Balaji ready with 9 new shows across channels

MUMBAI: Balaji Telefilms is ready to unleash at least nine more shows on various channels before the year ends.

Ekta Kapoor - failures notwithstanding, she's ready with nine more shows

The Ekta Kapoor propelled production house has dished out three shows in 2004 -Kesar on Star Plus and, Kkehna Hai Kuch Mujhko and King Aasman Ka Raja on Sony Entertainment Television India (SET). The last two have been withdrawn and the first has been nothing to rave about, but Balaji is gung ho about the eight shows commissioned and ready to go on air in the next few months.

Kapoor spoke at length exclusively to about some of the new shows, four of which are slotted for three still to launch channels and four on Star Plus (two), SET and MTV.

As regards in-the-pipeline channels: Two shows have been commissioned for Times Group's soon to launch non-fiction entertainment channel Zoom, one for P2 (or maybe Star One, the name of Star's metro-based Hindi entertainment channel is still to be decided) and one on UTV's kids channel Hungama,

For Zoom:

As for the proposed talk shows which Kapoor had spoken to in March 2004, the first one - Kosmic Chat is scheduled to go on air almost as soon as the channel launches.

Stylish and confident - Simone Singh will anchor Balaji's Kosmic Chat on Zoom

Says Kapoor, "Simone Singh (last seen as Henna in Sony's Henna) will share the platform with Sunita Menon (a tarot card reader), the former will ask the questions and the latter will provide the answers."

However, another show for which Kapoor had Sushmita Sen in mind, has been put on the backburner. "I decided not to do it for some time at least, when Sen refused the offer. It was an Oprah Winfrey kind of talk show. When I get a celebrity of that stature, I will definitely go ahead with it."

Explaining why she chose Singh over other actors, Kapoor says, "The channel wanted her. And I think Singh speaks very clearly. I quite like her style. She makes her presence felt on screen. I wanted someone confident and stylish at the same time," adding, "I like Gurdeep Kohli a lot. I want to work with her. In fact, I recently offered her Kasautii Zindagii Kay for the role of a new character who will soon make her appearance but due to her Sanjivani- A Medical Boon commitments, she could not accommodate it."

Four episodes of Kosmic Chat are ready.

Kapoor has substituted the proposed Sushmita Sen show with a reality based show titled Kya Kahen which will also see the light of day around the same time as Kosmic Chat.

Irrfan Khan (who started as a TV actor with Zee's Banegi Apni Baat but has now shifted focus to films) will host the show, based on real life incidents plagued by supernatural

Irrfan Khan will move back to the small screen to host Kya Kahen for Zoom

elements. It would be something like Missing on SET two years ago, hosted by film star Jackie Shroff. "You will see true life stories which have been dug out by my research team. They won't be fictional stories that we transfer on to the tube. We have even gone and met the people concerned but of course, we cannot tell you their real identities and whereabouts."

Three episodes of Kya Kahen are ready.

Both the shows for Zoom will be half-hour weeklies.

For P 2 (Star One?):

Ekta is playing on her strength - a true blue soap. The show in question has been titled Kannu Ki Kismat Mein Kya Hai. "It's about a girl and what happens in her life. It's pretty much in the nascent stages and will go on air mostly from October," she tells us.

For Hungama:

Ekta is creating a daily titled Kartika. As the channel is supposed to be meant for the young, Kartika will deal with a 15-year old girl who goes to a boarding academy to pursue her singing and dancing interests.

"There's a lot of St Clare's and Malory Towers kind of atmosphere from Enid Blyton's books in this serial. The girl meets a hi fi socialite who runs the academy and a guy who teaches her dancing - someone like Shiamak Davar. Including this guy, three men come into her life - a friend, an inspiration and a childhood crush. You may call this guy her childhood crush," reveals Ekta.

Jenifer Vinget (who stars in the Sony-Balaji creation Kkusum) will play the 15-year old girl. "She looks very young for her age, has worked with me very respectfully and effectively and hence was the automatic choice." Ajay Balhara (who has also been cast in Balaji's K Nights for Star) will play Jenifer's childhood crush, while the hi-fi socialite will be played by Sonali. The other two main protagonists have not yet been cast, since their track does not come so early in the serial.

