Big B's exit from KBC marks end of a cultural phenomenon

Bachchan's journey as host of KBC marked a comeback for him when he was really down and out, saddled with debts, with his film career grinding to a halt

A promotional KBC poster
A promotional KBC poster


Hindi cinema icon Amitabh Bachchan's journey as host of Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC) has been nothing short of historic.

The megastar stepped into the shoes of the quizmaster for the Indian version of the reality knowledge show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? in 2000, and since then, has become synonymous with KBC, which has become a blockbuster like the films that ensured his place in history.

Bachchan's journey as host of KBC also marked a comeback for him when he was really down and out. With his film career grinding to a halt and saddled with debts, the small screen provided a platform for Bachchan to reconnect with the audience that grew up adoring him.

The year 1989 was particularly bad for Bachchan. His star power had well and truly begun to wane with films such as Jaadugar, Toofan and Main Azaad Hoon (all released in 1989) bombing at the box office.

He regained some of his mojo with the crime drama Aaj Ka Arjun (1990) and the actioner Hum (1991), but this was momentary and his rocky relationship with the box office continued.

After the release of the critically acclaimed epic Khuda Gawah in 1992, Big B went into semi-retirement for five years. He also turned producer and set up the Amitabh Bachchan Corporation Ltd (ABCL) in 1996.

The company's objective was to introduce products and services covering an entire cross-section of India's entertainment industry. The first film it produced was Tere Mere Sapne, which launched actor Arshad Warsi. It was a box-office hit.

In 1997, though, Bachchan attempted to make an acting comeback with Mrityudata, produced by ABCL. The film was a failure both financially and critically. His company was also the principal sponsor of the 1996 Miss World beauty pageant in Bengaluru, but lost millions. The fiasco and consequent legal battles that ABCL found itself mired in led to its financial and operational collapse in 1997.

The megastar attempted to revive his acting career and had some commercial success with Bade Miyan Chote Miyan, Major Saab and Sooryavansham, but other films such as Lal Baadshah and Kohram were major box-office failures.

Bachchan's decision to venture into television was initially met with scepticism, but his charisma and the format of KBC proved a winning combination. His entry into the world of television marked a significant shift in the industry, as his towering presence and baritone added a touch of grandeur to the small screen.

The decision to cast a Bollywood legend as the show's host was a gamechanger, turning the quiz-based reality show into a cultural phenomenon. Apart from the entertainment factor, Bachchan's avuncular encouragement and support for contestants from diverse backgrounds resonated with viewers, creating a sense of inclusivity.

His famous catchphrase, 'lock kiya jaye? (shall we lock it)', became a household term, symbolising the suspense and thrill associated with the show.

The 'hot seat' also became a symbol of dreams and aspirations, as the show addressed various societal issues, and Bachchan used his influence to promote education, health awareness, and philanthropy.

Naturally, hIs impact on KBC extended beyond the confines of the studio. The show's success played a pivotal role in reshaping the TV landscape in India, as it set new benchmarks for viewership and TRP ratings.

Its popularity was not only limited to urban areas, but penetrated deep into rural India, breaking down barriers and making television quiz shows accessible to a broader spectrum of viewers.

The first season was aired in July 2000 on Star Plus and saw Harshvardhan Navathe as the first top prize winner of the game show, winning Rs 1 crore.

In August 2005, the show was restarted after a four-year hiatus, and was renamed Kaun Banega Crorepati Dwitiya. During this season, the top prize amount was doubled to Rs 2 crore, but Star Plus abruptly ended the show when Big B fell ill in 2006.

For the third season, which premiered in 2007, the makers roped in Shah Rukh Khan as host, but the show's ratings dropped owing to the change in presenter. SRK obviously could not match up to Big B's charisma. Bachchan returned to the sets of KBC in 2010 and his journey since then stands as a remarkable chapter in the history of Indian television.

A notable aspect of his hosting style was his ability to balance gravitas with humour. Whether he was sharing anecdotes from his own life or playfully teasing contestants, he showcased a dynamic range that resonated with viewers.

As technology evolved, KBC adapted to the digital age. Online engagement through social media and interactive applications enhanced the viewer experience, keeping the show relevant in an era dominated by digital platforms. It also expanded the show's reach and attracted a younger audience.

As host, Big B also become a style icon with his impeccable fashion sense. His wardrobe choices have been closely watched and appreciated throughout the various seasons of the iconic quiz show.

Over the years, viewers have seen Bachchan appearing in many show-stopping outfits that have been the talk of the town. From three-piece suits, bowties, stylish scarves, and more, stylist Priya Patil was the one-woman army who was instrumental in making television's favourite host look more dapper every season.

In the early seasons of KBC, Bachchan often donned elegant formal wear — classic suits in earth tones and well-coordinated ties became his signature look. As the seasons progressed, the megastar embraced a more contemporary and versatile style, and his wardrobe evolved to include a mix of traditional and modern outfits.

The actor effortlessly blended ethnic wear, like intricately embroidered sherwanis and kurta-pajamas, with Western ensembles, showcasing a seamless fusion of cultural aesthetics. Stylish cufflinks, pocket squares, and watches became integral elements of his ensemble, accentuating the sophistication that has always been his hallmark.

Bachchan's grooming and hairstyle choices also underwent subtle changes. His well-groomed beard and neatly styled hair complemented his outfits, contributing to a polished and sophisticated appearance. In fact, the actor’s outfits often reflected the show's theme and mood.

The last episode of the 15th season was aired on 29 December on Sony.

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