Indians are usually attuned to the successes of their compatriots abroad. But apart from a few brief newspaper articles, at least one short TV news segment and a few blog mentions, the reedy 17-year-old with the unsteady voice is a virtual unknown here.
One reason is that the show is broadcast a day late in India, and on an English-language channel that attracts relatively few viewers in this country of 1.1 billion.
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"He's also an object of ridicule," said Amit Varma, who runs the popular India Uncut blog.
Malakar's success with viewers, who vote by phone or text message for their favorite performers, has come despite withering criticism from the three "Idol" judges. The irascible Simon Cowell has even threatened to quit if the native of Federal Way, Wash., wins the contest.
Malakar survived elimination on Wednesday night to make it to the final eight. If he can hold on for a few more weeks, he might see his fame spread here, Varma said.
"Even if the guy's really an American, it will be projected by the media here as an Indian doing well in the world," he said. "They'll make a big deal about it."
As for the theory that Indian call center operators are phoning in votes for Malakar: Most workers have calls automatically dialed for them by computers. They couldn't even call next door if they wanted to.