Grey matters at BBC's University Challenge

NEW DELHI: Stage set, audience in gear and the floor manager ready to give the cue. It was a riveting recording of the final match of the BBC World`s "University Challenge"

Winners of the All-India University Challenge quiz contest, the team from Sardar Patel College of Engineering, Mumbai met the UK University Challenge finalists from Gonville and Caius College, University of Cambridge, UK.

Launched in India in August 2003, University Challenge is the ultimate quiz show and this particular match was unique since it was the first transnational match to be held between India and the UK. Hosted by India's home grown quizmaster star, Siddhartha Basu, the final programme was recorded on Sunday at the Eagle Studio on the outskirts of Delhi in the Film City at Noida.

The guest team, which had arrived in India courtesy The British Council, was lead by William Joseph Wallace whose hobbies varied from music, philosophy to mathematics and fiction. Laura, the only girl to make it to the transnational match is doing a Ph.D. in Medieval Literature and also has an acting career. Darren John Khodaverdi is studying medicine and interested in sports. Mostafa Lameen Souag the fourth team member has a background in mathematics and loves to learn languages.

It was a first visit to India for all of them and the excitement was obvious when Darren quipped, "It's a real honour to be invited to take part in UC India, to which I'm really looking forward to competing in. It will also be a novelty to be in a country with a decent cricket team for a change!!"

The Indian quizzing colt, like the cricketers, were not only upbeat, but ready to shoot from the hip. "Winning against ISB, Hyderabad was like an icing on the cake. Winning this match (against the British team) would be the cherry on the icing", quipped Indian quiz team's captain Shrijit R Plappally. Helping him were Nirad Inamdar, Bharat Jayakumar and Nishad Manerikar.

The format of the quiz is based on the highly successful UK University Challenge in which questions are open to all the eight contestants of both the teams. The game starts with a "starter" buzzer question for 10 points. The team that answers a question correctly then gets three linked bonus questions for five points each, during which the team members may confer with the captain giving their final answer. There are also two visual and an audio rounds during each show.

Though we are not at liberty to reveal the winners, the excitement was palpable. The confidence on the Indian side continued and it was visible in their smooth sail on the score board at the end of the first round where they had a lead of 30 points at 50-20. Be it Russia, US field marshals, assassinations, pictures or the ad-mad world, the Maharastrians knew it all. Their UK counterparts matched the skill and agility with their in-depth knowledge of questions asked that varied from classical piece on Napoleon to characters from the Batman flicks.

The close running match ensued that even the audience participated audibly in the over the edge match with their hoots and cheers for the contending teams.

The chief-guest to the show, the British High Commissioner, Sir Michael Arthur, who had witnessed the fierce competition between the two challenging teams, was all praise for the speed and concentration of the Indian teams and said that this was the first transnational quiz contest that has brought Cambridge and Mumbai on the same platform.

But every good show comes to an end. So has this one too. But, promises Synergy producer Anita Kaul Basu and Siddhartha Basu's better half, "The very popular quiz show will be back very soon." Adds Basu, "Its always fun quizzing Indian teams because they are so full of enthusiasm and emotions, which are expressed in their body language."

The televisised version of the contest will be air on 11 March at 11:00 pm.

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