In a two-part exclusive interview, our man in Mumbai, Devansh Patel, talks to one of India's most powerful women. who has built an eponymous entertainment empire - Balaji
IT IS 5.30pm on a Tuesday evening. My mobile was beeping with back-to-back text messages about Osama bin Laden, when suddenly one pops up that read, 'Come to Balaji to meet Ekta Kapoor'.
Now I'd be a fool not to take this one seriously. Within an hour I was dressed to meet one of India's most powerful women, who has built an eponymous entertainment empire named Balaji.
It's 8.30pm and Ekta is talking with me in her fifth-floor suite because both her life and her company are very much in transition. But before our talks, Ekta - being Ekta - introduces me to a few of her colleagues. She is surprised to know that I know a few of them already, courtesy of Facebook.
In her flawless Malini Ramani designer dress, she looked every inch an actress. And with her stretched smile, you definitely get drawn to her stunning symmetry of beauty and brains all intact.
Ekta is one of those people who everybody knows but nobody knows much about, and apart from her occasional controversies and outbursts, it is her unparalleled track record from television to movies that has won her the labels, 'Godmother of television' and 'Visionary of the big screen'.
Considering that Ekta and her team might pull off their first of its kind, Ragini MMS, which is billed 'the scariest date movie ever on Indian celluloid' (released May 13), I figured that now was as appropriate a time as any to ask her to share a little more about herself, Balaji, and much more.
All this and more in this exclusive two-part special, which continues next week.
DEVANSH PATEL: So how do you give projects the green light as a producer?
EKTA KAPOOR: I don't think I plan that well. I just go with my gut feeling and then I try to support that with a slightly sound business plan. My zone of thinking is to think about why some people think their film will work, or their script is a great script.
When everybody comes with their own unique conclusions, it makes an interesting read. Somebody has to think of something and tap into it and only then the research is made.
DP: And you do cater to the young urban lot, I think?
EK: I just hear scripts and I like them. I am a film-goer. I go to the theatres to watch movies. I can watch a Salman Khan-starred movie with as much aplomb as I would watch a slightly dark and edgier Anurag Kashyap film. So what does that make me? That makes me a young urban viewer, and if I am a young urban viewer, I'd love to cater to my taste.
It's all about having a nose and a taste, not to forget, a good ear to hear and you are well sorted.
DP: A lot has been said about small budget films and film-makers who are the talk of the town.
EK: Unfortunately, we do not have so many opportunities given to young people because that's where the talent lies. There are passionate film-makers who'd love to make a small budget film with great content and there are people out there who love to hear a different story.
Every film can't be with a big star because there are only four of them. And I mean that all four can't do 20 films a year. So what do you do? Do you wait, so you create some kind of body of work with which you'll at least have some form of acceptance when you approach them? Today when I go to any actor, they take me very seriously because I have done the same.
DP: Why choose the most famous public transport 'auto rickshaws' to promote your film Ragini MMS?
EK: Auto rickshaws are a super mode of transportation and they are always there on the roads. Instead of putting the clichéd banners that cost so much, why not give the autowalla's some business. Theatrical promotions and banners and posters will happen but I think I am going to reveal the real Ragini soon and that's going to be the best marketing ever.
The best part of Ragini MMS is that it's based on a true story and when you know it's a true story then you start to think and ask: Does this actually happen? Then it plays with your mind.
I am actually going to bring the real Ragini out to the world.
DP: And how would you compare the two world's - television and cinema? EK: Television today is no longer what it was five years ago. That euphoria for characters is dead. There's so much of television happening. I mean it's too much of a good thing. In films, on the other hand, because they're three hours, they have a shorter lifespan but a more euphoric one.
You see a television show and get excited to watch it but then you realise that you will have to watch 200 more shows to finish off. It's lost its daily dose effect. It's there but it's not that rampant.
DP: The last film you produced, Shor in the City, got four stars from all the critics.
EK: Shor in the City has given ALT Entertainment (division of Balaji Telefilms) that kind of a badge value that I've never imagined. Clearly, I shared the mantle of a successful film with LSD with Dibakar Banerjee. ALT made its second Hindi film Shor in the City and today I feel like a star, thanks to the entire four star reviews coming our way (laughs).
But honestly, all our films so far have got four-star reviews.
DP: So far you've made more small-budget films. Is that a conscious decision?
EK: Balaji Motion Pictures are always struggling. I really believe that we are strugglers who are climbing the ladder of success slowly. I got out of my comfort zone of television. You don't even get to meet some actors for months and don't even get meetings at times. That's why one makes films on their own.
This is not a conscious decision to make small films, it's the only option we've got and I am happy doing it.