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 > summer special 2000
For the year 2000

The Best Government Reformer
How Asia Is Governed
The Best Local Administrator
The Best Activist

The Best Dealmaker
The Best IPO
The Best Stock
The Best Advocate of Shareholder Rights
The Best Fund Manager
The Best Cost Cutter

The Best Airport
The Best Hotel Service
The Best Hotel Gym
The Best Store
The Best Food

In Tune with Nature
The Best Forest Preserve
The Best City Park
The Best Transport
The Best Green Test
The Best Marine Preserve
The Best Marine Park

The Hottest Video Game
The Hottest Gadget
The Hottest Portal
The Best Asian Websites

The Hottest Fad
The Hottest Toy
The Hottest TV Show
The Hottest Album
The Best Movie
The Best Short Film


Fad | Toy | TV Show | Album | Movie | Short Film

The Hottest TV Show

Asiaweek Pictures.
Host Amitabh Bachchan (left) shares the wealth. But no one has yet won the ultimate prize of 10 million rupees.

Who wrote the autobiography Mein Kampf? What color is the belt of the karate rank after white? In 1757 at Plassey, the British defeated the nawab of which province? (Answers: Adolf Hitler, yellow and Bengal.) How do you create a dazzling hit series? One that producers confidently claim has drawn over 10 million calls in one day from people who want to be on it? A program that single-handedly makes a flagging channel exciting to a jaded viewing public? Answer: If you are the India operation of the STAR TV network, you ask questions like the first three on a show such as Kaun Banega Crorepati.

Though it started airing four times a week only in early July, India's version of the U.S. TV program Who Wants to Be a Millionaire has become a scorchingly successful small-screen phenomenon like nowhere else in the region. The Hindi Crorepati, hosted by film legend Amitabh Bachchan, taps the nation's raging get-rich-quick spirit with a sexy basic formula. As in the other local versions of Millionaire in two dozen-plus countries, Crorepati offers contestants the chance to win more money than most Indians earn in a lifetime — 10 million rupees ($222,000). All they have to do is answer 15 questions correctly.

Celebrity TV critic Amita Malik, who finds some of the questions silly, says: "The show is a mixture of lottery, greed and the glamor of appearing with the Big B [Bachchan]." Not unattractive propositions. "The show works because it's for the common man," says Crorepati producer Anita Kaul Basu. "It's about human drama, hope and disappointment." Says Sameer Nair, a STAR TV vice president: "Nothing this grand has ever happened on Indian TV." Certainly, the industry has never seen this kind of money thrown at one series. The Rupert Murdoch-owned network is reportedly spending $16.7 million over 130 episodes — nearly half the year's programming budget. Bachhan's fee alone is estimated at $3.3 million. But the money is paying off in entertainment value, a 41% viewership rating and unparalleled buzz.

Recently, when an "average guy" like contractor Ramesh Arora walked off the show with $55,500, an entire country (over 33 million cable households) of middle-class Indians had their hopes vicariously boosted. They immediately rushed to call STAR TV's 300,000 phone lines.

Then there is Bachhan. At 58, half-forgotten and in financial gloom, he has turned into a bankable star again — complete with a Swiss chalet-inspired dressing room with a fireplace (never mind that Bombay is muggy most of the year). When he walks into the studio, participants prostrate themselves before him. For many, touching Bachchan is almost as good as winning the jackpot prize.

— Alexandro A.Seno & Simran Bhargava

Top-Ranking TV Programs

HONG KONG: Road to Eternity

The Chinese costume drama was followed by loyal viewers

MALAYSIA: Juara Lagu '99

Television addicts tuned into this musical extravaganza.

The tear-jerker soap opera was the one to watch.

SINGAPORE: All Asian Star Search
In the city state, the variety show topped charts.

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