The Question Man

Bhaskar Jyoti Dey talks about the process behind putting together the Kaun Banega Crorepati questionnaires.

Written by Dipti Nagpaul D'souza | Published: October 11, 2013 2:28:30 am

Every time a fresh game begins on Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC),three characters take centrestage — the contestant,the host Amitabh Bachchan and the all-knowing ‘Computer Ji’. The dignified Bachchan often makes this third,inanimate element appear all-powerful — the one who can decide a contestant’s fate by throwing up questions that either make them return home richer or with the damning feeling of having lost an opportunity.

‘Computer Ji’,however,wouldn’t be half as knowledgeable if it weren’t for Bhaskar Jyoti Dey and his team who put together the vast database of questions and their answers that the system randomly chooses. As the content head at Big Synergy,Dey is responsible for every question asked as part of KBC,including the ones in the registration stage,in “Ghar baithe jeeto jackpot” contest. “The task of putting together a questionnaire doesn’t begin each time a new season is planned — it’s a year-long activity. Each day new questions are being added to the database,” explains the 39-year-old. Headquartered in Delhi,the 10-member core team is supplemented by a number of “contributors”. “The KBC audience is in the Hindi heartland,so our contributors are accordingly chosen — they are doctors,engineers,professors,journalists,historians and sometimes,even students,” says Dey,who travels to Mumbai each time an episode is shot.

The first step towards preparing a questionnaire is to calculate the size of the database which ‘Computer Ji’ can dip into. The ratio,says Dey,is 1:3. So if they need one thousand questions for a season,they keep handy at least three thousand. Categories of questions are then decided — history,current affairs,science and sports among others. Mythology and Bollywood are especially popular with the audience.

“The idea is to not only come up with a question but also ensure it teases the contestant and entertains the audience. So while one can ask a straightforward question like ‘Who won the 1983 cricket World Cup?’,it is much more fun to ask ‘Which were the four teams that made it to the semi-finals of the 1983 cricket World Cup?’,” he says.

Each question is also accompanied by an explanation of the right answer,the references used and at least two independent sources to corroborate its validity. This is followed by another round of internal checks to avoid error. “A time-bound question is never encouraged,such as who is the chief minister of Maharashtra,because answers in such cases could change by the time it appears on the show,” he says. The team also brings in external auditors to verify the validity of the answers. However,access to complete database remains only with Big Synergy’s head,Siddhartha Basu,Dey and one more member of the team.

Although such stringent checks are in place,Dey — who has been working on KBC since 2001 — admits that one erroneous question went on air. “It was back in the days when the show aired on Star Plus that a question was asked and we later realised it could have more than one correct answer,” he recounts. The team,backed by several proofs including Encyclopedia Britannica,had slotted the answer to ‘Which Vitamin is created within the body?’ as Vitamin D. But the contestant,a doctor,upon being booted out for the “wrong answer” challenged the outcome. After a thorough look into the matter,the contestant was recalled on the show.

Dey says that the KBC questionnaires need to cut across masses. “It has to work as much for someone who serves tea,as for an IIT graduate,” he says.

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