Those were the days before quiz competitions made it to the telly. Then, the North Star Quiz happened, bringing a touch of glam to the world of trivia.
And behind it all was Dilip Chatterjee. In an age before the Masterminds and the Bournvita Quiz Contests, he, as a Bata executive behind advertising and publicity and design of retail stores, organised the first North Star Quiz in the late 1970s. After resounding success locally, the event went regional, and finally, national, running for over 15 years.
“To recognise the achievements of a man who fuelled the transition of quizzing from black-and-white to technicolour, Dilip Chatterjee was inducted into the Hall of Fame by Neil O’ Brien at The KQuiz Show in Dalhousie Institute on Republic Day,” says Q&A star Derek O’Brien.
“I was very pleasantly surprised… They had all kept it a secret till then,” smiles the 72-year-old, who is an architect by profession. Derek, who hosted the R-Day show, is his “special protegé”, Chatterjee having launched him as quizmaster of the North Star Quiz.
But Chatterjee steers clear of participating in quizzes himself. “The only people who know the answers to all those questions are those who sit behind those tables,” he laughs. The ex-student of Bengal Engineering College went on to complete his post-graduation in the US in the 1950s. After a stint in Chandigarh and Calcutta, his work with Bata took him to Canada. “I was then sent back to handle the store designs in India and the Far East,” recalls Chatterjee. So, through the 80s and most of the 90s, all Bata outlets bore his retail stamp.
His job profile also straddled advertising and marketing, which is how he became involved with promotional events. “Back then, corporate sponsorship was not as common as it is today. But I felt a quiz would be ideal to reach out to the young and the energetic,” he explains. Technological innovations, like transparencies and savvy sets, helped create a long-standing property. “Before that, I daresay the quizzes used to be very primitive,” he laughs.
During this time, Chatterjee was also active in the Advertising Club of Calcutta, and served as its president for four years, from 1988. Here, too, he started a quiz before corporate quizzing became fashionable, which continues to this day.
A few years after Chatterjee left Bata, the North Star Quiz was discontinued. “We were the first to attempt something on that scale. Seeing now how big such events have become, I think we may have missed out,” rues the father of four. But that behind him, retirement — after completing school and residential projects at Kodaikanal — promises to be relaxing. “I have toured the world and seen it all. Now I think I have earned a break,” he signs off.