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Quizzards of Oz

Quizmasters are an integral part of quizzing. Of course. Who would ask the questions then? But even otherwise, it would be sad if some day a software replaces human quizmasters as the idiosyncracies, the mannerisms, and what we at QC-IITD very often call the psychology of the quizmaster, define the quiz in totality, and not just the questions themselves. I have been to quizzes with a variety of quizmasters, though my experience is not as extensive as most of my brethren from Delhi schools as opportunities to participate in a formal quiz were very rare where I spent most of my life. Nevertheless I would like to talk a bit on the issue based on the little experience that I do have.

I have a general theory about quizmasters that normally seems to fit everywhere. It's not very original, nor very profound. It just says that the more famous a quizmaster is (and of course in direct proportion the higher his charges) , the worse are his questions. Case in point being Siddharth Basu. The man has done a great deal to further the interests of quizzing, first through his initial DD days, and then through KBC. He made people realise that quizzing was not just about a few weirdos spouting useless trivia, but also something with a great potential to look smart and earn money (however scandalous these ideas might be to puritans!). Of course, he made a lot of money himself in the process. Today the man charges around 1.25 lakhs for a quiz. His quizzes have too much useless jazz, which are incorporated essentially to take the attention away from his pathetic questions and his balding pate. As the president of QC-IITD, who happens to be an ex-batchmate of his from St Stephens, is very fond of recalling time and again, Mr Basu wasn't an enthusiastic quizzer at college, and was more into theatre. That shows. The questions are made by a team of researchers employed by Synergy Communications (I worked for a short while in that capacity too), and are very often recycled. So with every Basu quiz you attend, the probability of doing well in the next Basu quiz increases. Anyway, his quizzes are more game-shows than quizzes in the true sense of the word. Of course some people swear by him. Needless to say, I don't think very highly of such people. The only reason why any sane organiser would want to have him is because he attracts sponsors. Interestingly, there's an increasing realisation that at times the man uses up more funds than what the sponsor provides.

Another equally famous quizmaster is Derek O'Brien. The O'Briens could be called the first family of quizzing in India. But Derek has unfortunately diluted the essence of serious quizzing because of his association with mass media. I haven't had the fortune (good or bad) to attend a quiz conducted by him, and my exposure to his talents has been solely through BQC on TV. I can only hope that he does a better job in live quizzes. Readers' opinions are welcome.

The third most famous quizmaster that I have encountered would probably be Joy Bhattacharjya. Despite his association with ESPN I think he has managed to strike some balance between playing to the gallery and asking a decent question at the same time. He organised an Open Quiz as part of Rendezvous a few years back, and I really liked the event. He was to conduct another one at Nihilanth this year, but Gautam Bhimani had to step in at the last moment because of some family problems that Joy had to attend to. I can't comment on the quality of questions in a Sports Quiz, but the people were fairly satisified, and Gautam did a nice job too. He was more controlled than he is on TV. I also came across a Lit Quiz by Joy in a men's magazine a couple of years back. I liked that too, and in fact bought two more subsequent issues of the monthly in the hope that it was a regular feature. It wasn't.

Then there are others who are fairly well known, in fact might even be termed celebrities in their own right, in the quizzing circles but aren't that well known otherwise. The first name that comes to mind is Pornob (Mukherjee?). I would rather spell his name without the 'b', as his quizzes are really obscene. I haven't met one single college-fest organiser who has a good word to say about him, and so remain competely baffled by his ability to get invited to so many college fests. Most of my impression was based on hearsay, until I finally encountered the great (and short) man himself at a DMS-IITD fest last year. Let me clarify that the Quizzing Club has absolutely no relation to the quizzes organised by DMS. The less said about that quiz the better. We somehow survived the prelims, and for the first and only time in my life I was thankful for not having qualified for the finals.

