get noticed. And he did. Forget his terrible haircut and bushy eyebrows, Desai, unlike last year’s favourite contestant Sanjay Malakar who was mostly noted for sporting different hairstyles in the show, can sing. In fact, even the harshest of the four judges, Simon Cowell, confessed, “From zero, you’re now a hero.” Ironically, this was the same judge who had also proclaimed in one of the episodes that Desai’s rendition was an utter mess, “much like a college boy trying too hard to be a pop star and failing”.

So, slowly but surely, Desai got off to a start and from the day of the audition when he turned up in khaki shorts and a striped blue shirt (the latter definitely looked borrowed from his dad), Desai was soon “melting away hearts with his singing” as judge Paula Abdul put it. Not surprisingly, Desai’s journey was closely followed on the Net. His fan-following increased, YouTube videos were flooded with Desai’s performances and fansites were — and still are — bursting onto the Net.

For the shy, dimpled guy, singing on has been like a dream. “The show has always fascinated me,” Desai said in his interview to the co-anchors of the show. “It is a unique opportunity for millions of viewers to follow the lives of normal people who achieve instant stardom,” he mentioned, admitting that it hurt to leave the show. The other contestants have admitted to missing him already. The “regular, well-behaved guy” as many of Desai’s fellow contestants have described him, was seen blushing furiously each time he saw placards with content like this: “Anoop Desai, you are the sexiest Indian man alive.” There was another one too: “Noop Dogg, can we please get a hug?”

With judges admitting that Desai’s voice has a soul, for most of us who’ve seen and heard his renditions, Desai’s voice definitely has great texture, volume and depth, especially when he sings rock ballads. He was criticised for lack of movement on stage (“you need to be able to not just sing but do something more,” as judge Kara DioGuardi explained) and was ticked off by Cowell for sometimes not hitting the high notes as sharply as he should have.

With audiences the world over, however, Desai has hit the right note. In fact, he’ll be touring with this year’s team for live performances all over the US. So, even if someone else becomes the winner eventually, Desai will have the maximum applause for sure. No wonder, he’s grinning with that dimple already.

First Published: Sun, April 26 2009. 00:08 IST