Before Siddhartha Basu became a big name in the area of non-fiction programming in the TV industry, he spent his years studying, doing theatre with Barry John, romancing a certain Anita, marrying her and finally starting Synergy, a TV production company which took TV quizzing to another level altogether. There was the unforgettable Quiz Time on Doordarshan, Spectrum, The IndiaQuiz, Mastermind India, University Challenge on BBC World and many more. There was also Kaun Banega Crorepati - the show which brought the Big B onto the small screen for the first time and changed Siddhartha's fortunes. Siddhartha is chief managing director of the company, while his wife stands at the helm as well, as managing director of BIG Synergy.
His appreciation of academics, knowledge, research and content is understandable. Siddhartha gave a new spin to the television quiz shows and thus came to be known as the father of television quiz shows in India. Explaining his departure from such an intellectual exercise to shows like Sach Ka Saamna (SKS) and Dus Ka Dum (DKD) that run high on commercialism and reveal human fallacies, Siddhartha says, "We got stereotyped there. SKS is an accurate reflection of what's going on in real life and that's dealt with compassion. You decide how far you want to go with the truth. People are concentrating on sex questions but that's just a small part of it. The biggest thing about reality shows is how do you deal with them? We deal it with fidelity."
Siddhartha is particularly proud of India's Got Talent, a talent hunt show inspired from the famous U.K. show Britain's Got Talent, aiming to give a platform to the untapped talent in various parts of India. "It had a sense of India. Most importantly, it wasn't contrived. It was a real celebration of India."
But does he borrow from his experience as a quizmaster at times to guide the celebrities who host these reality shows like Kya Aap Panchvi Paas Se Tez Hain and DKD? "Yes, we are hands-on producers. We are involved with everything. Salman is not a conventional host. He is most uncomfortable with anything that has to be memorised but he has a great connect with people and a good sense of humour," says Siddhartha, defending the level of questions asked on DKD by saying that they are to do with values and habits of people. He's the man who is given the credit for redefining television viewing in India. And he's still not done.
-> Siddhartha is an English literature graduate from St. Stephen's college and postgraduate in the same subject from Arts Faculty, Delhi University.
-> In college, he formed Theatre Action Group (TAG) with Barry John. Lilette Dubey, Mira Nair and Pamela Rooks were part of it. St. Stephen's used to be a boys' college and the women actors were imported from the neighbouring colleges. Mira Nair recommended Anita Kaul Basu, her junior in Miranda House, for a play to Siddhartha. That's how the two met. Siddhartha's career in television began in 1977 as a documentary filmmaker.
-> Starting with Quiz Time on the DD network, he moved on to host and produce shows like Spectrum, the 7 nation SAARC Quiz, The Beanstalk Quiz Summit (On DD), Mastermind India, and India's Child Genius on STAR World.
-> He started Synergy in 1988.
-> Next on his radar is fiction programming.