Then I would like to mention Gautam Ghosh and Arul Mani, both of whom did a couple of quizzes apiece at Nihilanth 2003. Mani, I believe, has a reverential following in Banaglore, and understandably so. He has amazing knowledge in a wide variety of fields. His questions were to the point and precise and his manner that of a strict school-teacher. I wouldn't say I enjoyed his quizzes all that much, and things weren't helped by the fact that they were SciTech and Sports quizzes, but they were still good quizzes and I would like to attend a general quiz conducted by him.
On the other hand, I did enjoy the quizzes conducted by Mr Gautam Ghosh, though for not the right reasons. He also seems to have a good command in a variety of subjects, but he is, for the want of a better word, outdated. In all fairness, some of his questions (on rare occasions) were very good, but most of the times they were straight rip-offs from Quiznet (probably the greatest crime that one can commit as a quizmaster) despite his proud claims exhorting their originality. Those questions might have been originally his, but most of them had done so many rounds through all sorts of quizzes (thanks to the internet) that calling them old chestnuts would be unfair to chestnuts. Coupled with that was his propensity to call infinite bounce an unfair and confusing method, and have innovative rounds where people had to guess erased lines from print ads of products, and he couldn't expect much adulation. The most valuable gem, of course, was his oft-repeated statement,"If you know the answer, you can work it out". That alone would provide him immortality in the annals of our quizzing club.

There was another lesser known quizmaster whom we got to know for the first time at Indore. We really loved his quiz, which was by far the best of the lot, and he was the first one to be invited when Nihilanth 2005 was planned. Apart from the fact that his questions are mostly workable and interesting, another reason why he is particularly liked by members of QC-IITD is that he concentrates a lot on entertainment (read movies) and literature - the staple diet of our club. His questions are exactly the way my questions are, and in fact I heard from more than one person during Nihilanth that they felt they were attending a quiz by yours truly. I'll be modest and honest. He's much much better, and knows a whole lot more than I do. But yes, my quizzes are a slightly easier version of his. And so, without doubt his quizzes have been the ones that I have enjoyed the most among all the inter-collegiate thingies that I have been to. His name's Satyajit Chetri.

I had thought of doing this in two parts, but since I have already made it this long, and because I don't know if I will get into the mood of continuing this later, I might as well finish this off. We had Mr Srinjoy Chowdhury this time around for two quizzes. His questions were more-or-less decent, with no rip-offs, but most of them weren't workable, which is how we like our questions to be. People did not take very kindly to his idea of a visual round though, where he just showed paintings of scientists and asked us to identify them, and continued doing this for four rounds! His General Quiz was slightly better. So he's a better bet any day compared to Basu. And he's pretty well-known too. Mr G Sreekanth did the Business Quiz at Nihilanth, and it was one of the few business quizzes that I really liked. He didn't veer off into jargons or photo-identfications and didn't turn it into another Brand Equity quiz either. Many of the questions were nice workable ones, or at least had some interesting fact related to it that made you go aaaahhh when you heard the answer. Unfortunately his quiz was scheduled for late in the evening the first day and there weren't too many to enjoy it, and most of those who were there were sleepy. I would like to attend some more quizzes by him too.

Then there is Avinash Mudaliar who did the Business Quiz for DMS this time around. He did a fairly competent job too, though he had far too many frills for quizzers with simple tastes like me. He was also a bit rude in his effort to be funny.
A few years back I also attended a quiz by Aditya Mobai (not sure of the spelling), who used to work at Synergy, but left them later. He was another rude man. His questions wren't exactly great either being a product of the S Basu school of quizzing.

Apart from these there have been many quizzes conducted by college students that I have attended. My best experiences have mostly been with quizmasters from my own college, and the worst with quizmasters (or quizmistresses) from girls' colleges in DU. I have never attended a quiz at DCE or NSIT, though I am told they are nice. I did attend a quiz that Rohan Murarka did at IITD and it was a nice quiz, though some people were of the opinion that there was too transparent an effort to appear cerebral by the quizmaster. I don't have an opinion on that, but I do remember the mispronunciation of 'Burghers of Calais'.

