‘KBC is not a sab-janta quiz’

Change is constant Bachchan the best Prep preach Last lap

By In the city to talk about the return of the most watched show on Indian television, quizmaster and show producer, SIDDHARTHA BASU, tells Pratim D. Gupta about the changes, how to prepare, and why no one can replace Amitabh Bachchan as host
  • Published 22.06.05

He?s single-handedly masterminded the return of the star of the millennium. Yet, quizmaster extraordinaire Siddhartha Basu chooses to stay in the background when it comes to the Amitabh Bachchan-hosted Kaun Banega Crorepati. With the second edition set to kick off on August 5, he came down to the city to talk about the return of the most watched Indian television show ever.

Change is constant

The change is mostly in value-addition. The level of access ? the registration for the show ? has become much easier thanks to the upgradation and improvement in telephony. Also it has got a lot more inexpensive with people needing just two pulses (Rs 2.40) to register.

Then there is a lot more interactivity across the board. Viewers sitting at home can answer the question and win prizes up to Rs 1 lakh. They can also play Fastest Finger First along with the contestants. You can also go directly to the show by just one SMS in a special process called Jump The Key.

As far as the contest prize money goes, of course, it has been doubled to Rs 2 crore. We have also added a fourth lifeline called Flip The Question, which a contestant can avail only once between the sixth and fifteenth questions, where the given question is changed.

Bachchan the best

In the first edition, Bachchan was obviously going through a slump with lots of his films flopping in that period. But now he is on the very top of his filmi career. I expect more range and experience in his conduct. He should feel freer than last time.

During the shoots last time, Bachchan genuinely enjoyed meeting people. This time, too, he is really charged up and raring to go. We have had preparatory meetings and he is unremitting in his preparations. He will look different on the show with a new design to his wardrobe.

Bachchan is quite remarkable. Although Celedor ? the parent company with the rights to Who Wants To Be A Millionaire ? wouldn?t formally say that he is the best, they do rate Bachchan as one of the five best out of the 60-80 hosts of the show across the world. He has great sense of drama and can speak both English and Hindi brilliantly. It is the little things which he brings to the show, which matters most to me ? the gravitas, the weight, the presence.

Maybe someone like Shah Rukh Khan would have made a very lively host but no one can do it like Bachchan. I can?t think of a better KBC host than him.

Prep preach

The total prize money given out last time was Rs 26 crore in the 300-odd episodes we had, with the average payout per episode being around Rs 9-10 lakh. This time we are expecting the numbers to double as the total prize money has doubled.

We want the contestants to come more prepared. They should take more trouble to win. It?s great for people to come to visit Bachchan, come to visit Mumbai, have a nice time and enjoy but they should make more efforts to win.

The questions of KBC will be very sporting as always. It?s a janta quiz, not a sab-janta one. In fact, it?s much more difficult to set questions for the show than for Mastermind. To do well on the show, you have to be a good reader, reading everything from books to newspapers to magazines. You don?t have to be encyclopedically well-informed. But you should be able to distinguish fact from myth and be able to recall when you want to recall.

Last lap

We have styled the show as the last chance to win so much money. The STAR authorities can press more buttons for more editions but for me, these 85 episodes are the final episodes for Kaun Banega Crorepati. We are also planning half-a-dozen special episodes where celebrities will sit on the hot seat. Last time Bachchan had reservations about bringing son Abhishek on the show. This time, he shouldn?t mind.

host-speak around the world

Alain Simons (Belgium): It’s a pleasure to create tension without even speaking. It is the first time in my life that I use silence during a show.

Chris Tarrant (UK): It is like a soap opera. You genuinely care about the contestants as they climb their way up the money tree.

Victor Gu Chian Peow (Malaysia): You get to share the joy and disappointment of the participants. It can be educational and entertaining.

Christopher de Leon (Phillipines): I wasn’t sure I would be able to do a good job. But then I thought, it's about time I try something new.

Amitabh Bachchan (India): Everyone — my wife, son — said, I was making the biggest mistake of my life. It’s turned to be the best mistake.