'I think I have tasted blood'
After Thodisi Zameen Thodasa Aasman, Smriti Irani is taking her role as a producer very seriously and is all set to make three more serials.
"I think I've tasted blood. Now I want to produce more serials, not just soaps. I'm doing one more fiction show and two non-fictional shows. But I'm far away from being as busy as my boss Ekta Kapoor. There can never be another Ekta Kapoor," Smriti told IANS.
She says she has learnt several valuable lessons from Ekta.
"Like how much careful planning is required before going on the floors. So, I'm ready with more production plans. My next fictional output will have some of the most brilliant actors from cinema and television. And I'm not talking about the glamour-quotient.
"Somewhere I feel true talent has been undermined on television. Now when I see films like Maqbool, Omkara and Iqbal, I realise the audience is ready for a change on the home medium as well. The fact the 'Thodisi Zameen...' has clicked proves my point."
All her three production plans belong to different genres.
"But each one will touch the core of our Indian-ness. Under the glitz-and-glamour we're all extremely simple people."
Smriti says she's lucky to be a colleague of the very people she's inviting to act in her serials.
"Take Kiram Karmakar, who's my co-star in Thodisi Zameen... When I had walked into Balaji to do Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, he was already doing Ghar Ek Mandir. He has watched me grow. All my colleagues like Jaya Biswas, Sanjit Bedi and Pawan Shankar are helping me grow further, as a producer."
How does she manage to do all these jobs simultaneously?
"I'm blessed to have a very accommodating family. I don't have a social life. I don't party at all. I meet my friends at home. I'm one of the few people who never attend Ekta's parties. She knows I've to be on the sets at 7 a.m. Many people get opportunities. But I've been blessed with the opportunity to take those opportunities forward."
Smriti says it's a virtual cakewalk for her to walk from the old woman's role in Kyunki Saas... to the young dreamer in "Thodisi Zameen..."
"It isn't a mind-boggling process to play such contrasting characters on two different sets. There are different directors on both the sets. Actually, being an actor is the easiest job in the world. Being a producer is far tougher. I remember how Shobha Kapoor smiled when I announced my decision to turn producer. Now I know what that smile meant.
"I feel very privileged that 'Thodisi Zameen...' is the first co-production that Balaji has done with any outside producer. For a company like theirs to entrust this responsibility on a first-time producer like me is a big responsibility."
She's all praise for her director Santram.
"Everyone told me he's only good with suspense. But he's doing a wonderful job. We're all of the same mind-set. None of us set out to make a normal soap. Change is definitely in the offing in viewers' tastes.
"Of course, 'Kyunki Saas...' made television the huge medium that it is today. Its relevance can never be undermined. It's an honour to be associated with Balaji as an actor and now a producer. And if Shobhaji wants me to do another co-production I'll happily do it."
She lights up at the mention of her "Thodisi..." writer Kamlesh Pandey.
"I very apologetically suggest melodramatic situations in the serial. He quietly reminds us of how significant a hand melodrama has played in his epic feature films like 'Tezaab' and 'Rang De Basanti'. We're all a team of youngsters on the 'Thodisi...' a team wanting to graduate to another level on the serials."
Smriti is full on into producing "Thodisi Zameen..."
"I sit on every aspect. For me it's an all-encompassing job. But direction? No way! It sounds very fashionable for another female actor to become a director. But I'm not into fanciful designations."
Any unfulfilled wishes?
"I want to do a full-fledged comedy on television. The irony is, I landed my role in 'Kyunki Saas...' on the basis of a comic stint...."
She's glowing as the old woman on "Kyunki Saas..."
"I guess it's the glow of the success of 'Thodisi Zameen...' I've been very lucky. 'Kyunki...' is a legendary soap. And now I'm part of the change that's happening on Indian television. I won't take credit for anything good that has happened to television.
"I think actors are hugely dispensable. It's the technicians who make soaps happen. An actor occupies the most amount of space in the papers. But it's the technicians who deserve to be written about. I've seen my technicians running around to get their children into school. I know their value."
Speaking of Smriti's family, her husband and children don't watch her serials.
"My children go to bed at 8 p.m. They don't go to any fancy school. I want them to grow up as normal kids. My husband doesn't have time to watch television. But I must tell you, when I was very younger I used to tell god I was ready to face any hardships in life, as long as I get a good husband. My prayers came true."