How many degrees to Ekta Kapoor?

Rohit Khare
Wed, 8 Aug 2001 02:11:26 -0700

OK, to get the ball rolling again, I'm setting a new goal for what I=20
expect of this fine mailing list: Who can introduce me to Ms. Ekta=20
Kapoor in the next year?

So it's not as noble as "landing a man on the Moon and returning him=20
safely to the Earth", but I hope y'all are as inspired as I am by her=20

Ekta is the creative director and founding force behind Balaji=20
Telefilms, which created 23 of the top 50 TV shows in India. She's=20
been named one of the 50 most powerful communicators in Asia by=20
Asiaweek magazine. She's taken her company public with JP Morgan --=20
and driven the stock to new heights as the market melts around her.

And she's 25. And single :-)

Humor aside, I was even impressed by what I found about her=20
struggles: transforming her life by losing 50 pounds and keeping it=20
off; shaking off the complete failure of her first *six* pilots; and=20
her spiritual faith.

It's too bad I can't scan in an online copy of her cover story in=20
Verve, a Mumbai-based women's lifestyle magazine. She's quite the=20
cover girl, to boot!

(And no, before any of you spoil it by running straight to a=20
high-valency node, I'm not going to ask Vinod Khosla! :-)

So in the grand tradition of FoRK scavenger hunts, here's some clues=20
to kick it off...

ASIAWEEK's top 50 most powerful communicators in Asia:
(#1 is the founder of the Falun Gong; she's one of only four Indians=20
on the entire list!)

50	Ekta Kapoor

"The rich do not need values, the poor do not have time for them. It=20
is middle-class values that my serials are about."

Since producing her first blockbuster television program at 19, Ekta=20
Kapoor has rewritten the script on TV entertainment for the masses.=20
She has created more than 20 soaps on 10 major Indian networks; a=20
comedy series she created ran for five years. The Indian showbiz=20
community watches her every move, and older, more experienced=20
producers are quick to copy any new Kapoor concept.

As creative director of Balaji Telefilms in Mumbai, Kapoor, 25,=20
continues to produce absorbing dramas - whether about an ambitious=20
tycoon or a beautiful but scheming wife or a 70-year-old grandmother=20
looking for a job - that consistently strike a chord with viewers=20
across the subcontinent. Kapoor now hopes to find similar success=20
with audiences in a different medium: the big screen.


Two kilos=8A then two more=8A then two more=8A
Ekta Kapoor, producer of Hum Paanch and Koshish, shed 25 kilos over=20
one-and-a-half years. She tells Purnima Goswami Sharma how

Getting there | Staying there

"All through my childhood, I have been very plump. My father is=20
extremely slim, so maybe it's my mother's and grandmother's genes=20
that I have inherited," says Ekta Kapoor. So what was "very plump"?=20
"Well," she tells us, "when I was14 years old, I weighed almost 85=20
kg. I love to eat and during that phase of my life, I was really=20
overeating. And the worst part was that most of it was junk food. Of=20
course, I was very conscious of my weight and I always wore loose=20
skirts and T-shirts to hide it.
"But as I grew older I wanted to be slim=8A actually, I was desperate=20
to be slim. I tried all kinds of methods, some of which, like crash=20
diets, were really unhealthy. Nothing worked. Then I learnt about Dr=20
Dhurandhare and it was only under his guidance that I managed to shed=20
nearly 25 kg over one-and-half-years. He made me aware of the=20
importance of exercise and what a healthy diet was all about. But 
believe me, it wasn't easy. Not at all. "

Getting there

What did her regimen include? To begin with, she reveals, "Two hours=20
of brisk walking every day. One hour in the morning and one hour in=20
the evening. Dr Dhurandhare also advised me to drink at least 10=20
glasses of water every day. And of course, I was on a very strict=20
diet. Fried foods were a strict no-no and vegetables and curries were=20
cooked in the minimum amount of oil. I concentrated on food that was=20
rich in proteins and not high in carbohydrates and instead of having=20
three big meals, I ate frequently, but in far smaller portions."

