Architect of questions
Which world famous monument is situated on Matsuki Miyazaki Marg? “Taj Mahal,” answers an enthusiastic participant on Kunal Savarkar’s quiz show. “Well this was an easy guess as there was a tell-tale clue in the question. Marg is an Indian term and Taj Mahal is undeniably the monument that people across the world identify India with,” explains Savarkar.
Director of Xpress Minds Edutainment and Quiz Craft, Savarkar believes that every quiz contest should have some interesting takeaways for the participants. “This can be as simple as learning about a new technique of filtering wrong options in a multiple choice question or learning about a completely unknown fact about one’s city or immediate environment,” he elaborates.
Sharing some tips, the quizmaster adds, “The participants and audience should be able to identify with the questions. So it makes sense to have a few questions that are specific to the country or city in which the quiz is being conducted. And these questions become interesting if they go beyond obvious facts. For instance, one of the questions in a quiz that I had conducted to mark the 375th Anniversary of Madras was: Who is missing in this list of siblings- Chandrika Tandon, — — and Narayan Krishnamurthy? I asked the audience to fill in the blank with the name of a famous ‘daughter’ of the city. The answer, cracked by most members of the diverse audience, was Indira Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo!”
The choice of words in a question can also make it interesting or boring. For instance: which evergreen actor’s first film was the 1946 release Hum Ek Hain? is a typical example of an interesting question. The answer is easy for those who spotted the word ‘evergreen’- who else but Dev Anand!
Savarkar, who has conducted over a 1,000 quizzes in the course of the last 15 years, is incidentally a qualified architect who has worked in projects across India, Europe and Africa. Talking about his journey into the quiz world, he says, “I grew up in Delhi and did my schooling from St Columba’s. History was one of my favourite subjects and I was always fascinated by encyclopaedias and knowledge-oriented books. But I did not have the foggiest notion that I would venture into the domain of quizzing. Given my family background of experts in building design and construction, I decided to become an architect.”
After completing a BArch from the School of Planning and Architecture in 1996, Savarkar worked for a year in Thailand. “Now when I look back, I realise that though I found my work satisfying, it did not complete me. Something was missing and I returned to India and enrolled for a master’s course in BITS Pilani in 1997. All this while I was also pursuing my career as an architect,” he shares. The first turning point really happened in the year 2000 when Savarkar happened to work with Siddhartha Basu as content editor for the iconic television quiz show Kaun Banega Crorepati. “Researching on the KBC question answer format was a lesson in precision. In the 300 episodes of this show, there wasn’t a single spelling mistake. From Basu, I also learnt the importance of rehearsing for mock rounds,” he recounts.
According to this architect-turned-quizmaster, the years that followed his two-year stint with KBC were the busiest years of his life. From 2002 to 2011, he was straddling two professions. In his words, “While I was working full-time as an architect, I had started my own quiz company and started conducting quiz shows for institutions, corporate houses and diplomatic missions.” Savarkar is the only quizmaster to have conducted a quiz show at the National Defence Academy. He says, “In 2011 most of the international architecture projects that I was working on got stalled due to the outbreak of the civil war in Libya. Meanwhile I had bagged some challenging quiz projects. I realised then that my future was in quiz.”
A visionary in his own right, Savarkar feels that participating in a quiz contest can sharpen one’s analytical skills and the ability to make logical deductions and inferences. He conducts quiz workshops which coach people on critical decision-making skills. “In today’s world we are all facing an overwhelming load of information. The challenge is to filter this everyday maze of information into clear categories like permanent (landmark) and temporary (transient) or relevant and irrelevant. My workshops help people overcome this challenge.” While the content and knowledge quotient is Kunal’s forte, the workshops are structured by his wife Seema Chari, a polygot and teacher trainer. Savarkar has hosted some of India’s leading quiz shows including the INTACH (Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage) quiz and ‘Sawaal Dilli Ka’. He is now conducting the prestigious ten-city Sweden India Nobel Memorial Quiz Series for college students, organised by the Embassy of Sweden.
Participating in a quiz contest can make you a sharper person. It improves your analytical skills and ability to make logical deductions and inferences -- Kunal Savarkar, quiz master