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Capital's quiz whiz

He's into show business, and no, it's not of the saas-bahu kind. His is more of 'intellectual entertainment'. Adittya Nath Mubayi's life is a quest for questions. Manoj Sharma reports.

delhi Updated: Aug 19, 2012 01:34 IST
Manoj Sharma

He's into show business, and no, it's not of the saas-bahu kind.

His is more of 'intellectual entertainment'.

Adittya Nath Mubayi's life is a quest for questions. Most of them are interesting, informative and not always difficult to answer. And he makes a living out of them for Mubayi is one of the country's well-known quizmasters.

Quizzing, he says, happened by chance. Otherwise he's a trained architect and graduated from the reputed Delhi School of Planning and Architecture. As a child, Mubayi loved participating in quiz competitions.

In 1998, he was the semi-finalist in the Mastermind India hosted by the ace quizmaster Siddhartha Basu, who later offered him a job in his company.

After that, there was no looking back. Instead of designing buildings, he now 'draws out' quizzes. So far, the 40-year-old has conducted over 600 quiz shows in India and abroad for schools, colleges, corporates, pubs, foreign embassies, etc.

He was also a content editor for Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC) hosted by actor Amitabh Bachchan. He has also produced content for Smart Srimati, a popular quiz show on Doordarshan

Mubayi believes that the quizmaster is the real loser if contestants and audience fail to answer a majority of his questions. "It only means that he did not pitch the questions right. At least 50% of the questions should be answered by 50 per cent of the audience. For a quizmaster, it is important to engage and hold the audience's attention. A quizmaster has to keep in mind that everyone knows something about something," says Mubayi adding, "The idea is not to show off my knowledge, but find out what the contestants and audience know."

But then, not everyone should be able to answer every question. That way, no participant will learn anything new. "Quizzing is the game of the mind, not of memory. On occasions, the contestants and audience were able to make me drop more clues than I was supposed to about a question," says Mubayi, sitting in his Quizcraft office in south Delhi. He floated the company in 2002 with his school friend Kunal Savarkar, 38.

Presently, Mubayi is busy conducting four quiz series for college and school children across the country. Framing questions, he says, involves extensive research and analysis. His office has several wooden shelves and cabinets filled with all kinds of books: atlas, encyclopedias, reference books, novels. The walls of his office are adorned with posters of his shows.

And per day, the quizmaster and his team of eight produce on an average 50 new questions. "They relate to both popular and specialised knowledge. We make sure that our questions are original," he says.

For him, framing questions for super-specialised quiz shows, especially those on religion, is difficult. "In specialised quiz shows, the contestants have a vast knowledge of their subjects, while I may know next to nothing on them at the beginning. But on stage, a quizmaster has to have a lot of credibility. The contestants and audience should feel that he knows what he is talking about," says Mubayi, adding, "Framing questions relating to religion and the shastras is also difficult as there are no definitive sources of questions and there are a few definitive answers."

He says a good question should have a little story, should create an image and be able to trigger emotions: nostalgia, fun, happiness…

Talking about KBC, Mubayi says Bachchan is presently the number one quizmaster. His show changed the perception of public with respect to quizzing. "He was very thorough and made sure that he understood all the questions before asking them. In fact, at times he did his own research." But were there any questions he did not want to ask? "At times, he was uncomfortable with some ticklish questions relating to Bollywood, which he felt could cause offence."

And which city tops when it comes to quizzing? The 40-year-old believes that some of the best quizzers are still from Kolkata, but the city is no longer the quizzing capital of India. "Delhi and Bangalore are at the top," he says.

He says that pub and corporate quizzes are fast becoming popular as an HR activity and as a knowledge-based platform for brand promotion and marketing. "Pub quizzes too are increasingly becoming part of their events calendar. There are about 15 pub quizzes every week in Delhi," says Mubayi, who lives with his wife and two daughters in Greater Kailash.

He says his elder daughter Shireen Saudamini, 9, quizzes him a lot. "But I do not want to give her too much information. She should learn things and acquire knowledge naturally and gradually," he says.

And is there any possibility of a quiz competition between quiz masters? "They will not participate in such a competition as most quizmasters are not quizzers. And no quizmaster would want to be seen as someone not knowing an answer," Mubayi laughs.