20 years of Balaji Telefilms’ dominance

MUMBAI: “My company works on two principles. One, nothing is bigger than the programme, not even the company. Two, if you believe in me and really want to share my goal and vision, please join me; else don't show me your face. I have never told this to anybody before, but seriously, the company needs an attitude. No company which does not have an attitude can ever be successful,” are the words of the woman who turned the small screen into big!


India's largest fiction TV producer Balaji Telefilms which  redefined  Indian television and made Ekta Kapoor a household name can be credited for the satellite boom in the country as well. 


Like many of her counterparts, she too started her career very young. From being just yesteryear’s superstar Jeetendra’s daughter, today Ekta Kapoor is the woman who rules the hearts and the minds of many. She started off at 17 and since then, has loved, eaten and slept only television. Always thinking about concepts, casting, styling, selecting technicians, shooting and scheduling, marketing and acquiring the new skills required to succeed.


Set up in 1994, the powerhouse has completed 20 years of entertainment. It all started with a comedy show on Zee TV, ‘Hum Paanch’, in 1995 and today it has an array of shows to its name.


Satellite television began in the early nineties with the launch of Zee TV, followed by Sony Entertainment Television later in the decade and finally Star Plus as the millenium ended. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to say her TV shows have played a pivotal role in each one of their successes at some time or the other. Even the latest major entrant Colors - from Viacom18 - is relying on her new show Meri Aashiqui Tum Se Hi to give it an injection of TRPs. One after the other, the production house has created blockbusters on the small screen. ‘Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi’ and ‘Kahaani Ghar Ghar Ki’ made everyone switch on to Star Plus every night from 10pm to 11 pm; people cried and laughed with the characters. So much so that the death of the character Mihir Virani on ‘Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi’ lead to fan protest marches to bring back him back. The shows also garnered unheard of TRPs for eight long years.


Then, came another slew of superhit drama series  like ‘Kabhi Souten Kabhie Saheli’ (Star Plus), ‘Kutumb’ (Sony), ‘Kuch Jhuki Palkein’ (Sony) and ‘Kohi Apna Sa’ (Zee), ‘Kahin To Hoga’ (Star Plus), ‘Kasautii Zindagi Kay’ (Star Plus), ‘Kkusum’ (Sony) which took the company miles ahead from its competitors.


Some of the company’s on-going popular shows like ‘Jodha Akbar’ (Zee TV) ‘Bade Acche Lagte Hai’ (Sony), ‘Pavitra Rishta’ (Zee TV), ‘Ye Hain Mohobbatein’ (Star Plus), and ‘Kumkum Bhagya’ (Zee TV) hold strong in their time band.


Balaji, which possesses 23 modern sets and 37 editing suites in India, also helped enhance the primetime slot on GECs.


The company has produced more than 15,000 hours of television content since its inception, including content in Hindi, Tamil, Telegu, Kannada and Malayalam.


Filmy business


If television dominance wasn’t enough, the company soon entered the Indian motion picture business in 2002.  


Till 2009, the company through its wholly-owned subsidiary, Balaji Motion Pictures, had produced and/or acquired 12 films, including hits like Bhool Bhulaiyaa and Sarkar Raj.


It set trends here as well when it co-produced and distributed India's premiere digital film Love, Sex aur Dhokha, released in March 2010 under its ALT Entertainment banner. The film emerged as a sleeper hit receiving critical and commercial acclaim from audiences, worldwide.


The company continued the LSD success story with its second production, Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai, which broke ground at the worldwide box office. Other films to its credit are Kuku Mathur Ki Jhand Ho Gayi, Main Tera Hero, Ragini MMS 2, Shaadi Ke Side Effects, Once Upon A Time In Mumbai Dobaara, Kya SuperKool Hai Hum, Dirty Picture and Shootout at Lokhandwala.


With an impressive slate like that, she has earned Balaji a position amongst the major film studios in India.


Other ventures


But that hasn’t stopped her or the company from venturing into other spaces.


Over the years, from a television content provider, Balaji Telefilms has evolved into a media conglomerate with organisational divisions responsible for television, motion pictures, internet and mobile.


Being the largest player in the industry and after having creating larger-than-life characters, it understands the skill sets required to be successful.


Balaji Telefilms took an initiative to bridge the gap between demand and supply of professionals/actors, by launching its ICE Institute of Creative Excellence. The institute trains tomorrows’ players by teaching them the various skills needed to make a career in the Media and Entertainment industry.


What next for Ekta and Balaji? She is going back to her roots: television. For the past three to four years she has been absolutely focused on making Balaji a force in the film industry, leaving the running of the television productions to mother Shobha Kapoor, Tanusri Dasgupta, Ketan Gupta, among many other professionals. But just last month she was quite clear when she said: "I am a TV producer who works 24 *7. It’s just that I am focusing more on television as I am getting a chance to explore myself.”

As one philosopher said: "Life is a journey, not a destination."  And for Balaji and Ekta, it seems like a never ending dream journey.


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