What kept her going through her rigorous exercise schedule and how=20
did she manage to resist the temptation of pastries and pakoras? She=20
smiles. "Compliments. When I began to lose weight and people could=20
not recognise me at parties, and they started complimenting me about=20
my appearance, I felt wonderful. And I would think, let me lose two=20
more kilos=8A then two more=8A and then two more=8A and here I am!"

The best part of losing weight, she says, was that shopping for=20
clothes became fun, because she could now go into a store and find=20
clothes in her size.

Staying there

Ekta, daughter of film star Jeetendra, became a producer in the=20
family's production house, Balaji Telefilms, when she was just 19.=20
Today, as producer of popular TV serials like Hum Panch, Kanyadaan=20
and Koshish, with many more in the pipeline, she is tied down to her=20
office chair for long hours. "I simply don't have the time to go for=20
long walks in the evenings. But I exercise every day -- I do some=20
aerobics and walk on my treadmill at home. Besides, I eat wisely,"=20
she says, munching plain kurmura. Though food is a passion, she=20
sticks to her diet religiously. She is vegetarian three days of the=20
week, loves dessert but doesn't give in to temptation and eats fruits=20
instead. Breakfast is heavy, but lunch and dinner are light and she=20
makes sure she has the latter by 7 pm, so that it is well digested=20
before she goes to bed. If she feels hungry between meals, it's=20
either fruits or kurmura, both of which she keeps handy in her office.

Like so many dieters, Ekta feels she needs to shed three to four=20
kilos more. And is working on it. "Good health and stamina are most=20
important; only when you have both can give life your best shot," she=20
says fervently.

[Her father, Jeetendra, was a legendary movie star of decades past.=20
Not a rich man, but a privileged life, lest we cast this too strongly=20
into a Horatio Alger parable... but he's got quite a retirement on=20
the board of his daughter's juggernaut!]

Jeetendra's daughter Ekta Kapoor - flying high
By: Jasmeen Dugal (

Ekta Kapoor, whose company - Balaji Telefilms' serials rank among=20
India=B4s most watched television serials, said it now plans to begin=20
making films. At the press meet, it was announced: "The company is=20
confident that its creative abilities can be utilised for making=20
content-based entertainment movies, which has high potential on=20
satellite channels." Ekta revealed that the company was looking at=20
making medium budget movies, costing Rs 30-50 million, with more=20
focus on content than a high profile star cast.

At the press meet, Ekta went on to reveal that Balaji, which made an=20
initial public offering of shares last year, saw its turnover rise=20
143 per cent to Rs 488.63 million in the year ended March 2001 on the=20
back of a 136 per cent increase in programming hours to 1,457 from=20
616.50. Its net profit was only marginally higher at Rs 43.55=20
million, compared to Rs 42.85 million, as it wrote off the entire=20
production cost of serials in which it owns intellectual property=20

Better watch out, Jeetu, although you might have been known at one=20
point of time as the biggest moneymaker in the entertainment=20
industry, your daughter has long stepped in and surpassed you in=20
leaps and jumps!

DECCAN HERALD	Sunday,  June 24, 2001

K for success

>From fat and lazy and just managing a 37 per cent pass mark in exams,=20
to becoming
 the largest single producer of television software in the history of
 India's entertainment industry, 25-year-old Ekta Kapoor has=20
written her success story pretty fast, observes Vimla Patil

Success is defined in various ways by various people. To 25-year-old=20
Ekta Kapoor, creative director and head of Balaji Telefilms, it a=20
proof of her belief that women work with compassion, clear focus and=20
the ability to fight against all odds.

'When people see that at 25, I have 20 top-of- the-popularity-chart=20
serials on all major channels like Star Plus, Zee, Sony, Metro, DD=20
Gold and even regional language channels such as Kannada, they think=20
this phenomenal success has come to me overnight. Only those people=20
who have been close to me - my family - have seen how I have worked=20
inexorably and relentlessly for six years to achieve this position. I=20
have thought TV, worked TV - even eaten and slept TV - for the past=20
six years. I have devoted every waking hour - including holidays - to=20
thinking of concepts, working on scripts, casting, styling, selecting=20
technicians, shooting and scheduling, marketing and acquiring the=20
hundreds of new skills needed to make such success possible.