There is no particular reason why I chose to make a post on this topic right now. I had wanted for long, though, to do this. I enjoy conducting quizzes myself, and have done it a lot within my college (and twice in DU). It also irritates me a lot when I see bad quiz-masters getting paid too much, and that makes me think about trying it out as a part-time profession in the future. Of course I have my own frailties too, so I do not claim to be a 'good' quizmaster, whatever that is.

Woven by amon, 11:42 am
Monday, March 28, 2005

Rowdy Boy
July 22, 2012   10:07 PM PDT
Pornob is always in a kind of grey area - his fantasy/real questions have about a 1:1 ratio.

O' Brien is pretty bad - especially now that he's joined Donkey Kong's (read Mamata Bannerjee) army. His questions are also really bad.

Arindam Bhattacharya - although from the same Cradle Solutions team as Pornob - is reliable, slightly funny, usually correct - and does simple quizzes which are fun to attend.
Cheap Generic Viagra Online
October 5, 2011   08:04 PM PDT
I enjoyed to visiting your blog. It's just amazing....
May 7, 2011   03:06 PM PDT
Arul Mani general quizzes are a treat..had the fortune to see 2 of them..really workable and genuinely interesting..you should try them sometime..
January 10, 2007   10:53 PM PST
Hi thr,
can someone give me the email id's of some of the quizmasters mentioned. We have a quiz to conduct in BITS-Pilani.
My email add is f2005135@bits-pilani.ac.in
November 6, 2005   09:52 PM PST
i have encountered pronob,amd honestly he sucks,and offlate sources have told me je he is going around asking for work.
as a calcuttan rm sen or argus quiz club will be alwayz come to our mind,crazy bengali comments,cranky remarks and his relating every question to his age makes arguss quite a funny xperiece,gautam ghose ,i think is good and i am quite close to him and i personally enjoy attending his quizes on business trivia,i have never faced jot bhattacharya but he did a quiz for my school once and he roxs,
August 8, 2005   12:54 PM PDT
Very Interesting Post.....

Although I havent seen a live show of Siddharth Basu, I feel that he Sucks... Doesnt have a sense of humour and has a team doing work.

Although Derek too has a team, he is a much better showman. Lots of his jokes at his live events center around women, liqour, lingerie, etc.,

Joy Bhattacharya.... he ws a quizmaster in an event that I'd participated at Bangalore... He is damn neat compared to the others...

Parnab/Pornob, or whatever..... I had seen one of his quizzes at Indore.... I had a gut feel that he was blufffing.... It was interesting to read on many blogs that say that he is a 'bluff'.... It's nice that people are bringing out the truth....

Hv a nice time Blogging!!
July 5, 2005   01:40 AM PDT
This post has been one of the most read on my blog and I am thankful for all the appreciation. I have found at least three links to it on other blogs too, and that feels great! And yes, my comments on Pornab/Pornob/Porno seem to be the most popular...I hope the great man comes across it himself some day...though I doubt he'll change despite all the ridicule I have seen heaped on him on the net
July 1, 2005   02:53 PM PDT
Loved your comments about Pornab. I must be holding the dubious honour of having had to suffer the most number of quizzes with him as QM. For some reason IIM B invited him to host 5 quizzes as part of Unmaad 2002. Whoever said Pornab is 40% fact has inflated the figure at least 10 fold. Having seen more of his quizzes at IIT Kgp and NIT Allahabad I can go on and on about his lateral thinking. It beats me too as to how people call him for quizzes but if you see the audience who do not know about teh topic you will see how amazed they get esp. during his 'anything udner the sun' round.
May 25, 2005   12:27 PM PDT
Agree with some of your comments, you missed some of the younger quizmasters from Kolkata and Bangalore, but maybe they do not do too many delhi quizzes. Thanks for the comments on Pornob, he really is a jerk... for details visit my blog for the entry "Ask pronob: but why"
April 18, 2005   08:04 PM PDT
Pornab is 40 % facts and 60% bullshit...Derek has run out of decent questions. Pickbrain "Giri" outsources the work to Niche Minds, a bangalore based consultancy, who pass off " brand names and owner" as quiz questions. Joy is decent
April 4, 2005   02:42 PM PDT
I was there at the DMS quiz which Avinash Mudaliar conducted. As a biz quizzer I found the quiz exceptional.So were his Gen and Biz Quizzes at MDI and most recently IMT...
March 30, 2005   07:55 PM PST
Post reminiscent of an encyclopedia-entry. Informative.
To see why Derek is worse than S Basu, you need go no further than that travesty of a quiz-show called "The Challenge" that airs on CNBC.
Agree completely about Chhetri. Along with the quality of questions, it's his overall soothing demeanor that appeals to the serious participants.
March 29, 2005   09:04 PM PST
Well, then you might be graceful enough to elaborate more on the topic, or, if it's too embarassing, you can update me when we meet.
March 29, 2005   08:32 PM PST
Hence the ? next to gossip in my previous comment.
March 29, 2005   02:30 PM PST
I don't gossip. Period.
March 29, 2005   01:31 PM PST
About identifying the hand, Amon, if what I believe is true, then maybe you haven't been a part of the IIT gossip(?) grapewine off late.

