Ekta Kapoor speaks to Subhash K Jha on her new diversifying plans as a TV & film producer.
You seem to be conquering new peaks every single year?
(laughs shyly). Kissi ki nazar na lag jaye. I never stop to think about the peaks Iím conquering. Itís enough for me that I keep doing what I want to do without considering the competition. My new soap Kehna Hai Kuch Mujhko takes me into a totally different area. To say that it is unlike what Balajee does would be wrong. Balajee believes in a lot of drama. And my new soap too has that quality. But this time the ambience is very very real. Kehna Hai KuchÖ is about the identity crisis every women faces at the age of 40. The woman is a good wife and mother. But what after that? Iíve been toying with the idea for three years. I earlier did it with dummy actors. But now it was time to get the show on the road.
Is this your way of hitting back at those who accuse you of doing too much Saas-Bahu stuff?
Not the least. Iím very proud of what you call my Saas-Bahu serials. Theyíve made Balajee what it is today. The mass entertainment serials will go on as usual. However thereís another kind of urban audience which wants to see a different kind of soap. Now itís time for us to think about that audience. Kehna Hai Kuch Mujhko is our first step in that direction. I have to keep moving on. But Iím not leaving behind my roots. I amo doing a new daily on Star called Karva Chauth. Itís a progressive take on a middle-class marriage. My three perennial favourites Kasauti Zindagi Kay, Kahani Ghar Ghar Ki and Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi remain constantly in the Top 12. Viewers get affected by what happens to the families in these soaps.
Other companies are trying hard to catch up with Balajee.
(laughs) Canít stop anyone from trying. Our mass-based shows continue to be successful. One of them Kkusum has a new actress in the title role. Nauheed Ali Sadar who played Kusum felt she was too young to play the middle-aged mother. She has a boyfriend and felt uncomfortable being older than her age. People had begun to see her as a ĎAuntyjií and ĎMummyjií. Another very good actress Manasi Joshi has now replaced Nauheed in Kkusum. She too is young, but far more experienced and prepared to take on the character. Iíve no problems with Nauheed. Sheíll continue to be my friend. But sometimes the actor begins to think heís bigger than the soap. Thatís a huge mistake. No actor is bigger than the serial. I feel some TV actors need take lessons in humility from Mr Amitabh Bachchan (laughs).
Will there be a problem inÖ
(interrupts) Of course there will be a problem in the viewers accepting another actress in a role already popularized by Nauheed. But viewers will come around. If the drama is strong theyíll accept the new actress. Itís a question of time. I face this actorsí crisis all the time. The power that my actors have over my serials is scary. They can threaten to leave any time. Fortunately most of them donít harass me. But at times they do. I give in to their demand if itís acceptable. Otherwise I say, ĎMove on, dude.í
What about your plans as a movie producer?
I am moving forward with several projects. My latest production Krishna Cottage is a supernatural thriller based on an absolutely original premise. Itís so original, itís scary. The twists and turns are so unpredictable. Itís a ghost story but not like Bhoot. Itís more about the occult. So far my two productions Kucch To Hai and Krishna Cottage are dark thrillers. But hey, now Iím moving towards light films. Iím producng a film to be directed by Satish Kaushik featuring my brother Tusshar. Itís a very cute light-hearted comedy. Then Iím making a frothy comedy with Dino Morea and a mushy romance with Aftab Shivdasani. And then Raj Kumar Santoshi whoís known for high drama will make a very feisty Walt Disney kind of film for me. Santoshijiís film will feature Tusshar and one other leading man. It would be my most expensive film to date.
Santoshi is your first brand-name director.
Arenít Satish Kaushik and David Dhawan also major? I want to produce large films with big-name directors and relatively smaller films directed by my soap directors. I suppose Iíll aim at three productions per year. Television will always remain top priority. To me itís a much more happening medium.Thatís where I found my groove. Television is my first love. No one can take that away from me. At my annual party youíll see more TV stars than film actors.
Do you think Television can rival cinema in impact?
I donít think the home viewing medium is less important than cinema. I see film production as a challenge to explore a new medium. To know film production will take me another six years. It took me that long to establish myself in the tv industry. Making big-name projects will help me understand cinema. As for the smaller films, if I manage to make even one out of four such projects successful, itíd be a personal triumph. I feel the niche films, like dark thrillers take away at least 50 percent of the audience.
Every day in life weíre moving closer to death. Hard as it is to believe, our only destination in life is death. Iíve distanced myself from success and failure to concentrate on my work The failure of the film Kucch To Hai and the soap Kahani Terri Meri made me realize that success isnít permanent. I accept my failures with humility.
When is Ekta Kapoor getting married?
Iíll take the plunge whenever the time and the guy is write. I never planned my career, I canít plan marriage.
So who should apply for the role of Mr Ekta Kapoor?
Hey if you put it that way no one will marry me. I need someone who can match me mentally. If I can talk to a guy for six hours without getting bored Iíll be happy just sitting and chatting at a dhaba over a cuppa with him. Economic status isnít important. The guy doesnít have to be tall, rich, handsome or powerful. He just needs to keep me intellectually stimulated.