Ekta Kapoor: I'm very insecure as a person
Ekta Kapoor is a sensation.
Behind the face that refuses to give away much, there hides a clever businesswoman who has dominated television programming and has trodden the path less travelled in film production.
One moment she is the critics' darling, the next she's placing them on her film banners, mocking their negative reviews.
On TV she's the brand ambassador of some rather regressive Indian traditions. On the big screen, she is delightfully blasphemous. She doesn't want to be straight-jacketed or predictable, she says.
In a candid chat, Ekta opens up to Ankur Pathak on the method behind the madness.
What is the essential idea behind the kind of films that Balaji Motion Pictures produces?
It's my instinct. You cannot predict how well a film will do.
Some scripts will sail through with a couple of big names, and then there are others that will gather eye-balls just on the basis of the script. Your experience is what drives that instinct.
My creative team filters the scripts before they reach me and a few others. We evaluate them, ponder over the budget and think of various possibilities to get the viewer excited.
Then we think that, okay, we have the bandwidth or the sensibility to take this film forward.
Image: Movie poster of Kya Super Kool Hain Hum. Inset: Ekta Kapoor
'The return on Kyaa Kool Hain Hum was fabulous'
Why did it take so much time to produce the sequel Kyaa Super Kool Hain Hum when the first one had worked so well at the box office?
The first film was a sleeper hit back then. For an investment of Rs 4.5 crore, the return was fabulous. The film made Rs 30-35 crore.
I have implemented the same funda of the old part which is a plain sex comedy. I think people want to see the same thing so why not give it to them?
It took so much time because of my personal journey. I was caught up in television and had never made films. After Shootout At Lokhandwala and a couple of other films, we took a break and started outsourcing our projects. Then, when we decided to enter the market again with full power, we came back and re-branded ourselves.
Was that the time when you created ALT Entertainment, churning out films like LSD, Shor In The City and Ragini?
Yes, exactly. That was our strategy to re-enter in a different avatar.
Why trash the critics in the film's teasers? Does that mean Balaji holds grudges against unflattering reviews?
I'm not really trashing them; in fact, I am giving them the dignity of finding a place on our banner.
I am plainly stating what they said then. And then saying, guess what, the shameless duo is back! Even though YOU trashed us back then, that hasn't de-motivated us in any way!
Even this time we are going to put only one star rating on our banners, more than that we cannot handle! (Laughs)
Image: A scene from Kyaa Kool Hain Hum
'Critics were taking me too seriously after I made Dirty Picture and Shor'
What continues to mystify is how you produce drastically different films, when on television you churn out those over-hyped melodramas?
In films, I do programming I can never do in television. I have fun. Both mediums are content-led, but they are so diverse in their psychology that they cannot have a meeting point.
You watch television at home with your family. We all have two personas. We celebrate festivals with our families but have fun on the side with our friends. At home, you are restricted in every sense.
Movies are when you walk out of the house, choose to see what you want to see and pay for it as well. Sometimes you want to watch a sex comedy, a date-movie or a Kill Bill. This may not always be possible at home because you are confined. Movies give that release.
How do you personally see the two mediums, television and films?
I enjoy television more because it is way too much fun to make a clutter-breaking film and then go ahead and make an absolutely mass appealing TV show. If I do only TV shows there is no release, no respite, and no real sense of thrill.
So films give me the freedom to break the stereotype while television gives me the power to come back to the stereotype. It's a killer balance that gives me a killer thrill.
I don't think Jurassic Park could have been so much fun had Spielberg not made a Schindler's List.
The beauty is when you can do both. The critics were taking me too seriously after I made The Dirty Picture and Shor... so I thought why not make a Kyaa Super Kool Hain Hum.
Image: A scene from Shor In The City
'I don't want to be classified or confined in any way'
Because now you can probably get away with it?
No, I don't want to get away with it. I just don't want to be classified or confined in any way. I don't want to make only sensible cinema. I made two of them. Now I am making an outrageous sex-comedy!
There shouldn't be any predictability in what a person does. Otherwise life gets monotonous, dull, lousy and boring.
What went wrong with you and Prachi Desai? You didn't want her to be a part of Once Upon A Time In Mumbai-2.
Nobody from part one is in the sequel. Emraan Hashmi's role is played by Akshay Kumar. New characters have come in. All of them have evolved over 15 years.
So how does Prachi fit in? Now, if she wants to play a 40-year-old woman, then I will gladly have her.
Image: Prachi Desai in Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai 2
'I'm a novice, we'd rather cuddle up to the big daddies than compete with them'
What was the reason for delaying the release of Shootout At Wadala?
Talaash comes out on November 30. How do we compete with the mammoth Khan? I don't dare to.
But you have churned out super successful films in The Dirty Picture and Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai, so why the insecurity?
I am a novice. I am just two years old in film production if you calculate from the time ALT Entertainment was conceived. I am still learning the tricks. So we don't want to, and cannot, take on any Big Daddy. We'd rather cuddle up to them.
As producer of radically different films that have minted money, and owner of a successful film studio, have you made your mark in a male-dominated industry?
I am very insecure as a person. I don't think I can break the glass-ceiling if I look at it as a staunchly male-dominated industry. The demarcations are slight and you don't realise it initially.
If I look at it as a disadvantage, I won't be able to succeed. The fun is when you don't see any boundaries and go ahead doing what you feel like doing.
Image: A scene from Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai
'I'm the Censor guys' favourite punching bag'
You have had a lot of trouble with the Censor Board. Why is that?
In a society of conservatives and liberals there will be a painful pull from both sides. The censor guys have to be really careful as they cannot offend anybody.
So when two ideologies that are diametrically opposite to each other live under the same roof, there is bound to be some conflict.
But I'd like to say that they have been very co-operative with Kya Super Kool Hain Hum (KSKHH), although I have felt that I am their favourite punching bag.
The Dirty Picture had a lot of problems during its premier on television. Will there be more problems with KSKHH?
Oh, don't even talk about it! That is the hottest topic of discussion in our office.
Who decides what comes out on television and what doesn't? Who are these people? We are going to fight them.
A lot of content on TV that is already on air has a lot of objectionable stuff, especially the comedy shows. First stop them and then we will stop our films.
Image: A scene from The Dirty Picture