It was what you would expect the opening of Indian television’s most enduring property to be like: a stirring, fast-paced, no-fuss episode, hosted by Amitabh Bachchan in his by now iconic turn as quizmaster.
Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC), based on a hit British TV show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? that created television history when it was launched in July 2000, began its sixth season on Sony with a cheerful young Sikh contestant from Punjab, Surtej Singh, who won more than six lakh rupees.
He was followed by Manish Soni from Rajasthan who said that he gave up working as a jewellery craftsman to study further, underscoring the show’s new tagline Sirf Gyaan Hi Aapko Aapka Haq Dilata Hai, never mind class, religion, gender or caste.
This is a direct step up from Season Five’s Koi Insaan Chhota Nahin Hota tagline. That season’s success was mostly attributed to its ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ effect –the show’s ability to transform the lives of ordinary Indians, best symbolized by the five crore winner, Sushil Kumar, a poor computer operator from Motihari.
Season Six’s first episode had all the KBC hallmarks – Bachchan’s warm banter with the contestants, the slow coiling of tension as the game moves into higher prize money zones - the maximum being Rs. 5 crore - but most of all, the emotional connect with contestants from all over India, through their personal videos, shot in their hometowns, and through Bachchan’s gentle probing. Perhaps that’s why the episode featured previous winners too, including Sushil Kumar, even as Bachchan pointed out how their lives had changed after KBC and how they had become overnight celebrities.
Emotion, the aam aadmi, life-transforming prize money, Bachchan’s star power – can this cocktail fail to give high TRPs?