Saturday, April 7, 2007


Close contest: King Khan and Big B
Amita Malik

It is now a strange thought that when the latest edition of Kaun Banega Crorepati started, the media immediately plunged into one of its now familiar star wars. They started a (purely media) rivalry between Shah Rukh Khan and the first anchor, Amitabh Bachchan. All sorts of quotes were attributed to them, one feels to the ultimate embarrassment of both, and viewers entered with zest into their own evaluation of Big B and King Khan. And now, musingly, the matter has come full circle. As KBC nears its end, Shah Rukh will have Big B as an honoured guest in the last episode. It was Shah Rukh’s casual invitation which Big B accepted with grace. In fact, one is not surprised that KBC, an idea borrowed from a similarly successful programme in the West, has carved a very special niche for itself in India. I, for one, shall miss it and perhaps for the same reasons as lakhs of viewers. It was an unusual quiz programme in that one never knew who would be called to the hot seat. Their backgrounds varied enormously both professionally and personally. Shah Rukh, and earlier Big B, worked hard to put everyone at their ease.

And it is not only the contestants but also the audience which could chip in when one of the four options for help were required. The best part of the programme was that the biggest number of participants came from Andhra Pradesh. And there were those lakhs of off-screen participants in the form of viewers such as this columnist. It was a challenging quick programme with a wide range of questions requiring general as well as specialised knowledge. Every time a question was asked, I too tried to answer it and felt a sense of pride when I beat the participant to it. No wonder KBC has come to occupy a very special place in Indian TV and one hopes it will be revived after some time.

I am also sorry that Pankaj Parasher, or perhaps his producer and co-star, have not been able to repeat the success of the once very popular detective series Karamchand, which is being taken off. Repeats are always a tricky business and I sometimes feel it is better to revive the original than try to repeat it. Channels have been showing the old classics from Doordarshan, of which my lasting favourite, and in my opinion perhaps the best serial ever, Tamas, is a standing example of a real life tragedy transferred to the small screen in almost documentary terms. I suggest Doordarshan itself can re-run the originals with proper publicity so that a new generation of viewers can view them as classics and re-live a part of recent history, especially the tragedy of Partition. There is a lot of talk these days about obscenity on the small screen and Mr Das Munshi has had Fashion TV pulled off the screen for three months in punishment. I did some quick viewing before it was pulled off and did not get much beyond low cleavages. I suppose the super-sleuths of I&B have cleaner minds than mine. But going beyond obscenity, what about plain vulgarity and bad taste? I would like to cite first the singer in a urinal who corrects the singing of a stranger in the adjoining cubicle. Can a better place not be found for singing lessons? Then it hurts my traditional Indian good wishes for a coming bridegroom in real life, when I see what they are doing to Abhishek Bachchan. In a prolonged sequence where he keeps on shaking his head in a peculiar manner, he ultimately ends up on the floor of a household as a corpse. While weeping women in white wail all around him, the corpse keeps on shaking its head. I did not find it at all funny.

Lastly, I found nauseating Amir Khan strolling down the aisles of a plane belching loudly as he carries a bottle of cola.

Tailpiece: It can only happen in Kolkata. On the day of the Australia-Bangladesh match, vendors were out on the streets selling Bangladesh shirts. "What are you doing, supporting a team that knocked India out of the World Cup? Are you out of your minds?" asked a reporter on screen. "We are Bengalis and they are Bengalis. We shall always support each other".