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The quizmaster at it again...

Adding a serious academic modulation to many a quiz show on the small screen for over a decade, Siddartha Basu is now a quizmaster of distinction. Coming out with the fifth series of BBC World's Mastermind India, this soft-spoken Delhiite tells SANGEETA BAROOAH PISHAROTY that the show actually got its format from German concentration camps... .


WHEN YOU interact with well-known Quizmaster Siddartha Basu away from his shoot-sets, one thing that immediately strikes you is the missing serious countenance of conducting business with a stiff upper lip. A casual, free-wheeling Siddartha somewhat surprises you if you are used to seeing him for the last so many years on small screen, darting queries at participants with a no nonsense gaze. Whether it was Quiz Time, Spectrum, India Quiz, Super Quiz, Kissa Kursi Ka or BBC World's Mastermind India, he remained constant in maintaining that serious academic cadence in his shows, making television quiz programmes a serious business. Though, it would not be wrong to label him as the man who made quiz shows popular in Indian television, the superb `Kaun Banega Crorepati' included.

Back to face the lens again with the fifth series of BBC World's Mastermind India, this Stephenian loses no time in replying to your query about his on-screen and off-screen difference: "You see me quite staid and with a stiffened upper lip in the quiz shows, specially the Mastermind India because that is the part of the format. Mastermind India is today the most intellectually challenging quiz show in India, so it has to look it". Rightly so, the show needs "good knowledge back up" of the participants, more so when the qualifying round of the latest series registered 5,000 enthusiasts.

As along with the chosen subjects of the contestants the show focuses on setting it in historically important venues, this time too the series would be no different. "The difference is only in the selection of the venues. While the grand finale will screen the Faluknama Palace in Hyderabad, the semis will have the Mayo College, Ajmer, as the backdrop. We also talk about the historical places in the show, which supply some valuable information about our past to the viewers," says this Delhiite. Interestingly, the show, the first to be commissioned outside Britain by the BBC, got its layout from a German concentration camp where the person behind the parent version had spent some time.

"As in such a camp where everyday one has to reply to queries like name and rank, etc, the Mastermind India show too starts off like that with a light falling on the participant," informs the quizmaster, adding, "though that is slightly unnerving, but if you know your subject well, it becomes a smooth sail".

Well, for those who still hold an interest to take part in the show without actually being under the arc lights, the BBC website has now an online contest wherein a contestant is expected to give three correct answers from the coming week's episode to qualify for a prize. The online competition also has a grand travel prize worth Rs. 50,000. Also, there are now Mastermind India kiosks at some of the bookstores across many a city where replying correctly to a query would enable the participant to win an instant prize plus lucky draw.

"In Delhi, the kiosk is at Crossword bookstore in South Extension. Check out your IQ there, it's interesting ", says Basu, adding in the same breath that one of the purely interesting things for him is a platter of seafood of course.

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