KBC’s 15 years: A dash of nostalgia

MUMBAI: 3 July, 2000 is a date Indian television industry folks will not forget. It was on this day that a new show hit TV screens on a channel called Star Plus which was a straggler in the Hindi general entertainment channel (GEC) sweepstakes.


It was hosted by an ageing actor who was a superstar a decade before.  Amitabh Bachchan on the Indian adaptation of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? Kaun Banega Crorepati? caught Indian TV viewers’ imagination.


Television had in the past experimented with film talent hosting or acting or directing shows. In the eighties, Ramesh Sippy, BR Chopra and Ramanand Sagar had managed to get the Indian TV audiences riveted in front of their TV sets with their ensemble consisting of film actors and some newbies. And it had worked – worked incredibly well.


But Mr Bachchan was not at his peak.  He had begun his fall down the cliff. The buzz was that his star was on the descendant, his health had failed him and his business ventures had capsized, he had defaulted on payments and loans and he owed a lot to people.


Hence, no one really expected Mr Bachchan and the new show to work. Excepting two executives: Sameer Nair, who was then programming head at Star and Steve Askew, his senior colleage out of Star Asia, HongKong. And Peter Mukerjea who headed Star India then. He had replaced the flamboyant former government bureaucrat Rathikant Basu.


Packaged intelligently with Kaun Banega Crorepati were two other shows: Kyyunkii Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi and Kahaani Ghar Ghar Ki. Both talked about families and values of a bygone era, yet they seemed very contemporary because probably they were. And these three powered Star Plus very soon to the number one spot in the GEC space, polevaulting over the well entrenched Zee TV, Sony and Doordarshan.


It was a spot it held on to for almost seven years, earning for News Corp billions of dollars, and becoming the brilliant stone of its Asian crown.


Today, the network is headed by Uday Shankar who has expanded it into the regional space, niche content, sports, OTT services. It still leads the Indian market as probably the most valued Indian entertainment company. Some may argue that it’s Zee which is at the top, but that’s an argument that no one will possibly win.


On 3 July, however, who were associated with the channel and the show at that time got nostalgic on social media.


It began with a post by the then Star entertainment channel programming head Steve Askew: “15 years today since the beginning of the Indian Television revolution for STAR Plus! Thanks to Big Synergy, Balaji and of course Sameer Nair.”


Sameer in turn went on to thank Big B and a host of others from Star associated with the show at that time.  Big Synergy promoter Siddhartha Basu then raised a toast stating: “Here's to the crystal anniversary of the show that brought in the millenium, and everybody who was part of making it happen, cheers !”


Star Plus marketing executive Mubina Ansari then posted a comment on her Facebook page which attracted several comments like bees to a honeypot.


Said she:  “I will never forget 3.7.00. Rains like never before and a 1000 promoters on the streets of Mumbai asking people to tune in to KBC.”


To which another Star Plus marketing had Vidyuth Bhandary (currently with Fremantle India) responded: “Yep !! How 15 years have passed !! I still remember behaving like a typical client with Roshan Abbas and Karan Chettri, as I was overlooking the Delhi onground promotions on 3rd July 2000 !! That was a mammoth operations and nothing has come close to it even today !!!”


Remembering the old times Roshan Abbas who ran an event agency then added: “Oh I remember ! With Siddharth Roy Kapur (currently CEO UTV-Disney) in Lucknow, Vidyuth Bhandary Mubina Ansari all manning the streets ! And then came the biggest revolution in TV and Star Plus.”


Sumantra ‘Sumo” Dutta (currently based in Dubai with a telecom company) who headed sales at that time piped in  “Seriously fun times. Game changing times. High risks too.”


“Everything was planned up to the last detail,” revealed Samson Jesudas (in the distribution of Star India then). “Be it programming, marketing, distribution, advertising, branding, etc etc. I have yet to see a launch like this... No wonder today, if one picks up any channel, advertising firm, agencies, MSO, etc, one will find a ex Star guy/girl working for them. Amazing experience.”


Jesudas also elaborated the role that distribution played in making the show visible to Indian viewers. He remarked in his response to Mubina: “Guys u forgetting the distribution team who ensured that Star Plus runs in prime band in all cable networks. I remember that we bought all cable guys under one roof on 3.7.00, so that there's no sabotage and blackout of Star Plus and even if there's one, we have the cable owner in front of us to rectify the same.”


He finally ended by saying it was “teamwork” which made it happen.


KBC, ran for only three seasons on Star Plus (2000-2001, 2005-2006 and 2007) but it helped chart a new course for Murdoch’s Indian entertainment venture. It moved to Sony in 2010 and has run for five seasons (2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014).  The format has undergone a metamorphosis with more reality elements being added. Hopefully, its sixth season will do the trick for Sony.

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