Barely hours before the telecast of Ekta Kapoor's new soap Kasturi, there was a crisis at Balaji - they were minus their main protagonist.
"We could very well make a serial about what we had to go through to get ourselves the right face for Kasturi," Ekta told informs.
In hindsight, she can afford to see the funny side of what could easily have been a touch-and-go situation.
"I was supposed to leave for Tirupati last week. I had cast a particular girl, who I thought was right. But when we saw the rushes we were aghast. Though she's now doing another soap for us, Tranitra Sahu was not fit for Kasturi. At the eleventh hour we decided to cast the girl who was playing Kasturi's friend as Kasturi.
"Having got that in place I was just about to get into the car to leave when someone from my office ran after me to inform me that the girl had refused. She had exams and she only had enough time to play the friend's role. I nearly had a seizure. What was I going to do? It was literally hours away from telecast."
In the middle of the night, Ekta got her office to round up around 40 girls for auditions.
"I slept at 8.30 in the morning after auditioning the girls and was up in an hour to zero in on the final choice. I also requested the channel to postpone the first episode by a few hours. We selected a girl and left for Tirupati."
While Ekta was away her crew shot with the new girl.
"When I returned I saw the episode. She wasn't happening for me at all - too plump and too big. I had an important dinner meeting with an international company from Hong Kong, and we had no time to find another Kasturi. So the special episode went on air with the wrong girl."
The dilemma was, should Balaji go with the wrong casting just because there was no time to change one's mind one more time?
"Although the first episode had already been telecast we decided to re-cast. I strongly believe characters in long-running serials have their own destiny and we cannot change it. My gut instinct told me even the third girl chosen for Kasturi was wrong."
It was then that Ekta thought of Shubangi, who plays Palchin in Kasautii Zindagi Kay.
"Finally, we got our Kasturi on Friday morning. It was like a cloud lifting from our heads.
"Why hadn't we thought of Shubangi earlier? We're writing her out of Kasautii... and into the lead of Kasturi. And she's perfect. We re-shot and are ready to re-telecast the first episode. I needed a fresh, innocent and a not necessarily beautiful face - of a girl belonging to a traditional family, like the one in Buniyaad.
"Our reference point for the plot is a girl in our office. What if she had an affair with Salman Khan? The beauty of the plot is in the contrast in the backgrounds and personalities of the couple. Shubangi is perfect for the role. Thank god, all's well that ends well. But if I go through this ordeal one more time, I'll be finished."
And now begins the hunt for the male lead in Kasturi.
"Please don't scare me. It isn't as if we can't find newcomers. It's just that they're all to filmy," Ekta sighed.