"Six years ago, just finishing my teen years, I was a young woman=20
with very low self esteem. I went to Bombay Scottish School and lazed=20
around in Mithibai College. I was fat, lazy and absolutely aimless in=20
life. I had no direction or focus. I did not believe in excellence or=20
hard work. My grades in school were low. My mother had a strange=20
situation with me rejoicing at getting 37 per cent marks to pass=20
whereas my brother Tushar cried when he got 96 per cent marks and=20
rued that he had not topped the class. I was happy to lie around=20
watching TV and wasted my tine. My father would peep into my room,=20
look at me sadly and go away with a disillusioned expression, as if=20
to say, "Is ladki ka kya hoga?" I, would feel terribly ashamed of=20
myself and feel sorry that I had let my parents down so badly.

"One day, in a bout of desperation, I went to Kailash Surendranath,=20
who makes ad as well as feature films, and asked for work. I hung=20
around his shoots for days, but had no specific job. Seeing my sorry=20
predicament, my father came to me and offering me money, said I=20
should get into TV production. I knew nothing about TV. Yet, I made=20
about six pilots and almost three episodes for each pilot. That meant=20
nearly 18 half hour episodes. At the rough cost of Rs. 3 lakhs each,=20
they cost my father half a crore of rupees. All of them were rejected=20
and I was totally devastated by the waste of money. My father's=20
career was on the wane at that point of time and by any standards, it=20
was no time to lose money. Yet, my father came back to me with more=20
money and said I should try again. I was amazed at his confidence in=20
me and worked in earnest to make Hum Panch. I showed the pilot to Zee=20
and they took it. This was my first success. Other serials followed=20

"This success changed my personality completely. I was eager for=20
more. I began to watch TV carefully, study each programme, think,=20
plan and then work out my next project. By this time, comedies were=20
out of style. I realised that one subject which holds eternal=20
interest for us Indians is the family. More than 90 per cent Indians=20
live in joint or extended families. Even nuclear families in India's=20
urban areas or metros love family get togethers and festivities. Each=20
member of a family is known for his or her idiosyncrasies and manner=20
of living. Tradition binds all families. In my own family, we have=20
the same atmosphere. We have holidays with our uncles and aunts and=20
we love our granny. My parents have created a rich family culture and=20
Tushar and I were brought up in this environment. To me as a teen,=20
Rajshri's Hum Apke Hain Kaun gave an important message. That film set=20
a new trend, a new benchmark of popular appeal. Those who had such a=20
family, saw themselves on the screen and those who didn't, yearned=20
for it. Thus, I chose themes of family sagas for my serials. I used=20
the familiar tension between the Sas and the Bahu, the scheming,=20
manipulative nature of women; family traditions and men's=20
indifference as the subjects of my scripts and created 'family=20
experiences' rather than soaps for meaningless entertainment. My=20
characters in all serials are 'visitors' to millions of homes each=20
night and viewers become familiar with them, because they see shades=20
of their own families in them!

"To create this result, I make mostly daily soaps. Earlier, all=20
channels had weekly serials. People who missed one episode lost the=20
thread of the story and never came back because they lost interest in=20
the characters and the plot. With daily soaps, a new lifestyle has=20
come into being. People turn homeward by 9 PM and after dinner, watch=20
TV till late with their families. Even 10.30 PM has become prime=20
time. I never expected that Kyunki Sas would achieve such phenomenal=20
popularity, because it is telecast rather late. But it has the=20
highest TRPs of all soaps just now. It reminds every woman -=20
including my own mother - of her days as a bahu. Every woman thinks=20
she is Tulsi and every elder woman thinks she is Ba. Strangely, no=20
one wants to be Savita, the middle generation Sasu. People say that I=20
am responsible for bringing in the trend of daily soaps. To some=20
extent, they may be right but this is an international trend and=20
Indian television is following it now. It is a universal need because=20
TV viewers have less time today to remember weekly stories and no=20
wish to share the stress of TV characters. Simple family narratives=20
appeal to them more than those based on social issues. In the west=20
too, family or neighbourhood sagas get people hooked on to television.

