For more than ten years, Kaun Banega Crorepati has been a phrase most Indians are familiar with. Despite a few hurdles and change of hosts, the Indian version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire has managed to keep the magic alive in the overcrowded world of prime-time television.
Currently in its fifth season, the show hosted by Amitabh Bachchan enjoys top ratings and enjoys a 90-minute prime-time slot. From the first season, when the show aired on a rival channel and enjoyed unparalleled success, things have changed but Siddhartha Basu, the man who produces the show says that at heart, it is the human drama that endures.
Basu speaks about what it takes to create and sustain a popular reality show.
Be a game changer
“Star wanted a game changer show so they bought the format. Sony too wanted a game changer show. Nobody had done this before. This scale of production, this scale of participation, the status and charisma of the host, the size of the prize, no one had ever done that before. More than 9 crore people applied during the first season. It’s proved to be game changer both times.”
God is in the details
“We had done national quiz shows before, we knew how to put it together. We are a crew of 200, right from the beginning. Someone is handling the audience, someone is handling the contestants, someone looks after Mr Bachchan. The backend has to be good so that when you are shooting, it is seamless. Your methodology has to be very thorough. For me, God has always been in the details.”
Hit upon the magic figure
“Rupert Murdoch came up with the figure. First it was a lakh and he said no, the competitors will get to that. Then they said ten lakhs, he said no, what’s that in dollars, the competitors will get to that. What’s the next one, and to the absolute shock of all the executives he said yeah, a crore sounds right. Theoretically, once someone is in the hot seat, it’s within reach. You have a helpful host, you have life lines, you have multiple choice answers, so technically, one has a chance.”
Get an unlikely host
“At that time, it was the programme head of Star, who asked me who our host should be. I said it could be anyone. I said we’d train anyone and figure it out. He said ‘what about Amitabh Bachchan?’ My jaw dropped. He said you have to do this. On the base of it, it was a fantastic pitch. The charisma, of course, is a given. He’s one of the few all-India icons. More than that, it was with the drama, the gravitas and that he is one of the few who straddles both high culture as well as common culture.”
Have a hit movie based on your show
“As far as the second coming of KBC goes, it was helped to a large extent by the movie Slumdog Millionaire. That movie helped our cause a lot.”
It’s not about the money
“The money is important but it is not at the heart of the show. It is the human drama that is at the centre. Mr Bachchan says in one of the promos that he has felt India here. As long as you have electricity and access to a landline, you stand a chance here. Of course, the mobile revolution has changed the show drastically. Who thought that life would come to a stop, streets would be empty, it would be front page news? It was a communicator’s dream come true. Very few communicators have that experience where they know that for one hour, the nation’s heart is beating with them. I cherish that.”