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Ekta's shows: Regressive or misconstrued?

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By: Upala KBR, Mid-Day
Thursday, March 02, 2006

Ekta Kapoor is outraged at the allegations lined up against her - her serials are regressive; her own artistes are talking about the "oppressive working conditions" at Balaji (they call it a "jail"); and critics say she refuses to change her saas-bahu soap format. Over to Kapoor.

Your shows are being axed because of low ratings?
What rubbish! I have decided to let my new serials be aired for not more than two to three years. K Street has touched 22 months, while Kesar has completed 500 episodes. It is very taxing to run a serial full of melodrama for more than a couple of years. The audience today has become shockproof, and drama has to become more realistic.

What's happening to these serials?
Kaisa Yeh Pyar Hai has in fact been given an extension by Sony, and we've just renewed the contract. Kesar and K Street, will be replaced by new Balaji serials. K Street targeted the urban male. Because it was a thriller, it didn't gel well. There was a sense of aversion towards thrillers after Kahiin Kissi Roz. KKR viewers lapped it up, as it was the first thriller of its kind. I have realised that people want to see human drama, more than melodrama.

Criticism of your serials being regressive?
I have shown women as protagonists and as antagonists. I have shown marital rape, mercy killing, women in politics, date rape, and widows remarrying. These are all social issues of today - what's regressive about them? I show working women and women as decision-makers at home. I can't be more progressive than that!

Changes in your serials?
For starters, I have decided that in all my new shows, I will give up the concept of killing people and bringing them alive again. That's been done to death. My serials will be high on content and slicker in presentation, with lots of drama. I will avoid farcical melodrama. I am an urban viewer myself, and always open to change, but one has to push the button slowly.

Chetan Hansraj called Balaji a "jail". Comment.
I am amused. If Chetan thinks Balaji is a jail, he should stop SMSing me every day saying he wants more work. It's the insecurity of an artiste to keep taking up more work, which for him translates into more money. People don't realise that for a producer, it costs more money to shoot longer. Sometimes actors report late, citing personal reasons. One delay pushes back the entire schedule.

Then we have to pressurise the other technicians in that day's shoot to complete that schedule. For one actor coming late, five actors, lightmen, the writer, director and other technicians have to wait for him. Actors have to be more sensitive to each other's needs.

TV artistes are all suffering from burnout, fatigue and stress. why?
Instead of always grumbling about their working conditions why don't they look at the positive side? TV is a well-paying, well-organised industry, which pays people on time. Families are running on these salaries and TV artistes have been able to buy cars and houses because of their fat paycheques.

The channels pay on time, the producers pay on time - it's so high-paying that half of Lokhandwala and Versova is full of TV artistes who have bought homes there!

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