"I am now the creative head of Balaji Telefilms. I look at every=20
script, till about 20 episodes are written. Then I leave it to the=20
director and the cast. I audition hundreds of actors and technicians=20
and have a knack of choosing the right faces for the right=20
characters. I participate in set design, costumes, the look and feel=20
and storyline of each soap. My mother is the financial brain behind=20
Balaji Telefilms. She cuts costs, allots funds, controls budgets and=20
runs the company as smoothly as she runs our home. I do the creatives=20
and help marketing because I know all channels and their requirements=20
very well."

Two years ago, Balaji Telefilms went public. Ekta had no role in the=20
financial workings of this venture. "My father and his finance team=20
handled the public issue," she says, "But I learnt about managing=20
money and making it work for you. New serials begin in April-May=20
2001. Kahin Kisii Roz is on in April and Kusum is on in May. Kusum is=20
my favourite in the present lot. It starts with a middle class=20
Maharashtrian girl in a chawl and shows how a magical happening=20
changes her life. I have drawn on my father's early chawl life and=20
his familiarity with Maharashtrian life to make this serial. All=20
women in the middle class will love Kusum."

Ekta is finishing her first feature film within the next few months.=20
Named Kyunki Main Jhooth Nahi Bolta stars Govinda and Sushmita Sen=20
and will be released soon. "I have faith in Sushmita and her ability=20
to act," says Ekta, justifying her choice of heroine. Yet another=20
film with brother Tushar and newcomer Anita will commence soon. "A=20
wonderful tarot card reader told me that the letter K would be lucky=20
for me and that has been absolutely true," says Ekta, "Most of my=20
soaps and films start with K. Koshish Ek Asha, Kaun, Kasarn, Kundali,=20
Kavita, Kavyanjali, Kalash, Kahani Ghar Ghar Ki and Kyunki Sas Bhi=20
Kabhi Bahu Thi are major ones. Kahin Kisii Roz and Kusum are new. I=20
have a total of 20 serials on right now on television.

"Till I was 19, I was just film star Jitendra's daughter. Now I am=20
Ekta Kapoor and I am proud of my own identity. But I hasten to add=20
that there is nothing and no one like one's parents and family. My=20
mother is my mentor. She takes all my problems and sorts them out. My=20
father shows total faith in me and pampers me. My granny is our love.=20
My brother and I work well together. Nothing can match the happiness=20
of a united and loving family. It is my strength and the source of my=20

Ekta is very religious. Her office and home are full of temples of=20
Durga, Ganesh, Krishna and of course Balaji. She walks up the seven=20
hills to the Balaji temple at least three times a year. She attends=20
pujas, satsangs and kirtans regularly. She finds time to read, to=20
walk and to meet friends. "I was fat. With encouragement from my=20
mother, I trimmed down to being reasonably slim. I used to walk for=20
three hours daily. But now I am busy and can't spare the time. I have=20
put on a bit of weight but I know I have to address this issue soon."

A strong belief in the Karmic theory drives Ekta to a certain=20
philosophical stance in life. "Good people suffer a great deal in=20
life. I think they clear themselves of all past deeds and pass on to=20
a better world. I am an ardent student of such knowledge. I came=20
across a curious Indian custom in which dead bodies of eunuchs are=20
bashed cruelly and buried or burnt standing to complete their=20
suffering in this world, so that they have a happier next life. You=20
can see that the Karmic theory is evident in all my serials. I=20
believe real life is such and I try to portray what I see around."

At the moment, marriage and home-building are far from Ekta's=20
thoughts. "All in good time," she laughs, heartily enjoying her new=20
glory. Gregarious and articulate, Ekta is undoubtedly the driving=20
force behind the success of Balaji Telefilms' software content=20
miracle! She has achieved this super success at a very young age!