The Making of a Mastermind

24 intense television minutes of rigorous quizzing, rapid fire questioning and reflex action replying, snappy dialogue and dizzy triumph don't come in just that much time.

Over four hours of harsh lights, tedious retakes and nerve wracking tension go to make up the shooting of the final of one of India's finest quizzes that recently culminated on BBC World, as discovered last month in Hyderabad.

The four finalists get ready to face the inquisition at the Falaknuma Palace, Hyderabad

The four finalists get ready to face the inquisition at the Falaknuma Palace, Hyderabad

The tension at the imposing Falaknuma Palace on the outskirts of Hyderabad is palpable as two days of hectic preparatory work is finally given the finishing touches before shooting is to start. The perils are many - 16 kgs of heavy audio visual equipment flown in from New Delhi (not to mention the famous black chair on which the inquisition is conducted) has to be manouvred over delicate timber flooring untouched by human contact for over 80 years, ventilation in the 100 year old palace is not geared for the shooting of a hi tech quiz show and last minute technical glitches have to be tided over.

But the Synergy Communications team has been through this before. This year's semis concluded at the Mayo College, Ajmer, while earlier episodes were shot at the century old Gaiety Theatre in Shimla and St Stephen's College, New Delhi. The indefatigable Anita Kaul Basu is all over the place, going through last minute production work with a fine comb. The master of ceremonies himself, ace quizmaster Siddhartha Basu is his usual dapper self, immaculate in black suit, his cheerful comments helping ease the last minute anxieties of the participants. Although all four participants have been through the ordeal before, it definitely is no picnic facing Basu's volley of questions, seated on an isolated executive chair under the harsh spotlight, open to the scrutiny of the assorted quizzers and mediapersons that make up the audience.

The imposing Falaknuma Palace where the final episode of Mastermind India 2002 was shot

The imposing Falaknuma Palace where the final episode of Mastermind India 2002 was shot

Although the choice of location (each time a priceless heritage structure) is flawless, the logistics involved make it a difficult proposition. But the Synergy team, manned mostly by a brigade of women, as Basu wryly points out, is geared for any exigency, checking for the smallest detail and ordering reshoots, to which Basu complies without murmur. "I am just the front man", he shrugs with that trademark smile. Click here for some more Basu speak…

But once the camera rolls, it is Basu who's in total control. His masterful voice echoes off the century old tapestry of the Durbar Hall as he first acclimatizes his victims and then launches into the tirade of questions, that will sort the chaff from the grain and anoint the victor with the title and trophy of Mastermind India.

The four seasoned finalists look set to fight to the finish and claim the specially designed silver bowl trophy. But the initial round, in which participants are quizzed on a special subject chosen by them, itself proves determining. Ramanand Janardanan, despite his seemingly vague choice of topic (the Tommy and Tuppence series of Agatha Christie) easily manages a marathon 25 points, while the other three struggle to come up to half his score. Later Janardanan admits that it is presence of mind and discretion that count more than mere knowledge and mugging up of trivia. Click here for some more Janardanan speak….

Perspiration flows freely now in the Durbar Hall, the imposing chandeliers reflecting the collective glow of the harsh lights below. The participants gamely succumb to the ministrations of make up artistes who pop up every five minutes to dab off sweat from their faces as they get ready for the final round. This one's even more rapid fire, and the winner stands out with his ready wit and cool head. Even as Basu exults at the final outcome of the quiz, Janardanan is cool and collected, with no outward show of emotion, even when celebrity guest filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt steps forward with the coveted trophy.

Another ace quizzer crowned, another year of Mastermind India wrapped up, it's time to move on for Basu as his team begins rounding up the equipment in the gathering December twilight in Hyderabad….

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