Author: Raffles Press

The 5 Search: Grand Finals

Reading Time: 5 minutes

By Shikhar Gupta (15S06M) and Valerie Chee (15S07B)

Additional Reporting by Wilson Chan (15A01C)

Photos by Shikhar Gupta (15S06M)

Recently, Raffles Press published an exclusive feature on RI alumnus and top 5 finalist of ‘The 5 Search’, Shrey Bhargava. Just two days later, we had the privilege of being invited to the MediaCorp Studios to watch the exciting Grand Finals of the show, which was broadcasted live on Channel 5. On set, we were given the opportunity to interview established hosting and acting personalities who have worked with Shrey in his ‘5 Search’ journey, some of his avid supporters, as well as Shrey himself.

Opening Item of ‘The 5 Search’ Finals

The show started off by treating the audience to an enthralling performance: the top five contestants were introduced alongside a medley of dance items, stunts and even a breathtaking fire show. The hyped-up atmosphere was bolstered by the exceptionally loud and enthusiastic live audience, which had begun chanting the names of the finalists long before the show even started, with audience members equipped with banners, lights, clappers and whistles.

To prove their abilities in various genres of acting, all five finalists were put through a series of three challenges, namely drama, hosting and comedy segments, to be judged by a panel of experienced actors and directors.

In the drama challenge, Shrey acted out a malicious character who faked his death on his birthday, allowing him to escape with his stepmother and a suitcase full of cash. Despite the rather convoluted and inconceivable plotline, Shrey pulled off his character naturally and impressed us with his ability to play on the intense emotions required of the drama.

Similarly, his hosting of “Urban Escapes” was almost immaculate, impressing the panel of judges with his poise and fluency as he introduced to us the landscape of Pulau Ubin. Selena Tan commented that “I’m not sure if at 19 I would’ve been able to come across as polished as that.” Unfortunately, Bryan Wong refuted this by expressing his sentiments of Shrey’s performance being “too perfect” and a “wee bit too polished”. Perhaps Shrey’s biggest mistake was the artificial interview held with a Pulau Ubin local during his hosting segment, as he placed his arm around the uncle for the entire duration of the interview, causing the latter to appear rather uncomfortable in the video.

Shrey co-hosting with Jean Danker
Shrey co-hosting with Jean Danker, as an additional segment of the hosting challenge

Nonetheless, Shrey shone when put back into his niche — accents. During the comedy segment of the show, he played a stereotypical and sleazy Indian uncle trying to hit on a girl. While some of the other finalists similarly put up engaging and natural performances, Shrey’s portrayal of his character stood out to us in that it was extremely energetic and authentic, especially with his perfect wield of the accent and great comedic timing. Unsurprisingly, the judges credited his performance “very enjoyable” and commended Shrey on being a “good all-rounder”.

Shrey acting alongside actress Judee Tan in his comedy segment

In the final reveal of the winners, Shrey was able to make it into the top 3 of the show; however, Kayly Loh beat out both him and Aiken Chia to claim top spot. Even so, Shrey assured us that he had “no regrets” about the whole journey, highlighting how he had done the best he could. It was certainly a journey with countless, valuable lessons learnt and a whole lot of fun for Shrey who had warm words for his fellow contestants. “They’ve been my best friends in the competition… and we’re going to remain friends.” Addressing Kayly in particular, he jokingly remarked “I wish her all the very best, with a two-year contract and $30000, but she has to treat us to supper so…(laughs)”

The finalists awaiting the Top 3 results
The finalists awaiting the Top 3 results
Shrey, after the Grand Finals
Shrey, after the Grand Finals

Shrey also asserted that by being on the show he wished to make the point that “Raffles is not just about going into law (and medicine)… (it) can be all-rounded”. With the show now over, Shrey is aiming to gain admission into an overseas drama school, such as Juilliard School in New York, but is open to taking up other offers if they come.

Indeed, Shrey’s ex-mentor and Artistic Director of Buds Youth Theater, Claire Devine, who came down to witness the live show, commented that “If he doesn’t win this, he will go on to be successful, because this is what he was made to be.” Having watched Shrey grow over the past few years, she commends how Shrey has cultivated the important skill of internalising criticism. She also praises him liberally, asserting that he is a “very genuine human being, so therefore when he presents and speaks to people, there is no affectation about him whatsoever. He doesn’t try, he just is.”

