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'Your time starts now'! The return of Kaun Banega Crorepati
It will gladden the hearts of all GK buffs, that the 9th season of Kaun Banega Crorepati will shortly be aired by Sony, on the evening of 28th August 2017.

As an active participant of quiz shows up to my university days, I would like to recollect the various shows we have enjoyed with rapt attention and involvement.

The first time I heard of 'Q and A' shows, was on BBC's popular radio and later TV program called – 'Brains Trust' in 40s and 50s. It was different from the current shows. Here the audience asked questions to a panel of august personalities like scientists and philosophers. With such high brow panellists, BBC never imagined that it would become so popular with the common folk! This can be judged by the fact, that it was specially beamed to war zones to boost the morale of fighting forces.

In the 70s, we remained glued on to the immensely popular 'Cadbury Bournvita Quiz Contest', hosted charmingly by Derek O'Brian. Usually, each episode used to have a guest appearance by the likes of sarod maestro, Amjad Ali Khan. Popular Derek went on to compile a host of corporate quizzes for the Economic Times. It never occurred to us that this suave quiz master, would one day fall under the spell of Mamata Didi and that he would land up as a Rajya Sabha member, from Bengal!

Enter Siddarth Basu and Kaun Banega Crorepati:

In the 80s, a new affable quiz master Siddarth Basu burst on to DD screens with his 'Quiz Time', which garnered a lot of followers. Then came his very demanding quiz show 'Mastermind India' adapted from a BBC format, While it left the choice of subject to the contestant, the questions could also be around the trivia associated with that subject. Asked in rapid fire style, even the pleasant Basu assumed an intimidating posture of a judicial inquisitor. The quiz was not for the faint hearted and demanded a depth of scholarship from the contestant.

When in the year 2000, Star Plus announced the launch of Kaun Banega Crorepati with Amitabh Bachchan as the anchor; it was a big game changer for the quizzing industry. Large audiences drawn from all over the country, huge spectacular sets and sound effects, a larger than life anchor and undreamt of prize money! Personally, for Amitabh Bachchan it came as an upturn to his sagging film career, from which he has never looked back again.

After watching the very first show and reading the credits, I realised that once again it was Siddarth Basu who was the producer-director of KBC. A big quantum jump in his fortunes, too. Suddenly, competing clones also appeared. But they could just not make the cut!

KBC was a franchise of the UK's popular show, 'Who Wants To Be A Millionaire'. Having watched both the British and American versions, one can say that KBC is a great improvisement on the originals, with much greater audience involvement. Amitabh Bachchan in his indomitable style added a human and a humane touch to the session, as compared to the originals. Even the losers would have gone back home, with warm memories of the interaction – "Yahan Sirf Paise Nahi, Dil Bhi Jeete Jate Hain".  

Starting with prize money of Rs 1 crore, by the 7th season, it had escalated to Rs 7 crore. KBC also spawned a lot of business opportunities: Books containing question and answers of different seasons became best sellers. Also, collections of the motivational mini-sermons given by Bachchan at the beginning of each episode came out in book form. Classes for preparing the KBC aspirants sprung up. Where big money is involved, scams are bound to be sniffed in the air! There were accusations, that certain episodes had been fixed! A bright spark worked out a computational model to show, that his accusations were well founded.

How KBC led to the Oscar winning block buster, 'Slumdog Millionaire':

Once I innocently bought a slim novel, not because I had heard of the author, but because I was intrigued by the cryptically short name of the novel. It was just 'Q & A' by Vikas Swarup.

Currently, the Indian High Commissioner to Canada, Vikas Swarup is a career diplomat during the day and a prolific writer by night. He had heard that the game show, 'Who Wants To Be A Millionaire' was once won by cheating by Charles William Ingram, a former British Army major. This prompted him to spin his novel around the famous quiz show.

I was fascinated by his idea of writing an intriguing novel, based entirely on questions and answers. Interestingly, the novel was turned into a Broadway musical. As the story goes, Danny Boyle, a British film director happened to watch the musical in New York, and decided to make a big time movie based on the novel. But he made many changes to the original.

Vikas Swarup narrates that his debut book has been substantially changed, for the film's storyline. The title 'Q & A' was changed to 'Slumdog Millionaire'.

The author had given the lead character (Dev Patel) a composite name of Ram Mohammed Thomas, to signify that he could be any poor Hindu, Muslim or a Christian boy. But the script writer thought that for better filmy effect – the name should be Jamal, a 'Muslim whose mother is killed by a Hindu mob'! By some queer logic, "It's more dramatically focused as a result, perhaps more politically correct."

By the same logic, RK Narayan's celebrated novel 'Guide' whose locale was a fictitious Malgudi in south India, was shifted to Jaipur and story also turned topsy turvy. That's the magic of script writing they say!

KBC has made many crorepatis and the movie 'Slumdog Millionaire' has turned those associated with its making, also into millionaires, but what about Vikas Swarup?

"I can't complain. I am a millionaire, but not in dollar terms," says Vikas stoically.

Let's see who the lucky and the plucky winner will be in the 9th season!

Never having the guts to sit in the glare on that hot seat, I console myself by remembering these lines from 'The Waste Land':

"Where is the wisdom, we have lost in knowledge?
 Where is the knowledge, we have lost in information?" -  TS Eliot

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