Shailesh Kapoor: Welcome Back, KBC!

13 Sep,2012

By Shailesh Kapoor


After a few weeks of writing analytical pieces, which often used hard data to make some key points, I feel the need to indulge myself this week, and write a more ‘fanboy’ type of piece. And for good reason too. A new season of Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC) opened to a rousing audience reception last weekend. Like four of the previous five seasons, host Amitabh Bachchan enthralled us with his charisma and elegance. Coupled with grace. And humour. And style. And warmth. And for me, nostalgia as well.


It all started in 2000. When KBC first went on-air on Star Plus, Amitabh Bachchan was in the middle of a professional low. His last few films – Lal Baadshah, Sooryavansham (subsequently a huge television success), Hindustan Ki Kasam and Kohram – had not set the box-office on fire. And his business venture had crashlanded even before take off.


One didn’t know what to make of KBC then. Quiz shows have never been mass entertainment in India, either before 2000 or even now. The channel airing the show had no Hindi audience base anyway. Prize money seemed the only big hook to get eyeballs in.


But exceptional (not just good) content has the ability to permeate layers of audiences by crossing the most impermeable boundaries. My Bengaluru neighbourhood, where I stayed that time, would watch Kannada television at primetime everyday. As I would walk up three floors to my apartment every night, dialogues in the alien language would greet me from behind the closed doors. But only till July 3, 2000.


Within a week of KBC’s launch, the “greeting” had changed. It was the KBC signature tune, or the deep baritone voice of Mr. Bachchan. I remember stopping once in amazement, on the second floor, listening to the signature music from a TV set playing in a staunch Kannada household, and wondering: This has permeated and how! (Today, I would look down upon this methodology of ‘research with sample size of one’, but that’s another point altogether)


The ‘Umeed Se Dugna’ campaign for KBC 2 was sheer brilliance, and arguably the best ever KBC launch campaign till date. It’s a pity that the season had to be aborted prematurely because of the host’s health. There were also some signs of fatigue beginning to develop with the format, and the industry was beginning to wonder if KBC’s success was short-lived after all.


When Shah Rukh Khan took over as the host for the third season, he was stepping into shoes that were BIG, in more ways than one. A lesson was well learnt in Season 3: You can’t make KBC more entertaining than Bachchan’s KBC. No one can. No one should even try.


When Sony decided to bring KBC back in 2010, there were murmurs in the industry on how the channel was flogging a dead horse (referring to the format, and not its ever-so-alive host). To the channel’s credit, they managed the unique combination of keeping the core of the franchise intact, while making enough changes to infuse an element of freshness in the format. KBC 4 worked. Far better than what Sony would have settled for.


For me, however, KBC 5 was the real turnaround season. It was the only season of KBC that had started with less than a year’s gap vis-à-vis the previous season. There wasn’t much to talk about. All the talking points had been exhausted in KBC 4. Leading upto the launch, the buzz scores were lower and that KBC 5 will match the success of KBC 4 was extremely iffy.


But making the content emotional and (literally) pan-India was a masterstroke. It gave a new texture that the audience of the franchise had never seen before. The journey from a quiz show to an entertainment show was now truly complete. KBC 5 was a huge success. It also gave us the Rs. 5 crore winner in one Sushil Kumar from Motihari in Bihar. Today, he makes more money by participating in other reality shows.


It may be early to identify the ace KBC 6 has up its sleeve. My sense is that this seems like the most “fun” season of KBC so far. It has humour and banter woven in, better than ever before. The host is in absolutely top form, almost as if he was born to do this. Of course, I dare not believe that, because his film work in the seventies is worth several lifetimes.


The success of KBC cannot be measured through a mere rating number. Several shows may attract similar audience volumes, but KBC’s long-standing legacy makes it stand apart. It is the family unifier, the knowledge giver, the entertainment machine, the de-stresser, all rolled into one.


An earnest request to all broadcasters: The day Amitabh Bachchan decides to hang his boots, let’s hang the boots on KBC too. Let the legacy remain untarnished, preserved for posterity.


Of course, I hope (and am sure) that that day is still many years and many seasons away.


Shailesh Kapoor is founder and CEO of media & entertainment research and consulting firm Ormax Media. He spent nine years in the television industry before turning entrepreneur. He can be reached at his Twitter handle @shaileshkapoor




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One response to “Shailesh Kapoor: Welcome Back, KBC!”

  1. Vivek Gupta says:

    My guess is that someone at some point in time will try to get Salman Khan in too.

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