SRK’s India Poochega Sabse Shaana Kaun will make you weep

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The only good that can come of turning on &TV and watching Shah Rukh Khan’s new quiz show, India Poochega Sabse Shaana Kaun, is that Khan’s fans can feel unadulterated joy at seeing him on small screen or live (if they’re in the audience).

I, however, felt no joy while watching this show. Instead, I felt a deep sense of sorrow for myself, stuck in this private Guantanamo in which Firstpost had trapped me. A sorrow second only to the misery I felt for Siddharth Basu, who has excellent quiz shows under his belt but is the brain behind this show.

One benefit of watching India Poochega Sabse Shaana Kaun is that Pan Vilas, Godfrey Philip’s pan masala brand, has now managed to introduce itself to the show’s viewers. It’s not alone. Pan Bahar also had umpteen ads throughout the programme. Nothing drives home the positives of wholesome evening television as watching Shah Rukh and Saif Ali Khan pretend the good life means chewing addictive pan masalas.

Get past the images of SRK and Saif walking through what seems to be London while munching their gently addictive but extremely fragrant pan masalas, and you could concentrate on the show.

India Poochega Sabse Shaana Kaun – don’t underestimate the “shaanapanti” of the common man — does have a nice ring to it. The combination of SRK’s charm and Basu’s intellect is a promising one. The first episode began with Shiamak Davar’s troupe shaking a leg with Khan and I must say, SRK’s energy levels are amazing. Maybe it’s because he’s now powered by Pan Vilas.

The format of the show is simple. Two pairs compete against each other for a winning amount of Rs 1 crore. They will first be asked questions by ordinary people. Once they clear that round, a galaxy of celebrities will ask the winning pair a set of questions. There are the usual lifelines and so on. All this takes place in front of a live audience that seems utterly gleeful at the sight of SRK, as expected.

The first couple was Tahira and Zeenat from Chandigarh, who excused their lack of general knowledge by saying they were “entertainment journalists”. The other couple were two men from Delhi whose names I didn’t catch, but who embodied everything Delhi is. One wore a bowtie and both proceeded to pass one-liners and flirt with the Chandigarh lasses (who seemed quite pleased with the attention). When the Chandigarh lasses asked the Delhi boys to be “sweet” to them by choosing an easy person to ask them a question, the bow-tied one responded by saying they’d be sweet to them after the show. This was received with giggles and much batting of eyelids by the Chandigarh girls. I threw up a little bit in my mouth at their banter, but what do I know? I’m Bengali.

The first round, called The Boli Round, had the “Indiawale Express”, which is an unending series of pictures of various people that zooms around until the contestant presses a Brake button. The Indiawale Express then stops to show four faces. The contestants choose which of the four people will ask them a question. After a point, they get to choose which of these four will ask their opposing team a question. Each question had two options for answers and the team being questioned had to choose the correct answer.

Of the questioners, there was a teacher from Kolkata who asked whether the Howrah Bridge was built before or after Independence. When the girls guessed the correct answer, they got a hug from SRK. The Delhi boys said even they wanted to hug the girls and earned a winning smile from the girls instead. Other questioners were a masseuse from Goa, a jalebiwala and a farsan shop owner. This was followed by The Shaanapan Round, in which two questions were asked to each team, with three options for answers. The twist was that each team would get to choose who would ask a question to the other team. The girls chose a woman as a questioner for the boys, because from the questioner’s photo they concluded “thoda intelligent lag rahi hai.”

Just when your head was reeling from watching these walking-talking lobotomy patients, the Pan Vilas ad with SRK showed up, again. Followed by the Pan Bahar ad with Saif. I have to take a moment to give a slow clap to Godfrey Philips, which, while giving us lung cancer through Marlboro, is also spreading joy with pan masala. What would have held my attention would have been if there had been a question on whether pan masalas are harmful and addictive. Now that would have been a truly shaana thing to do.

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