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The crorepati writer
He's the man who gives Amitabh Bachchan his lines. Meet RD Tailang, the writer of 'Kaun Banega Crorepati', the successful game show that's set to enter its seventh season.
When RD Tailang was invited to audition as a scriptwriter for the first season of Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC) in 2000, he was overwhelmed and nervous. He was among the many writers short-listed by the production house, and the chances of being selected seemed rather slim. Siddhartha Basu, the mastermind behind the show, provided a simple brief: A quiz show that will entertain while educating. Tailang had his job cut out. "As a television writer, I knew the language had to be short and sweet. I also knew that the biggest audience would be middle-class India, " he says.
Tailang struck the right chord when he penned the lines: "Ek crore rupay ek aam Hindustani ke jeevan main kya maayne rakhte hain? Kareeb kareeb aadhe se zyada Hindustaniyon ki salary bees hazaar hai. Toh aapko ek crore kamaane main kam se kam pachaas saal lag jayenge. Par yeh ek khaali aisi jagah hai jahan aap pachaas minute main ek crore rupay kama sakte hain. (What does Rs 1 crore mean to the average Indian? Well, the average salary of a regular Indian is Rs 20, 000. So, it would take you about 50 years to earn Rs 1 crore. This is the only place where you can make that crore in 50 minutes). "
The entire team of KBC along with host Amitabh Bachchan felt the impact the moment the lines were read. So did the audience which tuned in every day to catch the show. KBC became a game changer in the history of Indian game shows and Tailang grabbed the hot seat of the show's writer.
Seated in his office in Goregaon in Mumbai, Tailang is scripting the lines of the seventh season set to go on air by the end of August or the beginning of September. "The show has given me so much. Whatever I do for it is less in comparison, " he says.
Born and raised in Tikamgarh in Madhya Pradesh, Tailang's dream profession was banking. "I wanted to learn typing and shorthand and take the bank exams. But I couldn't clear a single exam, " he says. His focus shifted to teaching and began taking tuition for children. He visited Mumbai in 1991. It was his first visit to the city he had only seen in films, and associated with thieves, crime and the underworld.
Tailang had carried some of the cartoons he had drawn since childhood, and during the six-day stay took them to the editorial office of the Hindi evening newspaper, Dopahar. Impressed with his drawing and Hindi skills, the editor offered him a job. Tailang, who was unemployed, decided to give it a shot and worked there for a couple of years.
With the decline of evening papers, Tailang moved to a production house, and worked as an assistant director on shows such as Mirch Masala, Movie Club News and Chitrahaar. "I wrote some episodes of Mirch Masala, " he says.
His writing held him in good stead and when Sony launched the late-night talk show Movers and Shakers in 1999, Tailang was signed on as writer. Shekhar Suman's mimicry of politicians, actors and cricketers and Tailang's funny lines caught the nation's imagination. "It was a turning point in my life. The humour on the show worked and I became a name in the industry. "
Soon after Movers and Shakers was wrapped up, he got a call from the makers of KBC. "I was looking to do a show that was different from anything I had written previously, " says Tailang, who is also known for scripting award shows.
He bagged the coveted spot in KBC, but the true test came 20 episodes later. Its catchphrases such as 'Computerji, lock kiya jaaye' and 'Sahi jawaab' - became popular. Now that had to be sustained. "The format had caught on, but to keep the audience hooked had become the real challenge. It is then that we introduced a thought for the day before each episode. It really worked with the audience, " says Tailang.
In Season Two, he carried the same element forward, but this time Tailang's aim was to reach out to youth as well. "The thoughts about life were addressed to the youth. I made sure I added humour, " he says.
The third season was crucial because Bachchan was being replaced by Shah Rukh Khan. "Both have vastly different personalities, so the entire template of the script had to change. " 'Lock kiya jaye' became 'Freeze kiya jaye'. 'Main quit karna chahta hoon (I want to quit)' became 'Shah Rukh, main tumhein gale lagana chahta hoon (Shah Rukh, I want to hug you)'. "Shah Rukh was younger and hence we could portray him in a slightly different way, " says the writer.
After the third season, KBC went off air for a few years, and Tailang busied himself with Nach Baliye and several musical shows. He wrote the Ranbir Kapoor-Katrina Kaif starrer Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahaani for Rajkumar Santoshi.
Tailang's second innings with KBC began when the show was re-launched in 2010 on a different channel, Sony, and at a different time slot, the weekend. He was aware that the original flavour had to be retained. "The entire team was nervous. We wanted to give it our best. Newer lifelines and rules were introduced. As a writer, I focussed on the grassroots. The show had become bigger and more people were attracted to it, " he says.
Season Five has been his most satisfying so far. It was in this season that he introduced stories of real-life people. "A research team worked on each contestant's back story and I wrote each script bearing that in mind, " he says. So when a student was in the hot seat, the thought for the day would be youth-oriented. If it was a homemaker, the focus tilted towards her.
The introduction of terms such as 'Ghadiyal Babu', 'Shrimati Tiktiki' and 'Sui Mui' happened during this season. Tailang has a simple explanation. "When we were young, our parents taught us about the moon and sun by referring to them as Chandamama and Surajchachu. Giving a human identity to things keeps them longer in our memory, " he says.
Humour has always been Tailang's strong point and he says he owes it to the land he comes from. "Most people in the Hindi belt have a good sense of humour, " he says.
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