Thursday, August 27, 2009

Review: Madras Day Quiz

The day dawned bright and and I woke early, as the morning jasmine peeped out amidst the green garden, dewy-eyed and pristine white, like a Test cricketer emerging out on the first day of a match. It was the day of the Madras Quiz, one of the biggest quizzes on the calendar. Looking forward to it, I knew it would be a quiz that would definitely be equal to India's biggest Open Quiz, the Landmark Quiz.

The Madras quiz is being conducted by Team IQL, and was located behind a place familiar to most of us, the PS Senior School . I was slightly late for the quiz and I rushed to the prelims location, but was aghast to find that it wasn't even close to starting. After a bit, it got underway in typical fashion.

The prelims were like a cup of steaming hot early morning coffee. Some questions were brewed to perfection, while a lot others were reused decoctions and left a bitter taste. The answer on AR Rahman was a great fact and I guess it played the level field. Some others, like the first question, left us with a "Eh? Why is it there?" Overall, quite a decent prelims and we hoped we would qualify.

However, there was many a slip between the filter kaapi and the lip. We narrowly missed out on qualifying. It was nice of the quizmasters to follow the Great Derek's style of announcing the teams that missed out on qualifying. It gave us an incredible opportunity to enjoy the limelight and attention that is bestowed on teams-that-nearly-qualify. Wouldn't have missed it for anything. If only, they had announced the scores of all the teams that had made it, it would've ensured complete fairness and transparency to all. After all, what is an hour more or less, when we go to quizzes?

Speaking of filter kaapi, it was a pity that they had not arranged for a provision to serve it to the participants. After all, what is Chennai without a cup of steaming hot filter kaapi in the afternoon? And one more point in the favour of the Great Derek. I notice in the Great Derek's quizzes, something to eat and drink is ALWAYS served. I wish more quizzes start following this noble tradition.

The usual faces were among the finalists - The Legendary VV Ramanan, the Legendary Jayakanthan and the Legendary Gaurav Sundaraman. DP had ( surprisingly?) made it to the finals, and I made a mental note to work harder next time. If DP can qualify, it should be possible for me to qualify too, especially in a quiz on Madras, which is so obviously not his core competence.

The finals were like a whiff of morning jasmine, smelling sweet and pure. The quiz started on higly scented note, with a very interesting picture of the Central Institute of Classical Tamizh Studies. Quite a few other nuggets of information, like a question on Pennathur Subramaniam were present. However, as with any strand of jasmine we get nowadays, there were quite a few genetically modified flowers which had no right to be present.

One-third of the quiz, for good or for bad, was on movies. While I would agree to the odd question on Gemini Ganesan, I draw the line at a question on K Balaji as a child. One more question read - Which scriptwriter blah blah blah? When the first two teams had guessed Anna and the second MK, I had exhausted my stock of guesses. The answer turned out to be Kripananda Warrier ( the only Warrier I know in Tamil Cinema is Sultan the Warrier) And when there is question after question along similar lines, it does get a trifle wearying.

There were two long visual connects, which are like one-minute instant coffee served to quizzers brewed on the traditional thing. It might be easier to make, but unless it is interesting to all, it should not be there. The first theme had 5 unidentifiable people, and Maharajapuram Santhaman. The answer turned out to be Roads in Chennai renamed after people. Some more clues perhaps, to make it more guessable to aam audience?

The second theme, on places in Chennai named after flowers, was a poser to some teams, with the Legendary Gaurav going for the refreshingly different answer of Restaurants in Chennai. From the audience, I established my credentials as a blooming idiot on Madras, by not coming close to answering this theme.

The Madras quiz was won by L.Jayakanthan alongwith Alagarsamy from Hyderabad, with Rajaram and Joshi from Muscat coming second, and Ashwin Prabhu and Ramkey from Coimbatore coming third. The favorites, L.Ramanan and Ramkumar Shankar, and the young team of L.Gaurav and Anirudh surprisingly didn't finish in the top three.

A Madras Quiz is very hard to conduct, given the knowledge of quizzers and paucity of fresh content available. Given that there have been quite a few editions before this, it is increasingly becoming hard to find good questions. Moreover, today's quizzer is an incredibly savvy googler, and finding questions to please him is definitely a hard, if not as difficult, task. Given these constraints, the IQL team did a great job conducting this quiz. Most of the questions were very good, and most of us came away with the feeling ' I learnt something new about Madras today'

And finally - I'm thoroughly sick of a filter kaapi and jasmine analogy parallel used whenever Madras is mentioned. Thoroughly boring. How's this? "AAh Madras. Whenever I think of the old city, I think of Jalapeno-Tomato Chilli-Cheese-Cajun Pepper-Popcorn with a hint of Butter, served by good ol' Sathyam Cinema"? It has so much more of a zing to it!