Keep August 5, Friday, 9 pm free. Millions of Indians across the country, from metros to the smallest of towns, have already kept it slotted to be spent glued to their television sets, to watch the premier show of television history's greatest quiz-come-reality show in its second innings Kaun Banega Crorepati.
Fifteen million have already registered to participate, on lines open for only 10 days. Despite the prize money doubling to Rs 2 crore (Rs 20 million), it's not just the money that the millions want -- the sheer thrill of sitting on that hotseat across from India's biggest star, Amitabh Bachchan, is enough of a high.
And, of course, the entire nation's watching and playing along in their TV rooms with cries of, "Oh, option A was the answer, not C," or "Come on, this one's so easy," or "Choose a lifeline -- quick!"
"Globally, KBC 1 was a huge success. The essentials in KBC 2 are the same but with slight value additions," says Siddhartha Basu, director, Synergy Communications, and producer and director of the mega show along with Anita Kaul Basu and Karun Prabhakaran.
As KBC is a copyright show, the basic sets and format have not been changed. The 85-episode new KBC, though, has additions like a fourth lifeline and an incentive contest called 'jump the queue', where people can leap ahead of others on the waiting list by answering questions correctly.
Also, as opposed to KBC 1, where television audiences were just audiences, KBC 2 is much more viewer interactive. There is a 'play along option' where prizes upto Rs 100,000 can be won.
With promotions for KBC 2 starting almost three months before its launch, the enormity of the show is apparent.
Star Plus has even reorganised its schedules around KBC 2 -- popular serials like Kyunkii Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi and Kahani Ghar Ghar Ki will also be aired on Fridays to grab primetime television viewership. KBC 2's eight sponsors have shelled out Rs 195 lakh (Rs 19.5 million) each and there are ad logo opportunities during a lifeline or other game options.
If those who wanted to participate in KBC 1 complained that the 30 million landlines available were unable to handle the amount of calls, they can take heart from the fact that the biggest change in KBC 2 lies in the technology and capability to handle calls.
Whereas STD rates were to be paid in KBC 1, now a standard rate of Rs 2.40 per minute will be charged.
"This makes the show more accessible," says Viren Popli, senior vice president, Interactive Services, the company that manages the mammoth selection process.
BSNL and Airtel have revamped their connectivity lines, providing 45 million televoting connections, 49 million mobile connections and 7 million Internet connections. "This surely is a test of telephone connectivity in the country," adds Viren.
The interesting trend is that almost 52 per cent of the calls for show participation are being dialled from places other than the 26 major cities of India.
"The sheer geographical spread of the response in terms of depth of volume is immense," says Viren who feels like he's in a geography lesson when he sees the locations people have registered from.
Women, in particular, have been very active while trying their luck for that hotseat -- the participation of women is almost 40-45 per cent, a high figure for a quiz show in India.
As for Amitabh Bachchan, host for the show, he seems to be looking younger by the day -- literally. His formal suits and ties, as seen on KBC 1, have been exchanged for a younger and more sporty look, courtesy designers Shantanu and Nikhil, who have given him the '70s Great Gambler look.
"We did not want the classic look for Amitabh and when we proposed the idea of a younger look, everyone was excited," says Nikhil. Bachchan's new wardrobe will include leather and denim finish jackets with big notch collars, patch pockets with geometric embroidery, and striped shirts.
Of Bachchan, says Nikhil, "He is a perfectionist and a man of few words. Nothing said means he approves." The Rakshabandhan special will have the Big B in a Jodhpuri with a contemporary twist -- a leather patch.
So much for television's most awaited -- and most democratic -- quiz show. It truly is not about winning the Rs 2 crore (Rs 20 million).
You are eligible for KBC if
Indian national, resident of India
Have no criminal record
How the entry calls are managed
Collected data of the registered calls from Airtel's 30 locations and BSNL's 30,000 telephone exchanges is pooled in Bangalore and Hyderabad respectively at 6 pm, when the lines are closed. Data from these two centres is forwarded to two locations in Mumbai.The software randomly runs on the data and chooses 500 numbers (which are evenly distributed across marked 10 regions). Then the 500 selected numbers are called back, usually between 4 pm and 9 pm, and questions are posed in two rounds to ultimately get 100 numbers and then the 10 finalists compete for the hotseat. Auditors from KPMG monitor each stage for complete fair play.