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Tuesday, 11 July, 2000, 17:40 GMT 18:40 UK
Bachchan: India's comeback kid
Amitabh Bachchan with family
A comeback for the one-time superhero
By Sanjeev Srivastava in Bombay

A former Bollywood star, Amitabh Bachchan, is warming his way into Indian hearts all over again with the biggest game show in the history of Indian television.

The hour-long show - on Rupert Murdoch's Star TV channel - is modelled on the hugely popular game show, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?

It's really about human drama

Show director, Siddharth Basu
In the Indian version, participants can win a jackpot of 10m rupees ($224,000) by answering 15 questions.

And the winners - as well as the losers - also get to share the limelight with the superstar himself.


The lure of big bucks, Mr Bachchan's star power and the thrill of making or losing a fortune has led to massive ratings for the show in its first week.

It has just about wiped out everything else in the prime time band of 9-10pm.

Amitabh Bachchan at the Millennium Dome
A chance to feature alongside the star

The numbers are mind boggling.

Every day, nearly 250,000 people have been calling the 570 telephone lines in the four cities of Delhi, Bombay, Calcutta and Madras, hoping to make the shortlist.

The lucky few are chosen by a computer and then flown to Bombay - together with a partner - to be quizzed by Mr Bachchan.

"It's really about human drama. About hope and disappointment," says Siddharth Basu, India's best known quiz-show host, who is also the director of the show.

The success of the show led to the Indian media featuring a participant from Delhi who won 2.5m rupees on the show in its first week.

And the country's premier news magazine - India Today - even did a cover story on the show called The Great Gamble.

The great gamble

Much had been riding on the success of the show for both Mr Bachchan as well as Star TV.
Amitabh Bachchan
Played "the angry young man"
Career spanning 3 decades
More than 100 films
Star of the Millennium in BBC News Online poll
The channel had squandered an advantage in the Indian satellite TV market to the rival Zee and Sony channels in the past few years.

Star TV needed to come up with something special to capture prime time viewers and the confidence of advertisers.

The same was true for Amitabh Bachchan, who desperately needed a winner to prove a point to some of his critics who had written him off as a spent force.

For many years, die-hard fans had waited for that dream film, which could be their favourite hero's comeback vehicle.

But a string of failures in the past five years ensured that the wait continued.

Now his luck may just be about to turn.

His show - which is to run for 32 weeks - has been on the air for less than two weeks and it may be a trifle premature to describe it as the biggest success ever on the small screen in India.

But if the initial response is any indication and the interest retained in the coming weeks - Amitabh Bachchan may well become, like the title of one his old blockbusters, the "Shehenshah" (emperor) of Indian showbiz once again.

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See also:

19 Apr 00 | South Asia
Bollywood star lands Millionaire show
06 Jun 00 | South Asia
Bollywood stars turn to TV
25 Jun 00 | South Asia
Honours at Bollywood awards
01 Jul 99 | Entertainment
Bollywood star tops the poll
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