So who’s your next column on?” That’s a query I hear from friends and strangers at least a dozen times through the week. Usually I’m clueless but this time I got a helpline from a young colleague.
She gave my erratic memory a gentle push by reminding me that Kaun Banega Crorepati (popularly known as KBC), modelled on the UK game show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, first entered our homes on July 3, 2000. And I remembered how streets, restaurants and even movie theatres emptied out as the clock struck 9 pm.Date with destiny Even my year-old baby turned quiet. I was later told by Star India CEO, Sameer Nair, that 25 million viewers across the country were hooked on the ‘sawaal-jawab’ (question-and-answer) show and the channel, Star Plus, escalated from No 3 to No 1 in just three days.
Amitabh Bachchan’s debut TV appearance turned out to be one more miraculous comeback at the age of 58. And made crorepatis of Harshvardhan Nawathe (first winner of KBC in 2000), Ravi Saini Ravi Saini (winner of KBC Junior in 2001) and Vijay and Arundhati Raul (winners of KBC Jodi in 2001.
On August 5, 2005, the show returned after a four-year hiatus as Kaun Banega Crorepati Dwitiya (KBC2) and double the prize money— R 2 crore. My daughter was around six at the time and as Bachchan took his seat, she would too, on the rocking chair and immediately clap little palms over her face. Initially, I thought she was scared of the genial giant but when muffled giggles emerged from behind the hands, and bright eyes peeked through the fingers, I realised she was just acting coy.
Ranjika would be transfixed on her perch for the next 60 minutes till the hooter went off. I didn’t win any crores that season — Ajay Devgn and wife Kajol were the biggest celebrity winners with R 1 crore and from the ‘aam janta’ it was Brajesh Dubey) — but I will remain eternally grateful to Mr Bachchan for inadvertently playing babysitter for an hour to a harried mommy!
The season ended abruptly when he suddenly fell ill and couldn’t complete 24 episodes from the 65 he had committed too. In August 2006, he reportedly informed Sameer Nair of his inability to continue with the show. And Shah Rukh Khan who could have been a crorepati in the first season when he was on a guest the show had the hooter not gone off, stepped in as ‘host dost’.
Badshah returns SRK was locked into the Hot Seat in December 2006. I was at one of Mumbai’s five-star hotels, its banquet hall packed to capacity with media persons who waited expectantly for Mr Khan to return to TV after 17 years. He turned up suited, booted but tie-less and announced with his trademark humour that when he was offered KBC 3, he jumped up high and hit the ceiling. “I’ve still to come down,” he deadpanned. “I love questions and answers. Maybe my next show will be a PC (press conference) show on TV.”
The third season flagged off on January 22, 2007 and ended on April 19. On October 11, 2010, KBC 4 was back. With the ‘Badshah’ making way for the ‘Shahenshah’! If SRK had pulled the Generation X to the show, then Big B brought in the great Indian unknown. Contestants from places we had never known existed turned up to serenade the 68-year-old superstar. And it was only appropriate that this time the crorepati was a woman, Rahat Taslim, a woman who ran tailoring classes in Giridh, a small village in Jharkhand.
Within days of the curtains coming down, Mr Bachchan admitted to me in the course of an interview that he would be back to host two more seasons of KBC. Not a surprise given that he still rules the TRP charts.
The promos of KBC 5 are on air, calling out to unknown heroes in what we refer to in Bollywood trade lingo as the B and C centres, as also our metros. August 15, I’m told, is D-Day. I can’t wait. This one show that brings our family together. Ma-in-law forgets her daily soaps, daughter her cartoon dose and hubby his stock updates. I join them and we all take our chances at becoming crorepatis. Ranjika has quit on her Mr Bharat pose and now even gets a few answers right. I’m suitably impressed. She points out, “Unlike you, this is my only chance to sit opposite Bachchan uncle.”
Hmmm right, but baby you’ll still have to wait six years till you turn 18!