TV tycoon Ekta Kapoor rubbishes rumours that she has brought Smriti Irani, the popular small screen bahu Tulsi, back on her show Kyunkii Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi at the behest of STAR.
Excerpts from an interview:
How is Smriti Irani going to re-enter Kyunkii Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi?
That's the exciting part. For two months there'll be two Tulsis on air. Gautami's character is going to acquire a sexy edge now. She's now going to play that aspect of Tulsi that no one ever expected.
What happens to Gautami after two months?
I've very special plans for her. Gautami is my jaan. She's so humble and warm. The woman is unbelievable. And I'm doing something very special with her. It's an honour to be associated with her. If I hadn't re-worked my equation with Smriti, Gautami would've been Tulsi forever.
Do you feel guilty about Gautami's ouster as Tulsi?
I'm very clear about one thing. I'll make sure Gautami doesn't get even one day off from Balaji. I'm giving her a vehicle that's worthy of her. Getting back Smriti is like a double whammy. I'm getting Smriti to do Tulsi while I'm getting Gautami to do something that I've planned for her. My new project with Gautami is a rare challenge for me at this stage of my career when I don't believe in challenges.
What's the show?
All I can say is, it isn't a run-of-the-mill soap. That new show with Gautami has me shivering in my knees and weak in my boots. It isn't a TV serial. It's something that makes me get up from my bed faster every morning. I don't know what the outcome will be. I need everyone's good wishes.
It isn't fiction?
I won't say that, but it's something totally new to me. I'm so happy Gautami is a part of it. I was planning it for a long time. But because of Gautami's baby she couldn't do two shows at the same time. I rate Gautami on a par with Sakshi Tanwar. Both are much more than just Parvati and Tulsi. Sakshi is the only TV actress who had two daily soaps Kahani Ghar Ghar Ki and Devi running at the same time.
How did Smriti make a comeback in Kyunkii...?
(Smiles) She re-started shooting on April 6, which was a very auspicious day in the Hindu calendar. Smriti was extremely gracious about dancing at my first awards function. And she refused to take money. See, today, my production house doesn't depend on any one serial or actor. It's all about personal equations.
When an actor works with Balaji, you've to go by my rules. And you can call me Hitler, Dictator, whatever. I met Smriti professionally with an open mind ready to close discussions if the issues were not sorted out. Luckily Smriti was okay with most of our pre-conditions.
People feel Smriti was doing a takeoff on Tulsi in Zee's Teen Bahuraniyaan?
I wouldn't like to comment on this, since I'm too fond of the people involved with the show. All I'll say is imitation is the best form of flattery.
Did STAR ask you to get Smriti back?
No channel has the guts to ask me for any actor. They never do it. They never will. We at Balaji have that much credibility at the channels. When Smriti came to our office, we met with an open mind. I find we are very comfortable with each other again. We had a very pleasant and warm discussion. Looking back we realise there was a lot more to our relationship than Kyunkii Saas...".
Would you say Smriti's absence from the show made no difference?
I'd say she's a brilliant actress, very powerful performer. She gave Kyunkii... a lot. When she wasn't on the show, she was missed by one and all. But she made no difference to the ratings. People love the show and Tulsi. They didn't stop watching without Smriti. The TRPs are decided by the content, not the actors. TRPs change from week to week.
Smriti used to consider you her 4 a.m. friend?
That friendship is still there, but we had to keep the professional equation out. There were articles that said we were abusing each other. We were on the phone at that time laughing off the quotes attributed to me. See my rapport with my actors doesn't depend on an individual serial.
I've already made 57 serials. I'll probably make 60-70 more during my lifetime. I don't need to get out of my comfort zone for one show. I'm outside the competitive zone now. For me personal equations matter more than the professional. Serial production is still exciting for me. But it isn't a challenge. I leave the challenge to the other producers.