Also present at the live show to perform with the finalists during their comedy segments were ‘The Noose’ actors, Chua En Lai, Alaric Tay, Judee Tan, Michelle Chong and Suhaimi Yusof. Judee Tan, who Shrey worked with in the finals, commented that Shrey “takes directions from the directors very well”, while Alaric Tan was more effusive in his praise, claiming Shrey had been a “star throughout”. In fact, when questioned on who they would have chosen to win second place in the competition, both Alaric Tay and Judee Tan were in favour of Shrey. Chua En Lai revealed to us in a humorous anecdote that while placing bets in the dressing room, he had actually placed his bet on Shrey to win, impressed by his confidence.

As a little bonus, here are some exclusive soundbites we’ve obtained of ‘The Noose’ actors and actresses expressing their excitement to work with Osayang (Shrey’s Noose character) in the near future… but in character.

Alaric Tay, acting as Xin Hua Hua

Chua En Lai, acting as Pornsak Sukhumvit

Judee Tan, acting as Kim Bong Cha

Raffles Press would like to wish Shrey all the best, and we hope to see more of his work in the near future!

The Search is on, and Shrey is in it

Reading Time: 8 minutes

By Shikhar Gupta (15S06M)

It is not every day that one is selected as a finalist in a reality-TV show, nor is it every day that this very individual happens to be a Raffles Institution alumnus. An aspiring actor and full-time NSF, Shrey Bhargava, 19, is a finalist in ‘The 5 Search’, a local acting-hosting reality show that finds the next face of Channel 5 by putting contestants through various acting and hosting challenges with cameos by celebrity guests. With a 2-year contract from Mediacorp that could launch one’s acting career and $30,000 on offer, Shrey is doing all that he can to go out and achieve the top spot. Raffles Press takes a look into his life – how he has developed his skills up to this point and what he plans to do in the future.

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Fearing to be Emotional

Reading Time: 5 minutes

By Yeo Jia Qi (15S03H)

We’ve all had that feeling before. When we follow the lead of perhaps a Councillor in shouting school cheers while watching our fellow schoolmates fight for glory on the sporting field, and find something stuck in our throat, something that prevents us from shouting at the top of our voices, something that we struggle to overcome. When we sit in the cinema and hear a touching or heartwarming line, intentionally scripted to be as impactful as possible by a scriptwriter we will never meet, and find ourselves trying to swallow back the tears welling in our eyes, as though in the darkness, others could see them. When we listened to Principal Mr Chan sharing his recovery journey from colon cancer, we laughed at his jokes about his ample girth, the usefulness of national campaigns, and swimming in the RI pool; but when he came to the real, raw and painful parts of his narrative, the fear of not waking up from the operating table or the turmoil of learning to cope with his diagnosis, surely at least some of us must have felt some discomfort.

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ALS: Kick The (Ice) Bucket

Reading Time: 8 minutes

By Kang Yi Xi (15S03N) and Myko Philip (15A01B)

Until the ban imposed just this morning, allegedly after a student fractured his/her collarbone, RI was in the grip of the Ice Bucket Challenge fever. The premise of the challenge, propagated by the ALS Association, is simple: if you are challenged, you are obligated to pour a bucket of ice water over your head, failing which you must make a $100 donation to a charity focused on helping those who afflicted by ALS. The campaign has been so effective that as of three days ago, the Association has received a staggering 1900% boost in funding from last year’s relatively paltry $2.1m. It is mildly comforting to know we have not forgotten the outside world in spite of the imminent major exams. In fact, one of us was challenged over the weekend by a friend – this, of course, amidst the general bangarang that is CCAs challenging entire other CCAs. But fun though this may seem, it might be prudent and worthwhile to take a step back and consider the broader implications of the challenge.

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Go Without, Look Within: Hair for Hope 2014

Reading Time: 4 minutes

By Michelle Zhu (15A01B), Valerie Chee (15S07B)
Photos by Gabrielle Jeyaseelan (15S06A), Teri Tan (15A01E)

For the next few weeks or so, do not be surprised to witness groups of RI students, girls and boys alike, roaming the campus with starkly shaven heads. On 18th July, RI hosted their Hair for Hope satellite event 2014 in the ISH with over 200 courageous student volunteers shaving to support children with cancer. This year, Community Advocate has put substantial effort into bringing out the event theme of “Go Without, Look Within”, a slogan that connected deeply with many of the shavees by reinforcing the purpose of the ceremonial shaving, namely to find an intrinsic purpose in shaving strong enough that you would relinquish material effects in order to stand up for this common cause.  Even as our shavees did the deed with their individual motivations, the event held an unusually personal significance to the school; that of supporting Mr Chan Poh Meng’s current battle with cancer, as mentioned by Mr Mag in his speech during the opening ceremony.

