Television’s most famous bahu, has been in the eye of a storm since her TRP-topping Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi ended rather abruptly. Plagued by allegations that her production team is still to be paid their dues and she’s been banned by the artistes’ association, Smriti Irani, comes out of hibernation to take on her detractors
She has been on a self-imposed hibernation. Buzz is that she was banned by the FWICE (Federation of Western India Cine Employees) from working on any shows till she cleared pending dues. It’s an allegation she refutes strongly, saying she has a letter to this effect from the organisation.
“Don’t believe everything you read on the net. A senior employee whom I sacked for incompetence, went in the press with unsavoury statements,” she states, adding that Zee TV still has to pay her for producing Waaris. Since Waaris was a co-production, the channel had to pay both UTV and her. Once the money comes through, she can settle with her cast and crew too.
“It is easy to cry foul. Many feed off such issues. I’m suddenly answerable to the world. My reputation has been tarnished,” she grouses. “My father always insisted that honesty is the best policy. Recently I asked him why you didn’t tell me that conditions apply. But one day soon, I’ll undo the damages. I have to.”
It hurt that all her productions shut shop in quick succession.. even Virruddh that won 15 awards for technical excellence. “It was foolish not to have blown my own trumpet then. People would have at least remembered the show,” she says with a wry smile.
She points out that her other soap, Mere Apne, was 9X’s initial channel driver. “But after getting Mahabharat on board, the channel attempted a change of image. Suddenly, they didn’t need Siddharth Basu and me any more,” she says with a trace of bitterness.
You wonder if Ekta Kapoor and she are still friends? “We were professional colleagues and remain so,” she asserts. “As an artiste, if she offers me something interesting, I will definitely work with her again. You’ll have to ask her why we haven’t worked together after Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi.”
The grapevine had it that Kyunki.. would restart on another channel. She admits she’s heard that rumour too. “The show has tremendous potential to go on. Why and how it ended is for the producer and the channel to explain. As an actor, I have
no news on whether it will start again.”
For Irani, Kyunki.. is history for the moment. She’s geared up for Maniben.com that goes on air on Monday on Sab TV.
It’s an adaptation of a play by the same name produced by her company. She won’t be producing it this time because she has been travelling extensively and didn’t have the time. So after licensing it from Irani’s company, Ugraya Entertainment, it was handed over to Contiloe Films.
The play was Irani’s first production. Imtiaz Patel, who had penned the script, was confident of going ahead with it despite the fact that Irani was busy with Kyunki.. at the time.
“No one thought I could pull off a Gujarati play,” she reminisces. “Imtiaz and I still put it together in just 15 days and it made box office history. It’s good that we are coming up with a telly show now because as a regional language play it had limited audience.”
The original script has been expanded on. There will b e plenty of guest stars to ensure that interest doesn’t flag over multiple episodes. The story highlights social changes that can be expected when someone becomes rich overnight.
In the promos, the actress is seen riding a two-wheeler. She says she gained her kids’ confidence after she actually gave them a ride. “My daughter was terrified but not my son. He’s very supportive,” she smiles.
Lately, TV’s most famous bahu has been living out of a suitcase, literally. She’s been on the road, staging her play, Muktidham, and campaigning for her party, BJP.
Of course, this time she didn’t make any fiery speeches. “Though I addressed a lot of rallies, what I said wasn’t sensational enough to make headlines. So, I remained out of collective public memory,” she says.
She accepts her party’s loss quite pragmatically. It’s the janta’s verdict that the BJP sits in the opposition and brings the government’s shortcomings to light.. so be it. “It’s not about I, me and mine. It’s about making changes for a better society. BJP is ready for the task again,” she insists.
Meanwhile, Irani continues to be the highest paid actress on the small screen. The issue, she argues, isn’;t worth speculating on. “What does it matter how much I earn from a show? No one cares if I fund the education of needy kids out of my pocket. How does the fee matter?” Touche!