There was a moment during The Apprentice season finale the other week that summed up precisely what's going on in pop culture these days. Donald Trump was musing about who to give the coveted job to, flip-flopping between a terrifyingly competent, karate-kicking corporate lawyer named Stefani and an eager-beaver Asian fellow named James, who had as much hair product as he had smarts. Trump, in making his decision, took an ad hoc survey of the contestants who had been fired in the process, asking them all the loaded question: 'If you were me, who would you hire?' It was at that point that Surya Yalamanchili, who had been booted off weeks earlier, quipped to Trump - and I'm paraphrasing here - that 'Sanjaya needs a job.' While his joke got a few weak laughs, it underscored something much more pertinent: Sanjaya Malakar, the 17-year old wannabe who became a crucial sub-plot in the drama of American Idol, had become a cause celebre, a misunderstood, often-derided young chap whose dreams of stardom had been crushed just days earlier. For anyone who has ever watched the singing competition, with its routine weekly eliminations, being dumped from the show is simply part of the experience. Certainly, for the final 12 contestants, all but one of whom will be asked to go home, it's part of the journey. There's a post-dismissal interview, mention of it in the entertainment shows and newspaper columns the next day, and then everyone moves on. But not in Malakar's case. Instead, the sliver of a boy, with his wispy voice, wavy hair and snow white smile, seems to have become even more of a celebrity since he was kicked off the show a couple of weeks ago. He made the front page of the Los Angeles Times a few days later and he has been on every talk show, including Letterman, where he was given the honour of reading out the host's famous top 10 list. Since his dismissal, he has been parodied, maligned, celebrated, teased, embraced and pursued by both the media and the public at large. There's even a Sanjaya Malakar entry on Wikipedia, for heaven's sake. Winners of reality shows, as Stefani became, get less publicity than the loser that Malakar turned out to be. Which begs the question, what is it about the lithe, dainty singer that's so captivating? And, more importantly, is it something he can parlay into a career when even the most talented ex-Idol contestants are having dubious success? I have to confess, I was not a 'fanjaya' like the millions of people who supposedly voted for him each week, keeping him Idol long past his sell-by date, while worthier contestants were given the boot. It was widely reported that a website founded by shock-jock Howard Stern, votefortheworst.com, was responsible for Malakar's longevity. He was, after all, arguably the worst of the lot, and there were apparently enough cynical people out there to garner him plenty of votes. There was also an amusing rumour circulating that call centre workers in India were jamming the phone lines, registering their support for him. Indeed, at one point, I flirted with the idea that the only reason that Malakar was still hanging on was because the entire population of the subcontinent was supporting him. In that case I should have joined them. The boy is, after all, of Indian origin (his father is Bengali, his mother Italian). When he and his sister initially tried out and were both put through to the next round, I cheered them on. A fellow countryman (or, in this case, countryboy) was making headway in a contest that had not seen any Indians do very well. But my support rapidly diminished. All those poor song choices. All those bizarre hairstyles. All that refusal to power up his voice. I didn't get it. It got to a point where I was almost tempted to join the woman who promised to go on a hunger strike until he was terminated. Every week, as I waited for that harbinger of bad tidings, Ryan Seacrest, to deliver his verdict, I hoped for Sanjaya's name to be called. And each week he hung on. When the blow finally came, he erupted into tears and I felt rather bad for him. But not for long. Malakar had already mapped out his future. He claims to want to be an entertainer, and that he's open to suggestion on such career paths as dancing, singing and modelling (I can just see the Times Square billboard now). And still it goes on. On the last episode of Idol, the big, celebrity-stuffed charity gala, there were at least three references to Sanjaya. He sat in the audience and laughed good-naturedly at the ribbing taking place at his expense. As he said to judge Simon Cowell a couple of weeks before he was shown the door: 'Welcome to the world of Sanjaya!' It's a greeting we should all probably get used to.