KBC as a game show does not discriminate, it is a great leveler: Nitesh Tiwari
Dangal director Nitesh Tiwari has been associated with KBC campaigns for six seasons in a row
It is the ninth season of the cult quiz show Kaun Banega Crorepati which has changed the fortunes of its participants for close to two decades and effectively spiked the TRP ratings of Sony Entertainment Television. If the registrations are anything to go by, the ‘hot seat’ is still one of the hottest properties around for the channel with the entries crossing 19.8 million, breaking all previous records on the show. As the first TV campaign for KBC season 9 hits the small screen, we chat with Nitesh Tiwari, Ad man, Writer and Director-- more famously known as the man behind the successful film Dangal-- who has been associated with KBC campaigns for six seasons in a row. Excerpts:
How difficult is it to come up with an innovative theme year on year for the same quiz show?
When Danish Khan from Sony met me for the campaign two things were clear, that the theme has to have the same DNA which we have carried on for the past five seasons after the show moved from Star to Sony. Secondly there needs to be humour in the ad because it has worked for us in the past and it must also have a socially relevant theme which is pertinent to KBC as well. It is not easy to come up with a fresh theme each time. So although this year we have come up with --Jawab dene ka samay aa gaya hai, which sounds like a fresh one, to be very honest it stems from what we have already done in the past, which somewhere reflects in ‘koi bhi insaan chota nahi hota’, and ‘gyan hi aapko aapka haq dilaata sakta hai’.
What stands out in the latest campaign?
The big deviation is that we are not showing the protagonist going to the ‘hot seat’ and winning. It was becoming very obvious so we wanted to do something different this time. People usually get judged on the basis of their appearances, bank balance, complexion or accent rather than what they can do tomorrow. KBC as a game show does not discriminate on the basis of looks or bank balance and only respects you for the answer that you are able to give. It makes KBC a great leveler and thus ‘Jawab dene ka samay aa gaya hai’. So people know their time will come and they will be able to get back to those who ask humiliating questions.
This is the first year when you are not working on this campaign as part of Leo Burnett which handled KBC creative duties for the past 5 seasons.
Last year was the first time I directed the film (Hindu-Muslim and Kohima ad) and was not just a part of the writing team for the campaign. But I was associated with Leo Burnett then too. This year I am doing it independently. Out of ethics I would have not worked on it if Leo Burnett was the agency team which was working on this campaign, but Sony has discontinued its association with Leo Burnett now for last 6-7 months. So, there was no moral pressure on me to not work on this.
How challenging was it for you to not have an agency backing and work independently on the same campaign?
Nothing changes for me. I am interacting with Dan and his team, which I have done even in the past. As far as writing goes, this year too I have worked with Nikhil Mehrotra who has in the past written the KBC campaigns with me, if not the entire team. While working for Leo Burnett I used to keep the KBC briefs open for everyone because it had the potential to shine. The entire team was put to work on it and we would go ahead with whoever got the best idea. So, if you look at the KBC campaigns over the years, it has been written by at least six writers. And I am perhaps the seventh one. The process has remained more or less the same.
So in six years was there any theme that was close to your heart but was shot down?
Nothing was ever shot down, it was always kept for the following year because we knew we would have to make a campaign again. But one theme which has been consistently kept for later every year was ‘When was the last time you prayed for a stranger’. Perhaps we will actually make it next year.
Which is your favorite KBC ad so far and what’s the story behind it?
The one closest to my heart is -- Mubarak ho ladki hui hai. My wife and her team came up with the idea. Personally, I find it difficult to react to the commercials which I have been part of because I have seen the commercial being made and know what it is all about. So, I remain neutral. But I couldn’t go for the shoot of this ad on the girl child and the first time I saw the video after it was written was when Amit had put some rough music on it. I was moved. And that is when I knew that we are sitting on something very good. That was the test of the ad for me, because while I knew everything, it still had the power to move me.
What is your equation with Amitabh Bachchan after working with him on ‘Bhootnath Returns’ and on six KBC commercials?
There is always pressure and pleasure for me to work with Mr Bachchan. He always treats you with lots of respect and love. When we were doing the first campaign for KBC my wife was heavily pregnant. She used to report to me at Leo Burnett. When we entered Mr. Bachchan’s vanity van to brief him on the ad he saw my wife and immediately got up from his seat and seated her. He told her ‘Deviji I will do whatever you ask me to, just don’t take any tension’. This year he kept pulling my leg throughout the shoot saying ‘Nitesh is going to settle abroad’. And I didn’t quite get it. When I asked him he replied in jest that Dangal is getting good response in China and making potloads of money so he thinks I may want to settle there now. He keeps playing pranks on everyone.
You have made some great films like Dangal and Chillar Party and some fantastic ads for McDonalds, Tide etc, what do you enjoy working on more?
It’s little difficult to compare the two. People are a bit harsher on movies than advertisements because they don’t have any expectations from the latter. They are not seeking an appointment to view commercials unlike films where people are putting in time as well as money. Another aspect to it is that in advertising even if you make a fantastic ad, not many people will recognize you, unlike in films. But on the brighter side if you make a terrible ad nobody will abuse you, try making a bad film, you won’t hear the end of it.
Which is your favourite ad so far as a writer?
There was one commercial I had worked on for the launch of Chocolibe. It was directed by Prasoon Pandey. It is about how a boy puts on a plaster on his hand to help him buy the best toy for his injured brother at home.
A DIGITALLY DRIVEN SEASON OF KBC
Chat with Danish Khan, EVP and Business Head at Sony Entertainment Television:
There was a three year gap between season 8 and season 9 this time. What are the big changes in the 2017 version of KBC?
The idea is to build more relevance. Even though the substance is the same, the form changes. In the previous season we asked an average of seven questions in an hour, our research shows that viewers want more pace so we are looking at 10-11 questions per hour. This time it is just a 30 episode series and we have increased the maximum prize money you can win from 5 to 7 crore. The past three years have seen the emergence of a Digital India so we want to add a Digital thrust into the game in terms of interaction and mobility because KBC is a show that reflects the society as it is. There is a new lifeline this time too. Along with a Television spot a lot of advertising will be done on other mediums too, especially Digital because there you can geo-target people with the right stories. We have got a good response so far as the number of registrations has doubled from 78 lakh in 2014 to 1.98 crores this year and incidentally the registrations were open only for half the number of days as last time.
In the last season KBC helped Sony propel to number 4 position from number 6 according to TAM TV ratings, are you banking on it to bridge the gap with other players this year too?
In the Urban GEC category in the last six months we have been the number 3 channel for quite some time except the last few weeks during IPL and post IPL. So in that segment we are hoping to see some movement due to KBC between August and October in terms of GRP and the position of the channel. But even otherwise KBC is very close to Sony’s DNA, we are a channel about common man and middle class so you won’t see only female centric shows on our channel, you will get a variety in terms of talent shows, crime, historical shows etc. And thus KBC is a very important pillar for us.
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