Ceremonial shavees Shermaine Ng and her father
Ceremonial shavees Shermaine Ng and her father

From the beginning of the event, the deep sentiment behind the event was further emphasized as the ceremonial shavees each shared their personal motivations for shaving. For Daniel Sitoh, Chairperson of the Raffles Community Advocates, it was for a deeply personal reason– as a tribute to his grandfather, whom he was close to, passed away from cancer last year. For Shermaine Ng, shaving was about courage. Like many others, she’d skirted the matter and eventually backed out for the past two years. “It might just be hair, but you will hesitate anyway”, she shared in her speech. And indeed, for girls especially, walking around with a bald head inevitably draws stares from passing strangers, as Shermaine bears testament to in her blog. In fact, managing to stand strong against this often disconcerting attention fulfills the intention of challenging the social stigma childhood cancer patients face.

As the event carried on, students began to stream into the hall, and we got comments from several members of the crowd. Unsurprisingly, shavees cited a wide range of reasons for their participation– from personal reasons to raising funds and awareness. It is interesting to note that while some shavees believed awareness was the main purpose of the event, others were doubtful of the capability of the event in raising awareness but instead shaved for the funding it would provide for cancer children. One such person was Naresh Manoj (15A01B), who shared that he did not personally believe in advocacy, instead doing it for the purpose of raising funds, although he fully supported CA in their aim of raising awareness. Even within CA itself there seemed to be disagreement — on the one hand, head of organising team Tan Hui Ying (15S03I) remarked that “It [shaving] is about being ambassadors and the publicity”, and that “behind the hype there are real stories to tell”. On the other hand, the CA teacher I/C, Ms Ruth Ong held that “shaving is good for your own soul, but is ultimately limited in helping the cancer patients”, instead granting greater importance to the concrete support given by fundraising.

Boldly bald
Boldly bald

At first glimpse, an event where the organisers cannot single out their main goal seems to be cause for alarm. Yet does it really matter that the personal motivations of the various stakeholders may differ? As we spoke to several of the event organisers, we uncovered an especially compelling sense of their conviction in their event slogan, “Go Without, Look Within”. At the end of the day, the message to take away is that we shouldn’t shave for the sake of shaving. Ms Ong shared with us her personal thoughts on how shavees should really be making an effort to collect money instead of shaving with a (mostly) blank card, and how some of these people may be “too occupied with looking good rather than being good”. Shaving is after all something that draws attention to the self, with eyes lingering on the egg-shaped heads longer than one would expect, to the extent that it sometimes becomes a “cool” thing to do. Something that perturbed us was how many shavees were instantly surrounded by friends clamouring to touch their newly bald heads and take numerous selfies. This seemed to place the spotlight on the perceived courage of the shavees rather than the gravity of the issue, and begged the question of whether it was more a publicity stunt than anything else. Thankfully, only 27 out of 237 shavees this year came in with the minimum $20 donation required to participate, an optimistic indication that most students registered with the best of intentions.

HFH supporters
HFH supporters

The theme of “Go Without, Look Within” is one that applies to more than this event alone– looking within each of us and doing what is good for yourself and others. Shaving, as with any other good act, should never be for the sake of looking good. To borrow Ms Ong’s words, the focus of any altruistic action should not be looking good, but being good — reflected by the organising team’s attempt to shift the focus away from the image of baldness, and more towards inculcating the spirit of advocacy in the shavees. Beyond all the hype that comes with such an event, we must not forget the reason for shaving. Whether your personal motivation for shaving is advocacy, raising funds, or most heart-rendingly, personal experience, it ultimately serves one purpose: to show the children that they are not alone.

Hair for Hope 2014 at RI has raised over $40,000 to date. If you would like to contribute to helping the childhood cancer patients, you can donate to HFH here. Donations close in September 2014.