Her first attempt at filmmaking went kaput as most of the films she made tanked at the ticket counter. But her second coming has delivered huge success and reaped many awards. Dubbed as one of India’s most influential women, here’s Ekta Kapoor in conversation with Vajir Singh
Last year, your films did well and the beginning of this year brought plenty of awards. A lot must have changed for you.
I believe change of any kind is temporary. You, me, we… are all aware of what this industry is like. Ek saal award and doosre saal laat milta hi hai. (Laughs).
I was very overwhelmed with the success of The Dirty Picture but it has kept me on my toes too as expectations have been crazy. And even though I don’t bother about other expectations, my personal need to do something more important has grown. So, yes, let’s see what happens. I think 2012 will be a very big year for me in terms of planning, and in 2013, we will unfold our plans. Except for Kyaa Super Kool Hain Hum, we don’t have any other releases this year, which is quite disgusting. But such things happen.
Why did that happen?
For our film Lootera, the actor fell down and injured himself. Then for Shootout At Wadala, Mr Aamir Khan changed the release date of Talaash and it got close to our film’s release date. So we had to shift our date. We didn’t want to release along with his with. So we had three films planned for this year, which is good enough for a studio of our size. Next year, we will have six releases.
Usually, if a production house delivers hits, the entire perception of it changes. That has also happened with Balaji. What do you think?
I don’t set store by perception. The ones we expect the most from, deliver the least and vice versa. I believe the ‘I’ issue has to be removed. It’s not like we are Balaji and we can do this.
With every film we behave like newcomers. That’s the reason we did well because we were hungry and insecure and that cannot go away. So yes, if the perception about us has changed and we are getting easier access to people that should increase our responsibility which is now happening.
I am happy but I believe that filmein sirf entertainment ki wajah se chalti hain. I remember when I signed Ajay Devgn for my film; people told me Ajay Sir’s comedy films were doing well and they wondered why I was making a gangster film with him. They said things like, you are signing him for the action genre…drama doesn’t work… many also felt that Milan Luthria was not an apt choice. But we all delivered aces. I think perceptions change and one should stick to one’s convictions.
Why did it take so long for people to
accept you as a filmmaker?
I didn’t take myself seriously as a filmmaker. I was very busy with TV and I was doing very well there. And then in 2008, when I faced a lull in TV, I decided that I had to own my own IPs and software. That couldn’t happen on television as channels would own the IP. So, in 2009, I moved to films. That’s when I hired a CEO and took matters into my own hands. Besides, I also planned to start ALT (a division of Balaji). I had my first release in March 2010.
Was the lull a blessing in disguise?
What do you prefer – good cinema or successful cinema?
A bit of both. I have to enjoy the process. I would not make a film that was commercially successful but was no fun to make. Luckily, I do have a commercial bent of mind. I enjoy commercial films. The idea behind making successful films is to make some money so that you can make some more films that will push the envelope a little.
What do you want more – high TRPs or a ‘house full’ sign outside a cinema hall?
Box office success, of course. On television, TRPs are something you can work on. If the ratings go down, you can bring them back but you have just one shot at the box office.
It’s all about Friday.
Yes, it’s all about THE Friday, or Friday to Friday. In that one week, if you show promise, you’ve arrived. If you don’t, it’s goodbye.
(Pauses) I don’t know. I made Kyaa Kool Hai Hum movie in 2005 and everyone told me just make that Kyaa Super Kool Hain Hum. I liked the first part because it was funny, whacky and full of jokes with double meaning. So I got Sachin (Yardi) to write the script and I liked it.
For months, we thought we would make the film but we weren’t getting a script working. Sachin got me a film called Road Trip To Anjuna. I told him to make it more commercial so he re-wrote it. And then I was, like, this can be Kyaa Super Kool Hain Hum.
Did you decide on a sequel because they are doing well right now?
Sort of. Ya, both. Sequels are doing well and people in my team were also telling me to make the film again. So a bit of both.
Kyaa Super Kool Hain Hum was to release on August 2. Why has it been advanced to July 27?
You know why, don’t you? (Laughs)
No, you tell me.
(Laughs) It happened for two reasons. One, because we didn’t want it to clash with another film (Jism 2) because its stupidity for two films to release on the same day. And second, we had similar genres of sexual content. We might get an A certificate or they will get an A. We don’t know but it’s better to avoid a clash. Now our movie will release on July 27 and Pooja Bhatt’s Jism 2 on August 3.
Did you speak to Pooja?
I didn’t speak to anyone. I just spoke to the distributors since their money was at stake.
When working with television, I have sold content even before the show has gone on air. But my passion, excitement and hard work is to see that those who have invested their money get their returns. That’s a big one for me. Any brand must make sure the people they are servicing should not be disappointed.
It happened with The Dirty Picture and also with this film. People believe in the content Ekta Kapoor produces and don’t mind investing big money in your movies.
Yes, and that’s scary. It’s a lot of pressure. I feel if I have sold my film for a certain sum, it is my responsibility to make sure that the company or person gets their money back plus more.
Why don’t you release your own films?
I am just in the process of setting up my own distribution set-up. Selling out is too much pressure. We need to have all the areas of commercial expertise as our strengths. We will be strong in the marketing and distribution departments next year.
You mean, you’re still learning?
Yes. We are just three years old in this industry and I would still love to work with my favourite actors.
I think I would love to work with Shah Rukh Khan and Ajay-sir again. Like, last year, someone asked me to name a film for which I would like to have the best opening and I said, imagine a film with SRK and Ajay-sir in it. But I would love to also work with Aamir (Khan). In fact, the list is endless and as I said, we’re only three years old. Give us some time and we will work with everyone.
Next year, you have six releases. Which are they?
Raagini MMS 2, Ek Thi Daayan, Lootera, Shootout At Wadala, Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai Part 2 and hopefully Milan Talkies.
Ya, I think so. Tough, but let’s see. (Laughs)
2013 belongs to Balaji?
I don’t know if 2013 will be a Balaji massacre or a Balaji festival. The audience will decide that. (Laughs)
You’ve made a Marathi film. Why aren’t you making more regional films?
I don’t want to make a film till I find the right script. The commercials have to support the film. If I get a great script, I would love to make the film. I haven’t heard a good Marathi script and I have had no time as I said we are doing these big films and mentally we are completely stressed. So now we have signed a new CEO for ALT, let’s see what she puts on the table.
Finally, why did you say “hopefully” you will release Milan Talkies in 2013?
It’s going on the floors early next year. So hopefully it will release next year. (Smiles)