What provisions have you made to ensure optimum viewership for "KBC" this time?
I think there's always room for something good to come back. And "KBC" is something that viewers were waiting to retrieve. As producer, I'm trying to make sure "KBC" is the best programme that can ever be. It was a responsibility that I took on, and I'm enjoying it.
As you know, the show's demography has changed dramatically since it was on air the last time. Quite simply, far more people will watch it now than those who did the first time it can came out. The number of younger viewers has also increased. Though there're cosmetic changes, the soul of "KBC" remains unchanged. It's the original magic, plus....
Bachchan's whole range of style and performing abilities that became evident since he was last on the show. I think his persona is now different, more versatile. During "KBC" the last time, he was more formal and more of a traditionalist. This time he's more informal. I think there are value additions across the board. Everything is the same as the last time...only better. We've accentuated the positives.
It's like Sholay being remade...
(laughs) There you are. The prize is double...
Just the money isn't enough to lure audiences?
It never has been. Past experience on television, including several "KBC" clones, proves it. At the same time, the huge prize money does heighten the excitement on the show. The drama will depend on the contestants and how much balls they have. If they wavered for the crore, imagine how many second thoughts they would have about the two crores!
Tell me about the nature of the questions on "KBC" this time.
We re-set the orientation of the questions. Last time, there was much more focus on the Hindi heartland. Now, we've decided to make the questions more across-the-board, accessible and young. It's not just about the GK. You can't do well on the show with just cramming. There'll be even less textbook stuff than the last time. The contestant needs to have a good head, has to be able to make connections. There's a lighter feel to the show this time.
Lots of questions on cinema?
Somehow, cinema is not as pan-Indian as you'd think. You'd be surprised... but the biggest responses on the phone question are not for cinema but mythology, which is ahead by leaps and bounds.
As the No.1 quiz producer, did you have a hard time selling your ideas without Bachchan?
I've been around for too long. I suppose everyone expected me to produce a "Godzilla". You can't lay a golden egg each time. Bachchan had a choice of doing multiple roles in multiple films whereas I as the producer was expected to deliver a "KBC" routinely. But even globally, the international version of "KBC" happened once in 10 years. It requires a tremendous amount of resources and projection. "American Idol" has had some successful spin-offs. But not "How To Be A Millionaire" (the "KBC" original). I did bring in the same professionalism and integrity to my other quiz programmes like "Mastermind" on the BBC and "Bluff Master", which is modelled on the American game show "Dirty Rotten Cheater", on Star One. But you can't deliver another blockbuster like "KBC".
How much does Bachchan's personality matter to "KBC" this time?
More than before, much more! Between the last time and now, he has experimented and succeeded with so many roles in cinema. As a performer, he's more open to experimentation. He enjoys the TV medium. I share a good working relationship with Bachchan.