Television

Balaji sets sights higher than simply soaps

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The queen of soaps may just lose her title this year. Not because there are any pretenders to her throne, but because she is expanding her reportoire.

Balaji Telefilms‘ creative head Ekta Kapoor is poised for fresh genres, different shows and bigger films in the coming fiscal. Soaps will continue to be the mainstay of the production house, but her goodies bag for 2004 has more surprises than it has sprung in the last few years of its existence.

Speaking exclusively to indiantelevision.com, Ekta revealed that Balaji will launch at least seven shows between April to December 2004 - four on Star Plus, and three on the new Times Group lifestyle channel that is yet to be launched. Apart from four regular soaps on Star Plus, Ekta plans to create two talk shows as well as a documentary drama for the Times‘ channel. Plus, she has tied up with music channel MTV to produce a youth-based Hindi serial that will involve a nationwide hunt for the selection of the cast.



Ekta Kapoor - looking ahead to the new fiscal with a varied assortment of software

While Ekta is loath to reveal details, she lets out that she also has "a very special biggie under wraps to be aired this year," but says would like to keep the genre, storyline and channel a a secret for some more time.

For Star Plus, 2004 may well again be a Balaji year, with the proposed launches being:

Kesar (earlier titled Karvachauth) - a daily soap in an afternoon slot. This show was earlier meant for Zee TV, but things did not work out. The story revolves round a girl who is caught between two men in the web of relationships and rituals. It will star Nandini Sen (famous model of yesteryears), Ejaz (Varun of Kahiin To Hoga) and Nikhil Arya (model-turned-actor who acted in a couple of episodes of Kya Haadsa Kya Haqeeqat)

Karma (oft re-titled, last known as Koi Aa Raha Hai Waqt Badalne) - a one-hour weekly in the afternoon slot. Sudha Chandran aka Ramola Sikand of Kaahin Kissii Roz will be playing a Feng Shui expert, an outright positive role. The show also stars a newcomer Siddharth in a main role.

Kahin Aap Woh To Nahin (tentative title)- a daily soap with Mumbai urban characterisations, a saga which will not be a family drama but have the shades of a thriller.

Untitled Venture - a daily soap that would be mushy and raw, a college love story based in Mumbai.

Ekta says she is hoping to pitch Kahin Aap Woh To Nahin and the untitled daily soap in the evening slots. While Kesar and Karma are likely to go on air from April and June respectively, the other two would see the light of day in the last quarter of 2004. The cast for the latter two shows has not yet been finalised.

Countering criticism of being the cradle of regressive family dramas for the last four years, Balaji ventures into new territory this year with two talk shows and one documentary drama on the proposed Times Channel. The talk shows will see the light of day in July and August, says Ekta, while the documentary drama would follow in October. She refuses to elaborate on the documentary drama, except to say that it would be a non-fictional series, adding for good measure that plagiarizing has become the bane of the Indian television industry.



Kkehna Hai Kucch Mujhko - yet to prove its mettle

For Sony Entertainment Television, however, Ekta has no fresh plans for the year. After the disastrous performance of Kkoi Dil Mein Hai last year, Balaji returned to Sony last month with an innovative Kkehna Hai Kucch Mujhko, reports of whose performance are yet to filter in.

As for the proposed talk shows, Ekta claims that the two would be as different as chalk and cheese. Talks are in progress to have two celebrity anchors, one each for the two talk shows. Refusing to give away the anchors she is considering, she puts it diplomatically, "There would be many parameters for the final selection- budget, dates and performance." According to industry sources, however, Balaji is talking to Sushmita Sen for one of them.

An innovative project up Ekta‘s sleeve is the tie-up with MTV India to produce a youth based Hindi serial that will be aired later this year on the channel. This still-to-be-titled serial will involve a nationwide star hunt to select the cast. For the first time ever, Ekta will be in front of the camera as well, as the face of the campaign. Auditions are to be conducted in Mumbai, Delhi, Lucknow, Pune and Chandigarh.

On the film front, Kapoor‘s Krishna Cottage, starring Sohail Khan, Natassha and Hiten Tejwani, directed by Santram Varma is ready for release. Next would be the Partho Mitra directed Koi Aap Sa, starring Aftab Shivdasani, Natassha and Dipannita Sharma.

Ekta leaves for Australia today (Tuesday) for a shooting stint for the Mitra directed flick, which has already started rolling in Mumbai from last week, plus a brief shoot schedule of Kahaani Ghar Ghar Kii as well. Says she, "Unlike my first three films, Koi Aap Sa will be made under the banner of Balaji Telefilms and not Balaji Films."

Post Mitra‘s flick, Kapoor‘s diary reveals a comedy of errors to be directed by Sangeet Sivan, a film by Satish Kaushik and another by Rajkumar Santoshi. Balaji is also talking to director Vikram Bhatt for a film that will start next year.



Kaahin Kissi Roz - set for a re-evaluation in May

As for ongoing series like Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi and Kahaani Ghar Ghar Kii, they will continue to shine on the Star Plus horizon, says Kapoor. What about Kaahin Kissii Roz which the channel would be evaluating in May? "Even I‘ll take a look at it in May. But I think it will be there till August," says Ekta.

Goes without saying that all the seven shows will have their numerological share of ‘a‘, ‘e‘, ‘i‘, ‘o‘ , ‘u‘ as well as the ubiquitous ‘k‘ before they go on air, but knowing Balaji, even the names of the titles are susceptible to change till the last minute.

While the Queen of Soaps is definitely attempting something new, it is clear that she is not going to stop playing to her strengths.

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