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It's a quizzer's world


Do you know how the word quiz entered the English language? It appears that a Mr. Daly, manager of a Dublin theatre made a bet that he would introduce into the language within 24 hours, a new word of no meaning. Soon on every wall and on other places within reach he wrote the four letters Q U I Z and all the people in Dublin were asking each other what the mysterious word meant. Thus Mr. Daly won his wager and the word became part of the language. The word now means a competition of knowledge, general or otherwise and the media, especially television has made quiz contests very popular. Hence the expression Quiz Kid refers to children appearing in radio or television quiz programmes.

Quizzing in India started way back in 1967 when Neil O'Brien, regarded as the "Father of Indian quizzing" conducted the first open formal quiz in a small church hall in Kolkata. Soon it became a popular, regular event and other clubs began to organise similar contests for the general public. Eventually a set of rules for formal quizzing was framed. A certain number of rounds, which included audio and visual rounds, was fixed according to the duration.

There were generally eight competing teams in the finals and questions were addressed to each team in turn with ttwo points being awarded for a direct correct answer and one point for a bonus.This format is used even today with minor variations, in most live quiz contests.

In 1972, on April12, the first programme of the "Bournvita Quiz Contest" went on air with the legendary Hamid Sayani, and later his brother Ameen, as quizmasters. Soon it became the most popular English programme on Vividh Bharati. Teams of three students each from 52 schools from Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai participated.

The questions in this broadcast covered various subjects such as literature, geography, history, science, sports and general topics. It kindled a desire for general knowledge in many schoolchildren all over India.

In the days before television, listening to the "Bournvita Quiz Contest" at noon on Sundays was part of the lifestyle in many a home in the 70's. The Bournvita quiz contest is now a very popular TV show with Derek O'Brien as quizmaster. Children from schools in the Gulf also participate. The Guess Appearance in which a well-known personality questions the teams for one round is a novel feature that has added to the programme's popularity.

In 1978, the pioneering "North Star Quiz" sponsored by Bata was started in Kolkata and it went national in 1982. Thousands of quiz buffs from Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore, Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Kerala and Guwahati competed to win the coveted North Star Trophy (and the shoes that went with the prizes). When it started, the quiz was conducted by Sadhan Bannerjee, a veteran quizzer. In 1988 Derek O' Brien took over. Unfortunately this contest is no longer held.

However, it was the national inter-collegiate "Quiz Time" conducted by Siddharta Basu (whose name became synonymous with quizzing) on TV which made quiz a household world in the late 1980s. He followed this up with the even more popular "India Quiz". With the emphasis on India, it became easy for the TV audience to relate to and become hooked to the programme.

This started the deluge. Several quiz programmes of varying quality started to appear on TV. Some degenerated into game shows rather than genuine tests of general knowledge. However, the standard of quizzing rose when BBC's "Mastermind India" commenced in 1998 with its classic twin formula of specialist subjects and general knowledge. The contestants were selected on the basis of a written test and were thus able to answer the rapid-fire questions thrown at them. India was the only country outside the United Kingdom in which the programme has been conducted.

Last year was a landmark in Indian quizzing. Modelled after the highly successful British TV quiz "Who wants to be a Millionaire", the "Kaun Banega Crorepati"quiz with the charismatic Amitabh Bachchan as quizmaster took the country by storm. Quizmania spread like wildfire. The entire family, young and old were enthralled by the happenings on the screen. Would greed take a tumble or caution walk away with a tidy sum? The overwhelming success of this programme led to quite a few imitative quiz shows but they couldn't compete with "KBC", as it became popularly known.

Quiz contests have thus become a familiar feature both in the media and in live shows in our cities. They have also spawned a great variety of quiz books on several subjects. They have also given rise to several quizzes on the Internet with some of them offering prizes.

Yet another new trend is the growing popularity of quizzes on specialist subjects on TV such as those dealing with sports, music and films. One of the biggest events of this type is the "Brand Equity quiz" which is a live business quiz for corporate teams only, compered by Derek O' Brien, with mega prizes like foreign trips and deluxe cars.

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