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Prime time SULTANA

S. M. YASIR catches up with Ekta Kapoor, who is going on a nation-wide headhunt for a new tele-serial.


JUST A few summers ago, she discovered the mantra of what women want. It wasn't that life wasn't looking up earlier, but she wasn't an entrepreneur of the year then, nor was she peeking into millions of households with such amazing regularity. Today, this sultana of television not only drinks and eats concepts, casting, shooting and marketing, but also breathes them. Things have changed quite a bit for Ekta Kapoor, Balaji Telefilms' creative head, ever since she has stepped into the television soap scene. Critics might dismiss her, and maybe with reason, as being repetitive, but they definitely can't write her off. Her ideas like KKusum and Kahani Ghar Ghar Ki sell, and if the TRP ratings are a measure to go by, then they sell more than perhaps anyone else's.

Today, she is not just Jeetendra's daughter but the star behind much of Star's programming. Now she is on a nation-wide talent search for the cast of MTV's first-ever serial Kitni Mast Hai Zindagi, in association with The Rai University.

Are going around not because we had a dearth of talent in Mumbai, but because talent is not solely Mumbai's prerogative. We would like to cater to even the smallest of towns," says she. She might say this in a relaxed manner but she doesn't take it lightly. "When I have called upon so many people, it's my duty that I see to each and every person individually."

No wonder, the promos for the talent search show people getting into their melodramatic best as soon as they see Ekta Kapoor. The promo probably is another first of its kind, with her in front of the camera. Ask her why we don't see her on the screen more often, and she quips that she is a year older to what the serial demands, and then divulges the horrors of facing the camera.

"I had such difficulties. I used to turn away when I was supposed to be still."

But at casting she is a little better. The success of Tulsi of Kyunki... fame vouches for that. Surprisingly, it's not complex parameters but just a smile, or the look in someone's eye or even someone's naughtiness that she looks for before casting him or her. Kitni Mast Hai Zindagi won't be an exception in that manner.

It also has the Ekta stable etched onto it due to the letter `K', but its name surprises you with the lack of spelling mistakes. She might have carried off Hum Paanch without numerological help, but now it's a matter of belief for her.

Belief apart, the soap would differ from her previous ones in more ways then one. "To begin with, it will be a mellow drama not a melodrama and it will be youth-based, but the basic set up of an Indian family would remain.

The story is about the growth of a girl Ananya, who comes to Mumbai from a small town. And as she grows we will try to depict that morality is a personal issue, not a device to crucify others," says Ekta, who has often been accused of sticking to saas-bahu feuds with a fair sprinkling of women with orthodox beliefs.

She admits that storylines become predictable sometimes, with conniving women apart from divorces and marriages following each other, but refutes the latter charge. "In Kyunki... we allowed the Grandma to take part in a fashion design competition. Is that being orthodox?" she asks.

But as of now she is just looking forward. With two shows for Hungama Channel, a non-fiction series, soaps on all channels and three films - a social comedy with Satish Kaushik, a comedy film and a romantic film - in her kitty, Ekta Kapoor is definitely including an element of surprise in the selection of her ventures, if not in the ventures themselves.

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