Prachi Desai is her blue-eyed girl. A love-hate relationship seems to be on with Smriti Z Iraani. In her book, Rajeev Khandelwal is history. Indeed, the boss lady demands almost slave-like devotion to Balaji Telefilms. Still going great guns in Televille, she's the one whom everyone loves to hate.. or vice-versa. Ekta Kapoor grilled- ‘n'- toasted by Rachana Dubey
Right off, what do you have to say about the allegations that you orchestrated Prachi Desai's triumph at the recently concluded Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa?
So, now I'm the mafia boss who rules television town! I orchestrated Prachi's entry, her re-entry in the wild card round and her win too. Wow! I should enter Jhalak.. in its third season.. I'd be a surefire winner.
You're saying the allegations are not..
(Cuts in) They are ridiculous. You media guys don't want proof, you don't listen to explanations. Why can't you question Synergy or Sony? I'm neither the producer nor the channel head. So how could I have pulled any strings?
I wish they had been more transparent with the results. My reputation wouldn't have been at stake then.
That's not the only allegation.
<b1>Buzz is that the special episode combining Kahani Ghar Ghar Ki and Kyunkii Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi is a ploy to draw viewers away from Teen Bahuraniyan.
Now where did that come from? Around festivals and the New Year, we've often clubbed serials for a combined high in the past. In the case of these two long-running soaps, the suspense has been built over several episodes, it has been well promoted.
As always, the profit margins will be high for everyone. It's a marketing device, not a ploy to draw viewers away from Teen Bahuraniyan. Why Teen Bahuraniyan anyway? Dulhan and Saat Phere are bigger rivals.
Apparently, you're bugged with Smriti Irani who has come on Teen Bahuraniyan as Vrinda.. another name for tulsi.
I was recently asked about Smriti's character being called Vrinda. I said I was "shocked." When the journalist prodded some more, I retorted, "The shock is dead". By that, I meant that I was shocked initially but then I shrugged it off.
Whenever it's Smriti and I, high drama is expected. Unfortunately, I believe in creating drama on screen, not off it. I'm sure that has upset several of my wellwishers.
So, what's ‘special' about your combination special?
There will be several performances by over 80 of the Balaji artistes, spread over two episodes. The suspense shrouding the soaps will also be cleared.
Aren't several of your ‘K' soaps running along the same lines?
Well, we are catering to a mass audience that enjoys high drama. As a commercial producer, I have to keep the viewers happy with kitchen politics. I don't have a choice. Anyway, who's complaining? Certainly not my viewers, the TRPs of our shows are still high.
Karam Apna Apnahas been on the downslide, prompting a shift from Star Plus' prime time to an afternoon slot.
See when Shah Rukh Khan came on TV with
Kaun Banega Crorepati 3,
.. had to be naturally moved to the 2 pm slot. Also, the channel had several top personnel moving out, new bosses taking over. I couldn't do much as a producer except abide by the channel's decision.
Mona Ambegaonkar claims that Balaji can be very unprofessional in its dealings.
Mona who? I've never met her.
Suvarna Jha recently said she would never do a show outside Balaji. You really keep your actors on a tight leash.
Suvarna has been a pal for years. It took a lot of convincing to get her to act in
.. And look at the impact she has made! The company appreciates loyalty but we don't keep anyone on a leash.
But you've gone on record to say that whenever an artiste leaves your camp, he or she is doomed to fail.
I wouldn't be so presumptuous. If some of the artistes who have left my production house are nowhere on the scene today, it's because of their own attitude to work. A show runs because of the technical team, not because of any so-called star.
What are your predictions for Iqbal Khan, Rajeev Khandelwal and Smriti Iraani?
I enjoyed working with Iqbal Khan but the relationship went sour. He has been quoted as saying, "When I make a comeback, I'll show Ekta." How do I respond to something so petty?
I'm told Rajeev Khandelwal is making his film debut. I wish him luck. But if the film works, it won't be because of Rajeev but because it's well-made.
With Smriti, there's more than meets the eye. We talk whenever we get time. We had planned to enter the ITA awards together. She's a woman of strong opinions. We're buddies.
What about Sandiip Sikcand who still calls himself a Balaji baby?
He is a Balaji baby.. he's my baby. We had major disagreements when we were working together. We rarely met, we were often swayed by others. But after he quit Balaji, we have sorted out our differences.
<b3>You've been often accused of dropping actors from your shows without informing them. Like Darpan Shrivasta and Madhura Naik from Kahe na Kahe.
If a certain actor isn't shaping up well, we have no choice but to replace him. Sometimes we put him on another show. The actor always gets three warnings.. after that he's shown the door.
There are times when you have to act tough. But an accusing finger is always pointed at me even when an actor leaves a show in the lurch. The media is always ready to listen to anyone who cries foul. But no one comes to me for a clarification.
Why don't you make another show like Kitni Mast Hai Zindagi?
Kuchh iss Tarah is a lot like Kitni Mast.. My only worry is that it's a show for youngsters and they're not watching it.
So you've brought in a track like Kkya Hoga Nimmo Ka?
The first episode had touches of Kkya Hoga.. but it wasn't intentional. Kuchh.. is more like Maid in Manhattan with a thriller angle.
You don't have a single show on Zee Next. Is it because of your Star connection?
Compared to other mainstream channels, Zee's budgets are slightly low. We make high- end shows. That's why we didn't approach the channel.
It's rumoured that you will be appearing on one of your shows as Santa Claus.
(Laughs) I'd prefer being the reindeer.