The Currency of Fame

A crore rupees was a distant dream for Manoj Kumar Raina from Kashmir when he reached Mumbai to take part in Kaun Banega Crorepati's (KBC) sixth season. Especially since his efforts to participate in the show's first season had failed when he couldn't even get through the phone. Five seasons later, it was a poem by Harivansh Rai Bachchan—Mehnat karnewalon ki haar nahin hoti — that inspired him to try again. Raina won Rs 1 crore on the first weekend of the season.

"I had to leave Kashmir valley for Jammu in 1989 due to the militancy. I would like to go back and build a house there," says Raina.

The show's six seasons have turned eight common Indians into crorepatis until now. While most remember Harshvardhan Nawathe, the winner of the first season, others include Ravi Saini (KBC Juniors), Vijay and Arundhati Raul (KBC Jodi), Brajesh Dubey (season two), Rahat Taslim (season four) and Sushil Kumar and Anil Kumar Sinha (season five). It's easy to presume that the wealth has transformed each of their lives, but the fame that followed their win too has played a huge part.

A student of Symbiosis, Pune, Nawathe was an Indian Administrative Services (IAS) aspirant. He got caught up in the fame that the show brought him — attending launches and events — and could not clear the exam. Eventually, the prize money financed his MBA in marketing and public relations at the University of Napier, Edinburgh, and Nawathe is today Chief Operating Officer at the NGO Naandi Foundation, which backs the cause of Mumbai's slum children.

Insurance surveyor Brajesh Dubey from Guna, Madhya Pradesh, chose to invest the prize money while continuing his job.

Sushil Kumar, on the other hand, continues to reap the benefits of his fame and money. The first to win the entire Rs 5 crore prize money, he returned to television in reality show Jhalak Dikhla Jaa's ongoing season and managed to stay on for a few weeks even as he continued with his job as a computer operator. "My life is divided into two parts — before KBC and after KBC. I have been able to buy a house in my village Motihari and pay off my family's debts," he says.

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