Afghan gameshow a chance of cash

October 24, 2010 (Reuters), KABUL: Gameshow host Rahim Mirzad reckons his daily helping of fun and laughs is just the relief his audience needs -- and the chance to become a millionaire doesn't hurt.

In a warehouse studio on Kabul's outskirts, Mirzad presents the "Treasure" -- "Ganjina" in the Dari language -- gameshow, where prize money of up to one million afghanis ($21,000) is on offer.

Just like a similar Western gameshow, Ganjina contestants choose one of 20 boxes representing an amount of cash from one to one million afghanis. Contestants eliminate boxes one by one and take home the amount in the last box.

The program has a loyal following.

Television and telecommunications are two industries enjoying growth. A decade after the Taliban were toppled, Afghanistan television airwaves have their staple of soap operas and news programs, a sharp contrast to the austerity imposed by the Taliban, when TV and music were banned by religious police.

The program recently got its first Afghani millionaire, a government worker.

Famous mosques and mountain scenes from Afghanistan decorate the walls of the studio. Dressed in a grey suit and purple shirt, Mirzad conducts the show from a dais.

On a recent recording, school children, women and young men in jeans packed on to the studio's wooden bleacher-like seating, Western pop music blaring before they exploded into whistles as Mirzad strolled onto the set.

A young man chosen as the first contestant drew groans from the audience after losing out on top prizes shortly after starting his round -- including the one million afghani pot. Minutes later he was left with his final prize: 10 afghanis, or just 25 cents.

"You really wiped the smile off my face when you lost the one million," Mirzad told him. "Now you've won the lowest prize on this program. Best of luck in the future."

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