Ekta Kapoor: We have to respect cultures when we go to peoples' homes
Television Czarina Ekta Kapoor backs her apparently frivolous TV offerings as she discusses disparity in content across platforms
For several years, Ekta Kapoor dismissed accusations of adding to the depleting pool of content on television with a, "Don't like it, don't watch it." Yet, chatter about the offerings on her digital platform being superior to the apparent inanity on TV is testimony to her creative genius. Soon after the release of Bose: Dead Or Alive, which dips into the subject of the freedom fighter's life after his speculated death, Kapoor talks about the lessons she's learnt that fuel the decision for segregated content. What comes to the fore is her unparalleled business prowess.
Excerpts from the conversation:
Subhash Chandra Bose is the first public figure on whose life you've decided to make a web series. What about his story inspired you?
I came across news pieces which spoke about these strongly suggested spottings of Bose. There were conspiracies about the crash that apparently killed him. So, I started to Google him. And, each time I read something, I was pushed onto another link. Every link introduces you to another conspiracy. So, I hope this show makes you think and realise that if Bose were alive after his speculated death, what could have happened. If he chose to stay in hiding, why was that?
Bose's daughter, Anita had alluded that it was time people stopped bringing up the possibility of Bose surviving the crash. Did you interact with her as part of the preparations or to seek permissions?
We did not take any permissions from Bose's family. He's a national figure and we haven't spoken about any personal issues that weren't documented. As far as I'm concerned, if you are highlighting a political figure's life, you have to be fearless. You can't worry about who will be offended and who won't. I don't care. This is the simple belief of my life. When I read that Bose met Hitler, I was shocked. I wondered, what was he thinking? He was allowing himself to look bad [before the people of India]. That is unlike what politicians do. The man didn't care how he looked. His aim was clear - independence. In today's world, we need someone like him.
There's a very clear distinction in the kind of content you create for each medium.
Honestly, the first time I made LSD [Love Sex Aur Dhokha, 2010], people were shocked that I even knew the word sex. They thought I was someone who could only make sanskari shows. They forgot that I was a single girl, living in Bombay. The brand, Balaji Studio, is synonymous with family entertainment. [After LSD came out of this brand] people told me they didn't expect this from me. So, we created two brands that were at odds with each other. We have to respect cultures when we go to peoples' homes. When you watch a TV show, your grandmother, nephews and nieces do so together.
Rajkummar Rao in Bose: Dead Or Alive Pic/AFP
So, you have to watch entertainment that doesn't hurt sentiments. When you're alone, you're a different person. The different content is catered to the distinct personas of people. There's communal viewing [TV]. And then, there's personal viewing, which happens on the mobile phone. When you're home alone, you are making a choice for yourself. Thus, we are catering to different audiences. Even the web audience is so distinct. An urban girl living in Mumbai may enjoy a Test Case. A single man, who is interested in political thrillers, will like Bose. My mom will like Karle Tu Bhi Mohabbat. A young girl from Bareilly, one who is trying to break away from forced moral rules imposed on her, will like Dev DD.
I remember, I had this TV show called Ajeeb Dastaan Hai Yeh, where a woman, whose husband was horrible to her, had a mental connection with another man. The audience didn't watch it. I was so upset. Some women said our husbands don't let us watch it. So, I was like, okay, we'll give you what you want on your phone. Now let's see who stops you.
There's constantly a discussion on the depleting quality of content on Indian TV.
TV does a lot to promote acceptable social values. It showcases working girls, who also support families. For me, it's very important that all of my heroines be involved with some or the other NGO [on the show]. None of my girls are unemployed. All of them are working girls. Of course, if it's a drama, they're getting kidnapped and all, but there's always a conversation about work in all my shows. We have taken on social issues too. But, I can't show sex.
Is there any other public figure on whose life you'll make a show?
I had wanted to make one on Gayatri Devi, but it didn't materialise.
There's a lot of discussion around the filming of your next, Kedarnath, in the tough terrains. Did you interact with the unit?
I was there for one day and I don't know how they survived. When I reached, I was in shock. There's no civilization. There are four or five stalls of food, and for several kilometres, there's no civilization. There was no food. Keto [diet] was the most impossible thing to do there (laughs). Gattu [Abhishek Kapoor, director] had five people in his room. The heater would be on for five minutes, and would turn off for 10. We'd take turns to sit near it. It was a noisy one, but that didn't matter then. You can't hear a sound after 8 pm. It was scary. If you need medication, and if the helicopter can't reach, what will you do? The pitthoos [porters] were amazing. They were these guys carrying [huge] people. I don't know why people don't pick this up as human labour? Their agility made me jealous.
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