Buzz is that Ekta Kapoor, popular for her mass-oriented cinema and daily soaps on TV, has signed on Vishal Bhardwaj, Sudhir Mishra, Rohit Shetty and Neeraj Pandey for at least one film each, under her banner, Alt Entertainment. According to industry sources, the czarina of television has major plans for her big screen ventures.
Apparently, talks with Shetty started even before the first Golmaal released. But things have materialised only recently. It’s believed that brother Tusshar Kapoor, who’s playing the mute character, Lucky, in the Golmaal series, will play one of the leads in Shetty’s comedy for Kapoor’s production house.
Also in the pipeline is a movie, tentatively titled Driver, to be helmed by Sudhir Mishra. Sources reveal that while the lead actor is yet to be finalised, Chitarangada Singh has been confirmed as the leading lady.
But the biggest coup seems to be a joint venture with Bhardwaj. According to insiders, the director will be given a free hand in terms of casting and treatment, after Kapoor approves the subject. “It will be a typical Vishal Bhardwaj movie,” says our source.
When asked, Kapoor, without admitting or denying the news, says that her company is in talks with various directors, but nothing has been finalised yet. “These dealings take a while to be formalised. Once we are ready to announce any association with any or all of them, we’ll let everyone know,” she adds.
When asked why she has suddenly shifted from producing commercial potboilers to class-oriented multiplex movies, Kapoor says that choosing the kind of films that her company produces is not her decision alone.
“I have a team of young professionals working for my company. A lot of them have an eye and ear for ‘different’ or niche subjects. Since everything cannot be fitted with the image of Balaji Telefilms, we produce the films under Alt Entertainment. To answer your question, as a producer, I would love to cater to everyone in my audience base, and simultaneously, multiply my audience base. So, I produce a Keshav Pandit, a Once Upon A Time In Mumbai and a Pavitra Rishta,” she explains.
Reportedly, though the promos of her next big pet project, Once Upon A Time In Mumbai, have already started airing on TV and in cinema halls with other films, her company hasn’t settled on a date to release the film.
“We’re still toying with two-three dates. We have recreated the Mumbai of the 1970’s. I’m quite pleased with the art direction because the sets are beautifully designed. We have just shot two more songs for the film because the music is kickass. My distribution team is working on having as grand a release as possible for Once Upon A Time In Mumbai, so that we can do justice to everyone’s hard work,” Kapoor asserts.
Is it the after-effect of Love Sex Aur Dhokha that you’ve decided to produce four-five films and the same number of TV shows?
(Laughs) Love Sex Aur Dhokha, of course, was a high. The film did very well but its success is not the reason for me to invest in multiple productions. We are currently working on marketing strategies for Once Upon A Time In Mumbai. The next one in queue is Shor, top-lining Sendhil Ramamurthy and Tusshar (brother Tusshar Kapoor). After that, hopefully, other productions will be lined-up.
You were planning to change the title of Shor. Have you found a new one?
Not yet. We’re still looking for a new title. It’s a satirical black comedy. It’s not one of those typical slapstick comedy films. The title Shor is in Hindi and appeals to a larger audience. At some point, I was toying with the title, Roots, but with an English language title, I’m a little apprehensive about how the film will be perceived.
Is your brother Tusshar involved in the production of Shor?
Not at all. When the script of Shor was narrated to me and the director asked me to speak to Tusshar, I refused. I told him to approach Tusshar through the company. I know that earlier, he had rejected four films that were produced under my banner. This time, he was taken through the script, he liked it and we have paid him the way we pay every artiste who works with us. I don’t want to use Tusshar’s name to my advantage. Thanks to the relations I have with my brother, professional commitments never make a difference to our personal lives.
It’s said that you wanted to release Once Upon A Time In Mumbai on July 30.
As I told you, we haven’t honestly settled on a date. It could be the date you are mentioning, it could be a different date altogether.
Why did you decide to add two more songs to the film after it was completed?
We added the song,
Shootout At Lokhandwala
at the last minute. It became a hit because it drove the promotion and the song was very lively. It’s the same case with the songs that we added to
Once Upon A Time In Mumbai
. Ajay, Kangana (Ranaut) and Prachi Desai have put in pleasing performances. Prachi was a discovery.
Back to LSD. You were planning to have another version for the TV premiere of the film.
Yeah, that’s on. I can’t name the channels but my company is in talks with many of them. Most of them prefer to crack a bulk deal. Maybe LSD will be accompanied by two-three of my other productions. It’s too early to state which ones.
Do you think the TV premiere will do well, given that the film ran in theatres for three weeks and you brought out the DVD in less than 10 days?
Of course, it will attract eyeballs because there are many who’ll watch it for repeat value and many who would want to see what the TV version looks like and how different it is from the theatrical version. Actually, I am extremely upset about the way the early DVD release of LSD was looked at. The DVDs of all my films are in my office in the first two days of the film’s release. You can get an unofficial version of any film from a movie dealer two days after release. My film was running in packed cinema halls for a week and then of course, the collections dwindled. I got the DVD out early to capitalise on the hype around it. I think we live in a fool’s paradise where DVD and home video is looked at as something that comes out after your film leaves cinema halls. It’s unimaginable the kind of money our DVDs made. Dibakar Bannerjee, the director of the film, said that he wasn’t aware of the plans to bring out the DVDs... I had asked Dibakar about that statement he made. He says he didn’t make it in the spirit that it was reported in. Anyway, to set the record straight, he and I were fully aware of the plans of getting the DVDs out early. We were always on the same page with every aspect of the film.
Given that Tusshar is back in one of your productions, wouldn’t you want to rope in your father, Jeetendra, for a movie too?
No, my dad is into a certain business of his own. He was a top-class actor and the first one in his generation to get into film distribution. He’s got great business sense. Many actors followed suit. I don’t want to discuss the details, but I can tell you that he’s doing better business than my company.
You’ve even produced a Marathi film. What drew you to do that?
It’s untitled yet. Neeraj narrated the subject to me on our way to Tirupati once. I loved it but I knew that it was a subject that would appeal more to a certain cultural group and not to everyone. It’s like producing a Natrang in Hindi and expecting it to be lapped up. This film’s story is the kind that would only be loved by a certain kind of audience that speaks a certain language. We will shortly be getting into more regional films because there are so many culture and language-specific stories waiting to be told.
What is it that draws you to a script as a producer?
It’s instinctive. My sixth sense tells me if I can help accentuate the appeal of the film.
Do you think the multiple companies producing TV and movie content can function in your tiny Andheri office?
Real estate is a costly affair. My company at one point had too many employees and comparatively lower productivity. Now, with a refined group of employees, my companies are functioning faster and better. I know I am not sacking anyone if there is another economic slowdown. Honestly, a company doesn’t work with the number of buildings and floors to its name. You have to be smart to make it work even in a 10X10 foot office.
Balaji/Alt Entertainment Productions @ the box office
LSD: Love, Sex Aur Dhokha (2010): HIT
EMI: Liya Hai To Chukana Padega (2008): FLOP
C Kkompany (2008): FLOP
Mission Istaanbul (2008): FLOP
Shootout at Lokhandwala (2007): HIT
Koi Aap Sa: But Lovers Have to Be Friends (2005): FLOP
Kyaa Kool Hai Hum (2005): HIT
Krishna Cottage (2004): AVERAGE
Kucch To Hai (2003): AVERAGE