07-13 May, 2013
small world
Tried & Tested
And Now, Another Version of KBC

MUMBAI ~ Ever since Kaun Banega Crorepati started in 2000, the show has consistently topped charts. Not surprisingly, the formula was copied in several languages. Now ETV Marathi will broadcast a Marathi version of the quiz show from 9 May. Called Kon Hoeel Marathi Crorepati (KHMC), the show will be hosted by well-known Marathi actor Sachin Khedekar.

Siddhartha Basu, chairman and managing director of Big Synergy, which produces KBC and will produce KHMC, says many people prefer to watch TV in their mother tongue. He also says regional channels are now empowered with enough resources to take on big-ticket formats. “Regional TV is in a burgeoning growth phase, accounting for 27 per cent of all-India revenues, and there is demand for blue chip shows,” he says. He claims that KHMC is the “biggest ever” done in Marathi.

In the last two years, KBC— which itself is based on the English show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?—has had a number of regional variants. There has been a Shatrughan Sinha-hosted Bhojpuri version called Ke Bani Crorepati, a Bengali one, Ke Hobe Banglar Kotipoti, hosted by Sourav Ganguly, and Tamil, Malayalam and Kannada versions (called Neengalum Vellalam Oru Kodi, Ningalkkum Aakaam Kodeeshwaran, and Kannadada Kotyadhipati respectively). Anuj Poddar, executive vice president and business head, regional channels, of Viacom18 (which has partnered with ETV Marathi to produce KHMC), says that while these programmes were successful, they weren’t produced quite as well. The creators of KHMC claim the new show will be at par with KBC.

The producers say the show’s success depends on the game’s format and rewards and also the charm of the host. To pick the host, the channel had three criteria—someone who was well-known in Maharashtra, whose appeal cut across age groups, and whose personality was seen as warm and likeable. A survey was conducted among 2,000 random individuals across Maharashtra, most of whom chose Khedekar.

On the contrary
What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard
How to create opportunity out of exaggerated humiliation à la Azam Khan

Western world academia seems to have a few pet subjects about India that fit in with its image of the snake charmer riding a Harley Davidson. The dabbawallas of Mumbai, for instance, who they gave something called a ‘six sigma’ reliability rating: less than 3.4 errors every million deliveries. Those who have used the service, like me, will tell you that there are the odd days when someone else’s dabba lands up or it doesn’t reach at all. It is not a regular feature, but it is also not something which happens all that rarely.

The Kumbh Mela is another of these subjects. When it was underway in Allahabad recently, a Harvard University team came to study the financial and administrative aspects of the festival. They spent 20 odd days there and in turn invited Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav to Harvard to deliver a talk on organising the Mela. He was accompanied by Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan, UP’s minister in-charge of the Kumbh Mela Organising Committee. Khan had resigned during the Kumbh after a stampede at Allahabad railway station that left 36 pilgrims dead. His resignation was rejected by the CM. Khan accepted the CM’s rejection and blamed the media. Recently, The Hindu had an article which reported that no one had bothered to clean up the Sangam after the Kumbh was over. It quoted a sadhu saying that the UP administration had deserted them. This could have been one of Khan’s lessons for Harvard: you don’t need to resign for not doing anything.

As it turned out, Khan never made it to the pulpits of Harvard. He boycotted it in protest after he was called aside for questioning by security officials at Boston’s Logan airport. He was upset at being the only one of a group that included the CM and other government officials to be so treated. He ascribed it to his name and religion. He created a scene, and the brush-off he got from the security officer probably aggravated his mood.

But he probably had just cause in feeling angry. Racial profiling is banned by the US, but since 9/11 there is overwhelming anecdotal evidence that Muslims get singled out at airports. A 2011 poll of 1,033 Muslim Americans by the US thinktank Pew Research Center found that 21 per cent of them had the experience of ‘being singled out by airport security’. For Muslims arriving from abroad, especially Asia, the figure would likely be higher.

It is Khan’s reaction that could be another Harvard case study. In sequence, this was what he did:

» Cancel the Harvard engagement though the university had nothing to do with his troubles

» Blame the Indian Government for not pre-empting it

» Accuse Salman Khurshid, India’s External Affairs Minister, of arranging the humiliation in collusion with whoever in the US

» Use the humiliation as a prop to bolster his image as a Muslim leader.

In the peculiar world of Indian politics, Azam Khan could succeed in turning adversity into opportunity. It is absurd to think that Khurshid can ‘arrange’ something like this in a country that even frisks former Indian presidents like Abdul Kalam. But given that most Indians only know Indian culture, Khan may manage to score some points with his Muslim supporters in Uttar Pradesh.

On 30 April, The Indian Express broke another story about Khan’s US jaunt. This was set in Delhi airport on his way to the US. A Samajwadi Party MP who is Muslim had come to see him but was not let into the VVIP lounge. Khan created a ruckus and stormed out of the lounge in protest, calling it discrimination against Muslims. Security officials immediately apologised and invited both of them inside. It was with this experience of airport security that he landed in Boston and found an entirely different set of norms in operation.

It takes ingenuity to connect these two episodes and then drag India’s External Affairs Minister into it to construct a grand conspiracy theory. This, not his Kumbh management, is what Harvard should learn from Khan.

Angry Bird Sharma

Rohit Sharma is clearly enjoying the captaincy of Mumbai Indians. In the past, indiscipline and arrogance impeded the growth of the talented batsman. But he seems to have achieved some control over his instincts and is in fine nick heading the IPL team. Still, there are moments when Sharma just can’t help it. When Dinesh Karthik ran him out in a match against the Royal Challengers Bangalore, Sharma hurled his bat to the ground. Reaching the dugout, he threw his gloves down, glaring at the field. It may not have been captain-like behaviour, but it was highly entertaining. It’s great that Sharma has changed—even if not much.