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The iconic face of Indian TV sits down with The Delhi Walla.
Calcutta-born Siddhatha Basu is widely recognized as father of television quiz shows in South Asia. Managing Director of Synergy Adlabs, he has produced TV classics like Quiz Time and Kaun Banega Crorepati. Mr. Basu lived in Delhi all these years but recently shifted to Bombay. The Delhi Walla badgered him on his life, wife, career, and just why (oh why) he ditched our Delhi.
[This is the final of the three-part interview series Mr. Basu gave to Mayank Austen Soofi. In the first he compared lives in Bombay and Delhi. In the second he mused about Delhi.]
Babu, what aspects of Delhi disturb you most?
Easy. The dadagiri, the crotch-grabbing, foul-mouthed lathmar coarseness that lurks around every corner in Dilli, the danger that descends after dark, its lechery and animosity towards women, its flagrant jiski lathhi uski bhains culture. Its also a city run over by flashy parvenus and the nouveau riche, and riven by the corruption of bureaucracy.
It's all true and depressing. Let's talk something else. You started your TV career about twenty years ago. How do you look back upon this time?
Professionally these have been years of challenge, struggle, achievement and recognition, not always in equal measure. Personally these have been years of being a grihastha, a family man and parent, as my children grew and become young adults.
How do you look upon your evolution from quiz master to producer of television programmes of various genre including dance shows?
The showman and communicator was always there, but typecast as a quiz master by necessity. I went with it as it brought in the work and sustained the team. Of course, I’ve enjoyed the quiz genre and given it my best, but always longed to move beyond question marks to exclamation marks as well. Jhalak Dikhla Ja was a big step into talent and reality shows, just as Jiya Jale, our daily soap on 9X, has helped us break through into fiction. From a hands-on professional, I’m working more as a mentor and ideator now.
Is it fair to divide your professional life into pre-KBC and post-KBC days?
KBC was our advent into mainstream Hindi programming. It brought scale into our production. But the sensibility, attention to detail, methodology and backend that made the show work as a production was always there.
In the sets of KBC, what went through your mind (at least, occasionally) when you saw Amitabh Bachchan (or Shah Rukh Khan) sitting on a chair that has traditionally belonged to you?
I’ve never felt possessive about that chair. The big high is from knowing that whatever expertise I’ve had as Quiz Master has been of some help to such talent in becoming hugely successful in that role.
If you write your autobiography, what will be its title?
Never thought about it. Maybe Beyond Question. A life spent looking for answers.
Babu, thank you for talking to The Delhi Walla.