Home >Opinion >News Wiz: It’s all about the questions

The impossible has happened. I watched an hour of non-stop Indian news television and did not go deaf or have a seizure. In fact, I not only enjoyed myself, I learnt new things and was actually sad when the hour came to an end. This is not because I have a slight touch of the Stockholm Syndrome. It’s because India Today TV has finally introduced a programme on their news channel which doesn’t involve screaming, shouting or Sambit Patra. (Although it does include Salman Khan, which is almost as bad as having Patra on.)

Yesterday was the first episode of India Today TV’s news quiz show, News Wiz. The one-hour long programme is telecast at 11am on a Sunday morning and is hosted by consulting editor Rajdeep Sardesai, playing quiz master. The news quiz show has schools from across India participating and 600 schools have supposedly sent in entries.

If you’re a big quiz fan or took part in quizzes in school or watched the Bournvita Quiz every weekend and then went on to watch BBC Mastermind and then Kaun Banega Crorepati, there is much to love about this programme. This is finally a news programme which Karan Johar would be proud of, because it’s a show which the entire family can and should watch. Kolkata at one point used to be the quizzing capital of India and the show brought back memories of our entire family sitting in front of the television, cutting across generations from my brother and I to my parents to my grandmother, all watching and answering—or trying to—the questions which Siddhartha Basu was asking. More than KBC though, this show is reminiscent of Quiz Time and Bournvita Quiz, because there’s no pathos stories or dramatics from participants a la KBC. And the participants are students.

The show is created by the daddy of quiz shows in India, Siddhartha Basu. For trivia, Sardesai had participated in Quiz Time in 1985, an inter-collegiate quiz show which was hosted by Basu in 1985 on Doordarshan. And today, he’s hosting a show created by Basu. How things come full circle.

So, here’s how it goes. Each episode for the qualifying rounds till the semi-finals will have 3 teams from different schools across India. Participants have to be from Class IX to Class XII. The first 3 teams were from Modern School—New Delhi, Chettinad Vidyashram—Chennai and St Mary’s School—Pune. In this episode, there were two News Guests as well, whom the teams can ask for help. The two news guests were cricketer Suresh Raina and anchor Anjana Om Kashyap—who I last saw on the media panel of the last season of Bigg Boss.

The episode was split into various segments. The first round was In The News which gives you options of sets of 3 news stories, from which participants have to choose one set of stories and answer questions on those. For example, one set included – Autobiography, Turkey Coup and Madhya Pradesh. Which is what the Modern School team chose. Their questions were:

Whose autobiography is called Ace Against Odds?

Against which Turkish President was a military coup attempted recently?

In July 2016, Madhya Pradesh announced the creation of which new department inspired by GNH Gross National Happiness (GNH) of Bhutan?

Modern School got all the answers right.

Just when I was getting very excited about the show, India Today TV showed us that unlike the participants who said that the one thing they didn’t know—or seem to care—about was pop culture and Bollywood, India Today TV loves its superstars. Even deviant ones. So, we had to get a surprise question from that pinnacle of intellect and role model for all youngsters, Salman Khan. Plugging his film by asking a question on wrestling.

The next round was Top Story which asks questions on a topic which hogged headlines that week. This week’s was Militancy and Terrorism. One of the questions was—Which militant group was Burhan Wani the commander of? The next round was a fun one, called Match Time where you got to match images with relevant names or statements or options, which this week was matching ministers to their portfolios. The final round is the most fun round for most quizzers I know, which is the audio visual round, and is called News Buzz. One of the audio questions was to guess a chief minister’s voice, which sounded like Kejriwal to me but turned out to be Mehbooba Mufti.

I must say I was most impressed to see that the students were most ill at ease and under-confident only while being asked questions on films or actors. Their enthusiasm and visible excitement at getting an answer right, or despondency at getting one wrong is contagious. And it’s very heartening to see that youngsters are so well aware of current affairs, and not just whether Kareena Kapoor’s baby bump is being flaunted.

There’s not much to be critical of in this show. But Sardesai who seems to be to the quiz manor born, needs to stop interrupting the teams while they’re on the clock during the Match Time round. They spent more time politely addressing his random interruptions than on their questions. Also, Tiago is a sponsor and since its catch-line is Fantastico, Sardesai has to by contract I suppose say “it’s fantastico" now and then. Which is a little forced. But hey, if Tiago is giving the winner a car as a prize, it’s Fantastico. The winners of the preliminary round did win a Kindle and a laptop.

All in all, this is one of the best shows that I have seen coming out of Indian television—and news television—in the last decade. So kudos to India Today for making up for unleashing those horrendously loud panel discussions and dodgy clickbait articles on us.

Everyone, across ages, should gather around their televisions at 11am every Sunday to actually have fun with the news—and learn something for a change. Siddhartha Basu and Rajdeep Sardesai have really knocked it out of the park. If only they’d managed to knock Salman Khan away.

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