Amitabh Bachchan will be back on television screens as Kaun Banega Crorepati 12 premieres on September 28. With new norms in place, KBC 12 will see a few changes in terms of format and set design.
The show’s director Arun Sheshkumar recently spoke exclusively to indianexpress.com about what one can expect from the season, challenges of shooting with multiple COVID-19 protocols and of course, Amitabh Bachchan.
Excerpts from the conversation:
How was it to be finally back on the set of Kaun Banega Crorepati 12?
We were all excited to come back. We wanted to make it a bigger season. Times are such that we had to take care of a lot of other things also. Honestly, mauhal badal gaya hai, but jazbaa wahi hai (the atmosphere has changed but the passion remains the same).
Tell us more about preparing for the shoot in the new normal.
All the planning actually happened during the lockdown. Every team was busy with zoom meetings, and we figured out a plan A, B and C, depending on what happens in the coming days. Since the lockdown was just getting extended, we did not have an idea, but we looked at starting shoot in September. Throughout the phase, we knew that KBC will happen. All that we needed clarity was about government regulations and new SOPs. And once things opened up, we were back.
What’s new in this season?
So for the first time, in the history of Kaun Banega Crorepati, there will be no live audience. And that decision was taken for the safety of everyone. But we have designed something keeping in mind their importance. You will get to hear them but not see them. Since the studio audience won’t be there, we had to also let go the ‘audience poll’ lifeline. Hence, ‘video-a-friend’ is back, where contestants can video call a friend for assistance. Apart from that ‘flip the question’, ’50-50′ and ‘ask the expert’ has been retained. We have a very good line up of experts this season, and we are calling them ‘intelligent experts’.
Any changes on the set?
There have been a few modifications as we wanted it look even grander and bigger. And then because of the social distancing norms, we had to create an protection area. The set has been designed really intelligently, so that a contestant cannot rush to Mr Bachchan after being selected for the hot seat. We have also smartly introduced a few elements for the safety of the contestants and of course our host. The control room has also become bigger, and now we have cubicle-styled seats. The pantry has been extended so that more tables could be included. We are making sure everyone remains safe. No one is complaining as we all are really excited for the show to begin.
KBC is also a show with a lot of emotions. With all these protocols, will we miss that in the episodes?
I must assure you that the emotions have not decreased a bit. There is a physical distance as we are trying to be cautious about the situation. However, when you have Amitabh Bachchan around, there is never a dip in enthusiasm. He has devised new rules – an elbow shake with contestants. I think that will be the USP of the show, and fans will be excited to see what else he has in store. The soul and emotions are very high this season. Contestants have come in with their struggles and stories, with a desire to reach the hot seat. I think the emotions have only grown this season.
Digital auditions were also held this season. Could you tell us more about that?
I think it came as a blessing in disguise for everyone. When we travelled to conduct these auditions, there would be certain number of people from the team coming with us. Since we were now at home, everyone pitched in, and we could reach out to more people. It really worked for us. Also, the contestants did not have to travel to audition centres, and could connect with us from the comfort of their homes. It also goes on to show how well our country is technologically connected. We had people joining in from the remotest of villages this time.
What precautions are being taken before these contestants enter the set?
They go through the basic drill. Once they are selected and called to Mumbai for shoot, we requested them to cut their social activities to the minimum. They were tested and then isolated in a hotel room. We are taking care of them so that they are protected, even from each other. Before the shoot, they are tested again. On the set, of course, proper hygiene is maintaintained. And these SOPs are not just for contestants but even the crew.
Also, who are the heroes we can expect in the Karamveer episodes this time?
I think we have got a great response for Karamveer episodes. These are Indians who have made a difference with their deeds. They might be common people, but they are celebrities in their own way. This season also we have a huge list of heroes, but I cannot reveal much about them. They are people who have been working continuously for years, trying to better the society and country. The Karamveer episodes will move and shake you. Watching these Karamveer episodes always makes us question why can’t we do the same. I think this simple thought will bring about that change.
What was the reaction of the team when Big B revealed he had tested positive for coronavirus?
We were all shaken. More than the show, we were worried about him. It wasn’t a director-actor reaction, rather a fan-celebrity one. Also, since you don’t get much first-hand information, we were concerned. But him being him, he kept us all updated through his tweets and blogs, and we knew there was nothing to worry. It was quite a shocker because we all knew how alert he is about COVID-19 precautions. He shot for the promos and audition questions himself from his home. We couldn’t have been happier to have him back.
Amitabh has been posting about shooting for 14-17 hours. What’s his mood like on the set?
Honestly, we are not shooting for KBC for so long. What he shares is his collective work hours. I raised this point with him recently, and he joked about it. It’s amazing to see how he has been on his toes. Since a lot of work is pending due to the pandemic, he has been catching up on all the commitments. What he shares is his bed to bed schedule for the entire day that includes his exercising, travelling, responding to fans and of course shoots. As for him on KBC set, he is absolutely cool and not worried. However, he is very precise and alert about maintaining COVID-19 protocols. While we had several sanitisation stations, he has also installed a few himself. It’s always fun to have him around, and off camera, he is so naughty. I think that side of himself will also come across a lot this time on screen.
Starting September 28, Kaun Banega Crorepati 12 will air Monday-Friday at 9 pm on Sony TV.
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