They locked their final answers and waited with bated breath for Computerji to tell them their fate. And then there was a star burst. Celebrity status. National respect. Pots of money.
It’s been 14 years since the TV quiz show Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC) first held India spellbound. The show changed the way we saw television. Its host, Amitabh Bachchan, defined how Indian TV hosts should be. And the prize money – a dazzling Rs 1 crore 14 years ago, and a mindblowing Rs 5 crore now – changed the lives of its winners.
Or did it? Did the money really make the winners’ lives better? Did it buy them happiness?
“For a year after the win, I lived the life of a rock star”
Harshvardhan Nawathe, 40, winner, season 1
Also read: Amitabh thrilled to have multiple crorepatis
Fortunately, he comes from a middle-class family with practical values, so Nawathe used his prize money to further his education, finishing an MBA from a university in Edinburgh, UK. He also bought his first car (a Maruti Esteem) and a house in Mumbai.
“I had earned every bit of it, so I was proud of it,” he says. That was 14 years ago. Nawathe, now married, with two children, works with Mahindra & Mahindra and lives the regular corporate life. But the fame of being the winner of the first KBC crore hasn’t diminished. Neither has the glory of being known as a man who made money purely because of his knowledge and IQ. “That made all the difference,” says Nawathe.
“The money bought me my dreams – a big house and my own fashion label”
Sanmeet Kaur, 38, winner, season 6
“That left me very depressed,” she says.
It was on her husband’s suggestion that she started tutoring children. And, because she was a general-knowledge enthusiast herself, as part of the learning chart she’d created for her pupils, she urged them to watch KBC.
“The show was so good,” says Kaur. “I seemed always to be learning from the show.”
One day, on a whim while watching TV, Kaur sent an SMS answering the question asked as an entry qualifier for KBC. The next thing she knew, she was on the hot seat. And she won Rs 5 crore. “I was sure I could win about Rs 25-30 lakhs, but not more,” says Kaur.
Kaur made history as the first woman to win Rs 5 crore. And the money bought her all her dreams. A bigger house in Mumbai with all the amenities was her first buy. But she also opened her own fashion studio.
What makes KBC work?
“That was really my dream come true,” says Kaur. “I started my own label, Phir Desi Fashion, in partnership with an old friend. Though I am in Mumbai, the studio and manufacturing unit are in Delhi. My friend manages those while I concentrate on exhibitions and taking the brand forward.”
For Kaur, life in the past year has been a roller coaster ride. From being a middle-class homemaker in a conservative family, she is now a heavily socialising entrepreneur. Someone even her in-laws are proud of. “They think I know it all!” she says, laughing.
“I could get my partially blind daughter treated”
Taj Mohammed Rangrez, 40 winner, season 6
“That Rs 1 crore gave me a new life, self-belief and confidence”
Rahat Taslim, 37, winner, season 4
She was an ordinary homemaker from a conservative, lower-middle-class Muslim household, decently happy, living with her husband and two children in Giridih, Jharkhand. That wasn’t what she’d wanted to be however. Taslim was studying to appear for her medical entrance exams when her family decided it would be better for her to marry, and that was the end of her career aspirations.
But though Taslim uncomplainingly managed her household on her husband’s meagre income as a government employee, she knew she was meant for bigger things. So when KBC started, she was hooked.
“I loved the show. It wasn’t just the big money. It was like going back to my studies,” she says. Always a good student, Taslim decided to participate in KBC herself.
She did. And she won. She used the prize money of Rs 1 crore to buy herself a new life. A risk taker to the core, after setting aside some money for her children’s education, Taslim invested a big chunk of the prize money in a business of her own, even though her husband and family were against it.
“They said I wouldn’t be able to manage a business. But I was adamant.”
And so Taslim opened a garment showroom in a newly opened mall in Giridih in 2012. Though still in its teething stage, the business is doing fairly well. “I used my prize money to prove myself and I succeeded.”
The Rs 1 crore has given Taslim the life she wanted. But more important, she says, it gave her confidence and self-belief. “That was my greatest win.”
From HT Brunch, July 27
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