There was a time when we addressed the year 2000 as Y2K and this Y2K sounded like the promise to a better world. Though we now know that progress comes at its own speed and all that changes with a new year is a calendar but back then, the start of a new century sounded like the start of something bigger.
In the year 2000, television saw a massive face-lift. Ekta Kapoor became the queen of television but there was something that could trump the saga of Virani family and as surprising as it may sound, it was a show about GK.
The first season ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati’ premiered in the year 2000 and along with “creating history” with contestants like Harshvardhan Nawathe, it certainly created a legacy for Indian television. With its easy to understand format and strong emphasis on general knowledge, this show became the glue that joined families at 9 pm every night. From the ever-occupied mother who sped from the kitchen to the television set to answer every question to the young child in the family who still had GK as a subject in school, this show covered all its bases. And it was in this unity, that KBC found a sweet spot that Ramanand Sagar found with Ramayan in the 80s.
The show celebrated knowledge in all its glory. It gave people a sense of confidence that if you are aware and knowledgeable, the world will celebrate you. And this celebration didn’t come empty handed, winning a crore looked like a real possibility. The geeks had a way of cashing in on their knowledge and this was the way they could do it with all the applause. No matter what social or economic class one came from, in the eyes of ‘computer ji’, all were equal. The show inspired people to read more just so one could keep up with Amitabh Bachchan’s questions.
KBC told us that not knowing was not cool and had millions across the country struggling to get to the target, the hot seat.
Sadly, those days are a part of sweet nostalgia now.
The show is currently in its 9th season but the love affair it once had with gyaan has been over for a while now. The two have been keeping up a marriage that has a lot at stake but we all know that the show’s obsession for sob stories has superseded its love for gyaan.
In the past few seasons, a major shift can be observed in the what we earlier called a quiz show and this came in when KBC felt like it had to compete with the Indian Idols of the TV world. Every contestant that came on the show had a back story to tell and more often than not, it explored the emotional aspects of their life. The quiz show turned into a reality show with a few questions sprinkled in just to keep the format intact. This change in gear from celebrating knowledge to celebrating people was noticeable and the audience could figure that out. Even in the current season, the questions and the lifelines exist but not much time is spent on them. The real drama on the show arises when someone narrates a tragic tale and the producers of the show emphasise on it by playing Black’s theme music in the background. We’ve seen various versions of these on every talent show but wasn’t KBC much more than that?
Call it over-dosage of human interest stories, but the audience doesn’t shed tears in front of their television sets as often as they used to. In fact, we just sit through them waiting for the next question to pop up on the screen. ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati’ was for the aam janta who could vicariously live through the contestants that got to the glorious hot seat. The aspirational chair gave the message that no matter where you are in life but if you can answer 15 GK questions, you can potentially win big money for it.
KBC still boasts of high ratings but let’s be honest here, it’s not like Indian TV has such gems that the show is competing against. On one hand, there’s the ever voyeuristic ‘Bigg Boss’ that feeds on our cheap thrills and on the other hand, we have the world of desi fantasy that apparently competes with ‘Game of Thrones’. So clearly, if KBC is the front runner here, we’re not surprised.
Lock kiya jaye? has lost its charm now because we all know that after a 3-minute video explaining the struggles of a contestant, the producers will probably not kick him off in the first five questions. After a story that follows shots of tears in his eyes, the show won’t brutally eliminate him in a swift second. But such is the world of KBC now. The show that inspired the aam janta has turned into a CSR initiative with a celebrity at its helm but the glorious days when it made us pick up the newspaper will always be fondly remembered.