A multitalented musician from the North Indian state of Uttarakhand has won the 12th season of reality TV show Indian Idol, walking home with a 2.5 million rupee ($33,716) haul, as well as a new car.
Pawandeep Rajan, 25, beat five other finalists to be crowned winner of the fan-voted show on Sunday, which was also India's Independence Day. The aspiring musician and composer from the picturesque Champawat district, which lies on India's border with Nepal, called his win "unbelievable".
"I still feel like I’m dreaming and cannot come to terms with reality. It’s still sinking in," he said after the show. "This is such a big honour for me. I’d like to thank all my fans and the viewers who have voted for me and made me win this honourable title. This feeling is the best."
The star-studded show was pegged as the "greatest grand finale" featuring 12 hours of performances from finalists, as well as some of India's top artists. Bollywood stars Sidharth Malhotra and Kiara Advani, who are promoting their film Shershaah, were also in attendance.
Who is Pawandeep Rajan?
With his father, Suresh Rajan, being a folk singer, Rajan's introduction to music started at an early age. According to India Today, he even won a "youngest tabla player" award at the age of 2. Besides the tabla, he can also play the guitar, the piano and the dholak, the two-headed hand drum.
Sunday's historic win was also not Rajan's reality TV show first. In 2015, he won the Indian version of the globally known singing competition The Voice. He is also the lead vocalist of a band, Rait, and released his first single, Yakeen, in 2015, according to India Today.
"The reason I got back in the arena was not my will to win but my quest to learn. And I am thankful that after spending so many months on this show, we are now ready to playback,” he said on Sunday, hinting at a career in composing and performing for Bollywood films.
When asked which Bollywood star he would like to sing for, he said he was a big fan of actor Salman Khan. “I would love to sing for any actor [but] I would really like to sing for him someday."
Rajan also said he would use his prize money to start a school in his home town and help others fulfil their musical aspirations.
"There are not many facilities in Champawat. After seeing my journey, a lot of people are already keen to learn. This is the reason I also built a studio and now I want to go big so that everyone gets a good opportunity to make their dreams come true," he told the Indian Express.
The 12th season of Indian Idol began broadcasting in November last year, with 15 contestants taking part. Sunday's show had the final six – the others being Arunita Kanjilal, Mohamed Danish, Sayli Kamble, Nihal Tauro and Shanmukha Priya – showcase various performances.
Indian Idol, first broadcast in 2004, is one of the longest-running reality TV shows in the country.