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Disbelief, tears, a life transformed on KBC

Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC) had its first Rs 5 crore winner this week. Over the course of two episodes, Sushil Kumar from Motihari in Bihar won more money than anyone has ever won on Indian television. Poonam Saxena writes.

tv Updated: Nov 04, 2011 23:40 IST
Poonam Saxena

Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC) had its first Rs 5 crore winner this week. Over the course of two episodes, Sushil Kumar from Motihari in Bihar won more money than anyone has ever won on Indian television. Since the channel (Sony) had publicised the fact much in advance, most of us knew what would happen when we tuned in and saw Sushil Kumar in the hot seat. And yet, the episode was worth watching. Mostly, I guess it was the anticipation — what were the questions going to be like? (Everyone who watches the show tries to answer the questions themselves — that’s one of the charms of KBC — it’s another matter that most of us don’t get beyond the first five). I guess we also wondered what that final moment would be like (since none of us is likely to win five crore or even an economy airline ticket in any contest, we may as well enjoy the sight of someone else winning the big bucks).

And also because Sushil Kumar was not a boring candidate. He smiled a lot (somewhat bashfully). He talked a lot. He explained how he’d been watching KBC from the time the show started, initially at a neighbour’s place, when he couldn’t afford a TV set at home, and later in his own house. He confessed that not a single day had passed when he hadn’t thought of being on KBC in front of Shri Amitabh Bachchan. He said he’d always thought that if anything could transform his life, it would be KBC.

He was also fidgety and restless — quite unlike his friend in the ‘phone a friend’ lifeline. (Sushil Kumar decided to use this lifeline when he had already won a crore and was on the R5 crore question. Amitabh called the friend and identified himself. The friend replied stolidly, “Ji.” The Big B said Sushil Kumar wanted to ask him a question as part of his ‘phone a friend’ lifeline. “Ji” said the friend. Then Amitabh revealed that Sushil had already won one crore. “Ji,” said the friend. Amitabh paused and then remarked dryly, “Aapke mitra ka kafi shaant svabhav hai (Your friend has a rather peaceful temperament).”

But Sushil, whose current income is Rs 6,000 a month, more than made up for his phlegmatic friend the moment he won the jackpot. With five crore in his hand, his life had changed forever. It was difficult not to be moved by his emotions — veering from disbelief to tears to a sort of uncomprehending euphoria.

The point of this longish recap is to try and understand the show’s appeal. KBC’s rhythm — from the question and answer rounds to the interaction with the contestants to Amitabh’s little homilies, not to speak of his fine Hindi — is seductive. And in this particular season (as has been mentioned before), the decision to field small town candidates with their own powerful dreams and aspirations, was a master stroke. Such men and women comprise the bulk of TV audiences these days anyway. In the Sushil Kumar episode, Amitabh spoke eloquently of the “new India” — and though KBC’s new focus was probably done keeping in mind the challenge of ratings — it was hard not to be touched by many of the stories we saw, specially one like Sushil Kumar’s.

KBC was the show that pulled Star Plus out of the doldrums more than ten years ago. It has done the same for Sony this year. But what will happen once this season ends (which it soon will in a few weeks)?