Azmat Hussain was just 10 when he lifted the "Sa Re Ga Ma Pa L'il Champs" trophy in 2011. Eight years later, he is back on the reality TV circuit, as a contestant on season 11 of "Indian Idol".
Much has happened in between, with Azmat drowning himself in drugs and depression. His confidence is shaken, but he has promised himself not to give up in life easily, and to pursue music irrespective of his position at the ongoing singing competition on TV.
When he appeared on "Indian Idol 11", one of the show judges, playback star Neha Kakkar, quickly recognised him. His story moved her to tears, and soon love and wishes started pouring in for Azmat on social media.
"It (competing in 'Indian Idol') is very tough. I am a little scared because it's been a while since I moved away from the (music) field. I will work hard and hope to do well," Azmat told IANS.
He had a strong voice, a solid fan following and a good number of shows. So what went wrong?
"In 2011, after winning, I did quite a lot of shows. It was going fine but with age, my voice started changing. Then one day, someone took to social media to upload a video of mine singing at a show. The response from people was very bad. They said I sing very bad and that I should stop singing. I went into depression and I stopped singing," shared Azmat, whose father plays the keyboard and brother sings for a living.
After quitting music, the young artiste didn't have much to do.
"I used to stay at home. I met some people who became my friends. They were actually my enemies. I got into the wrong company. After some time, I felt it was wrong so I left everything (drugs)," he said.
Now, he is 18 and and hoping to return to the music scene with a bang.
"People are still supporting me and I don't want to disappoint them. Till last year, I didn't think of giving a reality show a shot again. Then I saw Salman Ali (his former co-contestant) on this show ('Indian Idol'). I got speakers and a microphone. After seeing the microphone, I felt motivated to sing again. So, I started singing again at home," recalled the singer.
For quite some time now, there has been a raging debate whether children should be banned from reality shows, since the pressure of harsh comments and elimination can be damaging. Does Azmat feel such shows should be banned?
"Before that show ('Sa Re Ga Ma Pa L'il Champs'), I used to sing in Jaipur. I didn't know what talent I had. When I participated in that show, a lot of people liked me. I also realised that singing was my talent. I was very famous back then. That was a good thing," said the Rajasthani artiste.
As far as pressure of being a contestant goes, he said: "It didn't affect me much because in real life, too, people either win or lose."
So, if he doesn't win "Indian Idol" this year, will he quit music again?
"No, after a long time I brought my focus back on music so in the future, whether I win or not, I will do as much as I can (in music). I won't quit. I want to compose songs," said Azmat.
What if his songs don't become hits? Azmat feels such a situation is unlikely since he has left his worse days behind. "That was my bad time. I didn't have much understanding. Later, after gaining experience I understood things. Now I am not going to give up (music) in life," said Azmat, who is training hard and also trying to imbibe the good qualities of his co-contestants.