‘You give her a seed, and Ekta brings you back a tree the next week’... such was the description of Ekta Kapoor’s creativity when the likes of me had first joined the Indian media industry. Some had praises that would, and did, make any other creative professional jealous. And some have had the worst of things to say about her. However, everyone was unanimous on Ekta Kapoor’s position as the reigning queen of primetime television. For almost a generation of viewers, there were the famous K-serials and the saas-bahu formats that were discussed extensively, and Kapoor, together with her partnership with Star Plus, was single-handedly responsible for the creation of this phase of television in India.
Over the years, the Balaji Telefilms brand became as much a household name as were the characters that came from its shows. However, not all things last, and soon Star Plus was seeing its share of fall, which came parallel to the fall of the Balaji shows. The slump came to a stage where STAR India severed its ties with Balaji in late 2008 and the journey of the legendary K-serials finally, but abruptly, ended.
One only has to look at the Balaji results to know how bad things were for the company – results for the year ended March 31, 2009 compared to previous year ended March 31, 2008 showed that Balaji Telefilms’ income from operations were down to Rs 2,949.2 million from Rs 3,289.7 million, a decrease of 10 per cent. Profit before tax was down to Rs 375.1 million from Rs 1,284.8 million, a fall of 71 per cent, while profit after tax was down to Rs 266.7 million from Rs 879.3 million, a decrease of 70 per cent.
In fact, in the quarter ended March 31, 2009 versus quarter ended March 31, 2008 comparison, income from operations were down to Rs 494.2 million from Rs 965.2 million, which is a fall of 49 per cent. Profit before tax was down a loss of Rs 237.5 million from a profit of Rs 361.1 million, a whopping 166 per cent slump, while profit after tax was down to a loss of Rs 142.8 million from a profit of Rs 244.0 million, a decrease of 159 per cent.
Balaji’s success was synonymous to Ekta Kapoor’s, and so was its fall. Many reports in media compared Kapoor’s journey to that of a character’s from one her own shows, where things just couldn’t get worse.
Now, Kapoor has been seen across channels in context to the movie ‘Love, Sex & Dhoka’, which has been produced by her new company, Alt Entertainment. The movie, the initial screening of which, reportedly had shocked Ekta Kapoor herself, is designed to be completely different from what any Ekta show looks like. By her own admission, the movie is as real as it gets and has been treated as such. It feeds on the voyeuristic side of the human nature that has been enjoying content on television, especially between the reality shows and some bit of news television that tends to enjoy human emotions in its vulnerable worst.
Kapoor had said in one of her interviews that if one had to compare with any of her shows, this was the stage where the protagonist donned a new avatar. Her company’s overall plan has some key takeoffs at present – first, that a company cannot be built by the creative expertise of any one person, and that there is a new, younger audience, that may not necessarily take to the kind of content that comes from Balaji Telefilms, hence, the need for an alternative source – Alt Entertainment.
It is very clear that Kapoor wants to regain her control on entertainment, but what her plan is for that is not clear as yet. Movies have been important in the Balaji agenda for a while, and that has not changed. But it would appear that Kapoor is focussing on this segment in a never-before manner now, especially with the launch of Alt Entertainment indicating that the company would look at all formats of movies to engage different kinds of audiences. Last year, Kapoor also let go of the K-obsession in her serials, and attempted different kinds of content for television with shows like ‘Bandini’ and ‘Bairi Piya’.
At one level, Kapoor’s efforts in creating new kind of content are visible, but the problem of dependence of one creative expertise, at least for her shows on television, is yet not seen addressed. Her simple confidence and the manner of explaining the worst of situations has not changed even now. In all her recent interviews, she has approached the Balaji scene in a matter-of-fact way that doesn’t let her be dismissed easily and makes one wonder what is this creative genius thinking now. As they say, time will tell, but one can be sure that this is one story that one would keep hearing of for a long time to come.