Becoming a millionaire in Sri Lanka takes dedication, stamina, the ability to be cool under pressure and a really fast finger. At least that’s what is required if you are lucky enough to be one of 10 contestants on the Sri Lankan version of “Who wants to be a millionaire?”

Unfortunately, being Canadian disqualifies you from the chance to participate but my good friend’s father was up for the challenge. He phoned into the station and had his name short-listed for the first English language run of the show in the country. My friend Samadi was to be his partner on the show and she asked if I would like to come as an audience member. I think my extremely excited reaction surprised her. “This will make really good blog material”, I thought.

The day started at 12:30 when her mother and uncle came to take us to the station. We met up with a van full of other family members in the parking lot and quickly her mother unpacked a cornucopia of rice packets each weighing about 2 lbs for us to enjoy. As I showed off my rice and curry finger-eating skills in the back seat of the car, the noon heat was accumulating. Sweat was beading rapidly and running down my forehead and back. When I got up, the whole family was very alarmed as my shirt was soaked in sweat and here we all were dressed in our Sunday best.  They frantically searched for ways to help me; offering me tissues, sweat rags and water. Finally, the car was turned on with the a/c until we could enter the studio.

At 2:30, the studio allowed all of us reality stars in. They had us line up and shuffle through to show our ID, line up again to take our mobile phones and camera, line up yet again to check in our bags and line up one final time to enter the set. It’s ironic that in a country where people don’t seem to respect the rules of the line they would love to have so many of them.

Seriously, security is tight at this new studio which was built in 2010 for good reason. It was attacked in 2009 by a group of thugs armed with rifles and hand grenades. The studio was completely destroyed in this attack. The people responsible were never caught. The station has since rebuilt a “state-of- the-art” facility and in my limited estimation it seems to rival anything we’d have back home. But I digress . . .

At this point Samadi and her dad were whisked away to makeup. I and the rest of the family were served tea and short eats while we waited. Ironically, I was getting chilled in the building since the a/c was pumped and I was in my sweat soaked shirt, but luckily my shirt was returning to it’s normal non-wet colour.

Two hours later, we are ready to begin and taken into the set. It is exactly as you would imagine it. I was surprised to see how the whole set, computer system, graphics, etc. must be franchised out and sold to networks around the world. MTV Sports (Mahararaja Television) decided to add the English version of this popular program to their line up.

I sat in the second row ready to cheer alongside Samadi’s family members, when one of the producers obviously noticed I was the only white person in the audience. I was immediately shifted to a position where I would be seen in every screen shot behind the host known as Sri Lankan Shaq. So if I ever figure out when this show airs you will clearly be able to see me in the background every time the host asks a question.

Six hours later, the whole ordeal was done. (You read that right – it took them six hours to film one 30 minute episode!) Unfortunately, Samadi’s father didn’t have the fastest finger and none of the contestants that day walked away with more than 10,000 SLR ($100). All and all it was a great experience with many moments when I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself and wonder how I get myself into these situations.

Try your hand at some of the trivia asked during the show and see if you have what it takes to win 2 million rupees. I’ve also included a clip from the Sinhala version of the show so that you can see the studio.


  1. How many districts does Sri Lanka have?
  2. What is meant by a “boundary” in cricket?
  3. In which novel were the characters Jo, Beth, Meg and Amy the protagonists?
  4. What type of lens is in a magnifying glass?
  5. Arrange these Olympic host cities in chronological order according to the year they hosted. – Beijing, Sydney, Athens, Barcelona