5 things I learned watching Amitabh Bachchan host KBC

Ramanand writes about the time he was invited to be part of KBC


In 2014, I was invited to the Indian TV quiz show "Kaun Banega Crorepati" to join the 'Triguni' expert panel (each week's set of episodes had a set of three guests; two past KBC participants and one other quizzer - usually from Mastermind or other such shows by producers Big Synergy - which is how I made it). 

As far as TV productions go, it was one of the more comfortable experiences I've had, and I took away a bunch of lessons watching its star host Amitabh Bachchan conduct a quiz (well, 'quiz' is often in quotes - each year the story line seems to take more and more time than the questions!)

 "Hum jahaan khade hote hain..."

"Hum jahaan khade hote hain..."

Mr. Bachchan's hosting obviously draws from his one-of-a-kind mix of pedigree, experience, personal traits, and skills. And yes, he operates with a script and doesn't write his own questions. But anyone fronting a quiz can take away a few things watching him. Here are five of mine:

1. Have empathy for participants: Participants at KBC are there as much for the moolah as they are for the man. Most of them are understandably tense. What AB does so well is to genuinely radiate empathy and warmth for each of them. There's a quick word to calm people down, a reassuring glance, and even indulgence when someone goes off on a breathless tangent. Having seen some QMs who are dismissive of all in front of them and have no time for newcomers, this was wonderful to watch.

2. Get the audience involved: So many quizzes and QMs turn their back on the audience, literally so. KBC and AB are great in drawing in the audience, and making them part of the show. There's a proper audience warm-up before Amitabh enters the set, telling them what the right etiquette is (they don't overdo the 'rules'). This helps - once he's on the floor, it's not pandemonium. He plays the audience just right, drawing on their energy. In turn, they get acknowledged, they get his attention, and hang on to his every word.

3. Be prepared: At no stage did one notice a lack of preparation. He doesn't seem to wing it. The questions are smoothly delivered, the banter is on point, the names are well-pronounced. It looked like no thing was too small to be prepared for.

4. Make an entrance: You'd expect an actor-star to do that. We garden-variety QMs don't really do stagecraft and put on a show. We should learn how to. In AB's case, he's got the ability and temperament to play the right tunes when it comes to hitting his mark.

5. Stay curious: 70+ year old men don't host quizzes. The ones that do, or so I've heard, turn into cantankerous QMs lost in time. In contrast, he comes off as a well-read chap, curious about the world, and with an active mind. At the very least, that helps in conversation and connection with a wide swathe of people. 

Not a bad thing to be, as a QM.


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