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Absolute entertainment: At the show launch.
Absolute entertainment: At the show launch.

SEVANTI NINAN

While the actor sees the game show format as a sort of mingling with the masses, the ratings of ‘Dus ka Dum’ seem to confirm its success.

Big movie stars descend to the small screen presumably because some TV channels make it worth their while to do so. But if you are Salman Khan you see it as an act of altruism. “For the last nineteen years they have been watching my films... again and again... spending their hard earned money on my films and I know that the time has come to thank them and return some of their money in the form of prizes.” Uh-huh? Financing the prize money, is he?

He also sees the game show format as a sort of mingling with the masses. “...the greatest temptation to the show (sic) was direct interaction with common people... We stars thrive on adulation and love of the common people and yet we get few chances of meeting them. It’s really a thrilling experience to meet common people. These are the people who elect politicians and create stars.”

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May be it’s a good thing that Khan is writing a blog to go with his show on Sony “Dus ka Dum.” It helps you understand how movie stars think. He puts himself across as this instinct-led innocent propelled by the love of the masses. (Sort of reminds you of the Beatles statement of long ago: “We are more popular than Jesus now.”) And he is hoping for redemption through them. “I can feel that meeting people will purge me of a number of things and I am sure I will be able to rediscover myself in an altogether different light. Every single handshake will vibrate in my thought process for a very long time to come.”

Some of that may make you gag, but it is also unlocking an outpouring of adoration. Each of his posts is followed by comments, ranging from 40 to 200. A fan called Waseefa simply writes “we love Salman” a 100 times over. Clearly the man is not overestimating his connect. Certainly the ratings for “Dus ka Dum” are more cheering for Sony than those for “Paanchvi Pass” were for Star Plus.

We are into another season of shows which combine domestic star power with imported formats. Shah Rukh Khan’s “Kya Aap Paanchvi Pass Se Tez Hai” began this round, an Indian version of “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?” Salman Khan’s “Dus Ka Dum” is a licensed version of “The Power of Ten”. Next month Viacom and TV 18 launch their new entertainment channel Colours with Akshay Kumar hosting the Indian version of “Fear Factor”.

And somewhere in the middle of all this is NDTV Imagine’s “Junoon” whose provenance is as uncertain as the show is indigestible. Hrithik Roshan puts in a guest appearance so fleeting that you have to watch the very beginning of each episode to catch him. Launched with him promoting it, what you get instead is large doses of Ila Arun emoting to the hilt, doubtless grateful for the extended exposure.

Junoon is a talent show which pits competing genres of music against each other: folk, Sufi and Bollywood. It is also a comeback vehicle for Anu Kapoor whose speech, dress and mannerisms are as florid as ever. The sets have to be seen: they are, like everything else on this show, excessive. Giant ice-cream cones lean like the Tower of Pisa. Countless special effects come and go, so that focussing on the singing takes some doing. The other mentors for the singers are Ustaad Rahat Fateh Ali Khan for Sufi and Anand Raj Anand for film music.

Of all the shows “Paanchvi Pass” is the most fun to watch, even if Shah Rukh Khan talks too much and tries too hard, and even if the questions seem suspiciously doctored: too easy for the celebrity episodes with all their playing-for-charity hoopla, and too difficult at other times so that the producers can safely assume that their prize money will be conserved.

SRK’s pals have come on board already, Rani Mukherjee and Karan Johar, Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor but you might like to watch out for Laloo Prasad Yadav in July.

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And of all the anchors, Salman Khan is a natural, better watched any day than read. “His common man” has mostly consisted so far of excited, middle-class Mumbai housewives, not counting Yuvraj Singh and Harbhajan Singh. The questions are based on Indian attitudes, and the correct answers are determined by what Indians think as gauged by a poll. Again, all designed to ensure that you’ll never have to give the Rs. 10 crore prize unless the show’s ratings begin to flag.

The answers to questions like “what percentage of Indians have been unfaithful to their wives” have to be guessed within a range which begins at within 40 per cent of the correct figure and progressively shrinks to zero. If you are sociologically inclined you can watch the show to decode Indian mindsets. If you are simply a Salman Khan junkie it gives him a chance to show you the paintings he did in Jodhpur Jail, crack sexist jokes and tell a contestant sweetly, “I am glad I met you.”


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