Also, to paraphrase what Gautam Ghosh so very often says.

You know it.
Now, work it out.
March 29, 2005   12:52 PM PST
WIAN, nice idea. Maybe I'll do that one of these days.
Whats in a name
March 29, 2005   11:54 AM PST
as saurabh pot it...most interesting. But how about doing a similar kind of review of IIT D quizmaters, the past and present.
March 29, 2005   08:02 AM PST
Bhavya, I did not miss 'Porno'. I really couldn't, could I?

The Hand, now which QC member are you?
The Hand
March 29, 2005   12:00 AM PST
I think you speak for most of us at QC-IITD when you pan S Basu. Have had the misfortune of suffering through 2 of his quizzes and the man is a jackass..one gets the feeling that he is reading some of the questions for the first time....his humour is archaic and he spends a huge amount of time hiding his not so hirsute head...time that would have been better spent making half decent questions.
March 28, 2005   09:22 PM PST
Derek "No-Brain" is actually worse than Siddaharth Basu, quality of questions wise. Imagine the same quality at BQC for a senior level quiz, and you will understand why. He is too devoted to showmanship. I think as soon as a QM stops making his own questions, he loses his sting.
I can't believe in a QM post you missed out quizzings most loved man, Porno Mukerjee.

A problem I have faced with QM's is most of them are Bangaali, and think that the entire world watches Bangaali films, have Heard Rabindra Sangeet, and enjoy Devdas and Feluda.
March 28, 2005   07:39 PM PST
Yeah, Srinjoy's sci tech quiz WAS bad, but his General Quiz was decent enough.

Sorry for not being able to write CDs for you. Comp conked out and had no time anyway :(
The Observer
March 28, 2005   07:05 PM PST
i never got the chance to see S Basu live... but yes i have been a witness to parnab's antics... derek o brien is the glam-quizzer, and i ve heard funnier stories about his brother barry o brien...
i was present for the science quiz of srinjoy choudhary during nihilanth and found it bad to say the least....
but chetri clearly stood out... his was one hell of a classy quiz... but also i may be biased towards him because if i were to conduct a quiz ever in my life it would be a mela...
March 28, 2005   06:40 PM PST
I don't know how you figured out that my name was Saurabh...anyway, as long as it's not Don Quixote.
And you probably didn't notice but I left out a whole lot of other quizmasters. I was only talking about those that I have encountered myself.
March 28, 2005   02:00 PM PST
Hi Saurabh,

Guess, you have missed out 'Pravin Goday who conducts 'Odyssey Quiz' and Naviin Jayakumar who conducts 'Landmark quiz' in your QM-review. I think being a QM in Open quizzes is the toughest of all kinds of quizzes.
March 28, 2005   12:03 PM PST
Most interesting.

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