Audiences are expecting far more out of KBC this time?
Well, the prize money has doubled. There's an additional lifeline. There's money for the contestants, whether they make it to the hot seat or not, as opposed to earlier when nine out 10 contestants just sat around. Now it's far more participative both for the contestants and the viewers.
Between the last KBC and this innings, a lot has changed.
Yes, in terms of reach. During KBC earlier we reached into 20 million households. Now there're 61 million households.
Do you feel the heat of the swollen expectations?
No, no, no! I was committed to do these extra episodes to Star, and I'm doing them. I've to do my job, and I hope I do it adequately. As far as my presence on KBC is concerned, maybe I was a little more formal with contestants earlier on. Now I'm a little more casual. Yes, the wardrobe is also a little more casual. But that's not my doing. I wear, say and behave how the channel tells me.
Television has failed for all large-screen actors except you.
That's god's grace. I'm thankful to the people who made KBC successful. It's not me, it's the concept taken from the international model for "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" that worked.
I just happened to be at the right place at the right time. I'm just one anchor. The show is running successfully in 80 countries. And there're many prominent personalities hosting the show across the world. In some Far Eastern countries the most popular actors are the anchors of the show. So too in South Africa. So it isn't me. I do nothing on KBC that isn't already tabulated by the show's regulations.
There was no film release last week, and I feel KBC is responsible.
That's perhaps because of the weather. It's got nothing to do with KBC. I don't know how good or bad I am on KBC this time. That's for viewers to judge.
Did the schedules of KBC go haywire because of the rains?
Oh yes! The crew couldn't make it to Film City. Some of the contestants couldn't make it. That meant everything had to be re-scheduled. Since everything was planned three months ahead, the entire schedule was destroyed. I had to shoot three episodes instead of two to make up for lost time.
The schedules of two of my underproduction films "Babul" and "Family" were also ruined. I was shooting till four in the morning. Television is so psychologically draining. It requires 110 percent of your concentration. One slip-up and you're gone.
What difference do you feel between KBC then and now?
See, when attempting something new there's always a great deal of apprehension. The first time the medium was completely new to me. Having been there once the level of anxiety would be reduced. But the tension and energy remain.
Also, in the past two years I've been seen in cinema and on television extensively. There have been many, many films, and also ads and public-interest announcements on TV. I don't know whether that's an advantage or disadvantage.
Why weren't you seen doing anything else on TV?
I do have certain other commitments on TV. But my contract with Star forbade me from doing any other television until KBC was out of the way. Other TV offers just had to wait.
No fiction on TV I hope?
I don't know! Life is so unpredictable.
People just can't have enough of you.
We shall soon find out (laughs)!
Your latest film "Viruddh" has been widely appreciated.
Yes, we've pulled through. As its producer we won't lose any money. A lot of people were moved by the theme. The media wrote very generously about the film. It's a small new beginning for AB Corp Ltd. Now we're doing a joint venture with Keshu Ramsay called "Family". Rituparno Ghosh's "Antar Mahal" which we've produced is going to Locarno. It's also been selected for the London Film Festival.
Have you seen "Antar Mahal"?
Not yet. But Jaya has. And she loved it. It's her kind of film.