Television

"Channels are quite an insecure lot. A slight drop in TRPs and they start suggesting 'yeh karo, woh karo'" : Shobha Kapoor Balaji Telefilms CEO

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Her week never ends. You will find the Balaji head in her office on Sundays too.

"Now that I have a public limited company in television industry, I will never experiment and give something that the public will lampoon me about. I have to keep up the trust," she tells indiantelevision.com's Vickey Lalwani, when he meets her for an interview.

Excerpts:

Please outline your role in Balaji Telefilms.

From day one, I have been involved with many things. Handling cash, handling production and management, co-ordinating with people, deciding the budgets, meeting the channel heads regarding the budgets. The list is too long.

And now?

The list is longer. Ever since we went public, I have to be an analyst. I have to sit in the Annual General Meeting and check the Annual Report. More importantly, I have to attend to all the calls, emails and letters, which we get from our investors from outside India. These people have shares worth lakhs of rupees and they constantly need to be convinced that we are doing well. Even they monitor our TRPs (laughs). A little drop and they panic. God forbid if there is some controversy in a serial, they panic even more.



Plus, I even look into the collections coming in from the channels. I have people, but the business has expanded by such an enormous magnitude that I can't afford to sit at home even for a day. There are no Sundays in my calendar. I am in the office by 2 pm every day and I don't come home before 9.30 pm at the earliest.

"There are no Sundays in my calendar. I am in the office by 2 pm every day and I don't come home before 9.30 pm minimum."

How was the decision to go public taken?

This was my husband's decision. He always had this dream that Ekta should own a huge company in the television industry. He thought that if we go public, we would be able to garner funds to make even 20 shows at the same time. Touch wood, his dream has been realized. Today, we have the money and the people. Additionally, rather wisely, we have succeeded in building our own studios, which provide us with 14-16 sets to operate at the same time (pauses).

Please continue.

As on date, we have five serials in Telugu, four in Kannada, six on air presently, and six more to come up by October (dailies). The studios play a big role in the fact that we are able to dish out so much of quantity without losing on quality. If it is cost-effective for me, it is beneficial to the artistes too. It saves them a lot of trouble. The studios are well equipped with almost all the requirements of the serials being shot there. Generally, shifting is not required. Outdoor scenes are, of course, a different story.

Did the foreign investors come in easily?

I never wooed them in (laughs). Just before we went public, the media was very hyped on this. Mukta Arts and Cinevistaas had got a very good opening. But when we actually went public, the media had mellowed down. So the initial support was a little lesser than estimated. While Cinevistaas and Mukta Arts started around Rs 350-400, we did not get such a rousing welcome. They were oversubscribed, we weren't.

"A mind riddled with the day-to-day problems of cash and dates etc, would never be able to give a hundred per cent output on the creative side"

Has Ekta never worked on the management and financial aspects?

I like her to be on the creative side. She has a master brain for stories and ideas. A mind riddled with the day-to-day problems of cash and dates etc would never be able to give a hundred per cent output on the creative side. There's one more thing that I am doing.

What?

I personally supervise how the studios are maintained. The moment I feel it needs refurbishing, I don't pause to ask anyone. Like the Kahaani... set for instance, is undergoing a major revamp these days. Soon, you will see a different backdrop. I am very particular about my sets. Believe me, my Kkusum set is as nice and comfy as my own house.

"Channels are quite an insecure lot. A slight drop in TRPs and they start suggesting 'yeh karo, woh karo'"

Do you even deal with the channel interference?

(Smiles) Channels are quite an insecure lot. A slight drop in TRPs and they start suggesting 'yeh karo, woh karo'. First they get in touch with the EPs of the show concerned. If required, Ekta steps in. After all, it's her concept. If Ekta is not convinced about their call, they get in touch with me. I am dealing with them on an almost daily basis- arranging press conferences, delivery of tapes, production values, uplinks, finance... it becomes slightly easier for them to interact with me, I guess (smiles).

Do you deal with DD?

(Smiles) I prefer my husband dealing with them. Jeetuji is Jeetuji. He is a charmer. Yesterday, there was a press conference in Lucknow regarding a five-year old girl's case. Sameer Nair (Star India COO) went, Ekta didn't. Instead we asked Jeetuji to go (smiles). Put it this way, we three (Ekta, Jeetuji and I) do what we are best at.

Your motto?

Now that I have a public limited company in the television industry, I will never experiment and give something that the public will lampoon me about. I have to keep up the trust.

Future plans?

We want to make some films for channels. They would be premiered on TV, and then shifted to cinema.

Do you expect the film to run in cinemas thereafter?

Why not? Do you know that the maximum TRPs fetched would be 16? Doesn't that clearly depict that many people wouldn't see the premiere on TV? So the focus should always be on making a good film, not on the fact that whom are you making it for. What would I need to put it on a larger canvas? Just ten lakhs (one million rupees). If that film thereafter runs for even two weeks, I would not lose.

What more is Jeetuji up to these days?

Bas, he is living his dream. He is seeing it grow much bigger than he had ever imagined. Soon, he is going abroad to meet some investors (smiles).

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