Ill host halts India’s ‘Millionaire’

Star TV hopes Bachchan will resume taping in Feb.

Rupert Murdoch’s Star TV is pulling India’s top-rated version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” mid-season due to the ill health of its host, Amitabh Bachchan, the country’s biggest movie star.

“Kaun banega crorepati 2 — umeed se dugna,” known as “KBC2,” will take a break beginning Friday. Bachchan, who appeared in the four biggest Indian movies of 2005, had surgery for diverticulitis of the small intestine on Nov. 30 and has yet to return to the studio. The show was slated to run for 85 episodes but will halt after 61, per Star India chief operating officer Sameer Nair. Star hopes Bachchan will be able to restart taping in February.

The KBC franchise bowed in 2000 and is credited with revitalizing the fortunes of both the News Corp.-controlled Star and 63-year-old Bachchan.

The show, whose second season preemed on Aug. 5 with twice the initial prize money of rupees 20 million ($445,000), was airing three times a week to record ratings, reaching around 20.5 million viewers on debut, according to TAM ratings agency. Star Plus cut down to two shows a week from Dec. 2 following Bachchan’s hospitalization.

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