Kartika is expected by October.

For Sony:

There has been a lot of talk doing the rounds that friction has developed between Sony and Balaji.

Kkehna Hai Kucch Mujhko - failed effort

Kkoi Dil Mein Hai, though still on air, has proved to be a damp squib, and Kapoor blames the channel's constant shuffling with the day and time for its poor performance. Kkehna Hai Kucch Mujhko which marked Pallavi Joshi's return to television proved to be a cold turkey and was withdrawn. King Aasman Ka Raja had neither a media launch nor any promotional push and understandably sank without a trace. To this, Kapoor had remarked earlier, that she had made only about 12 episodes of this show on a trial and error basis.

In an interview in March 2004, Kapoor had categorically told us that she had no plans for Sony this year. But now, the production house is making a show (untitled as yet) for Sony which would go on air mostly by the end of this month or early next month. "It is a story of three sisters having different ambitions in life. It will be a peppy, colourful, youth-centric, up-market show. I would describe it as Kahiin To Hoga meets Sound of Music. However, there is still a lot of work to be put in for this one, including figuring out whether the elder or the younger sister would be the chief protagonist. "The entire screenplay takes a new look if you change the protagonist," she explains.

For Star Plus:

As reported by early this month, K Nights will replace Kaahin Kissii Roz (KKR) at the 11.30 pm slot from 7 September, marking the end of the long-winding social thriller which morphed into a supernatural drama somewhere along the way.

Six days of shooting has been completed so far.

Kaahin Kissi Roz- end finally in sight

KKR is heading towards a sensible end. It had gone completely haywire ever since Kapoor and Star Plus decided to reincarnate Shaina and Kunal (played by Yash Tonk) and allow Ramola Sikand (played by Sudha Chandran) to go over the top with her devious ways. But Kapoor defends, "The TRPs were pretty good if you consider the fact that after Kahiin To Hoga started, it was pushed to the 11:30 pm slot which is quite late."

K Nights will be a social suspense thriller (similar to KKR) starring newcomer Jasmeet Kaur. The other members of the cast are Alok and two twins Ajay and Vijay Balhara, Iravati Harshe, Aly Khan, Rituu Raaj (Sanjay Doshi of Kahaani Ghar Ghat Kii), Ashwini (C.I.D), Vikram Kapadia (Banegi Apni Baat) and Vaishnavi (Chotti Maa), among others.

Another one from the leading production house for the leading entertainment channel is Karma- Koi Aa Raha Hai Waqt Badalne (which underwent a change in name, time and again) which was scheduled for a November 2002 launch to begin with. Recently, it was all set to be aired from early August but for some reason has again been pushed back and is now expected by the end of this month. Targeted at the 5-17 age bracket and based on a superhuman, somewhat on the lines of Batman or Superman, Karma stars Sudha Chandran in a pivotal role as a Feng Shui expert, and has been mostly shot outdoors.

For MTV:

An innovative project up Ekta's sleeve is the tie-up with MTV India to produce a youth based Hindi serial Kitni Mast Hai Zindagi- a story about a small town girl's (Ananya) belief evolving in the pursuit of her dreams - to be aired from September end in three half-hour episodes per week.

Ekta Kapoor at the Kitni Mast Hai Zindagi launch in Mumbai

This serial has involved a nationwide star hunt to select the cast. For the first time ever, Ekta was in front of the camera as well, as the face of the campaign. Auditions were conducted in Mumbai, Delhi, Lucknow, Pune and Chandigarh. More than 3,000 people showed up for the Mumbai leg of the auditions, not a patch on the record number of 8,000 in Delhi. This fiction serial is being planned for 39 episodes to start with, but if all goes well, promises to be a longer version. Six people will be selected at the end of the auditions and they will go for an intensive training programme that would involve acting, dancing, action, voice projection and camera moves. They will be under a contract with Balaji for one year. The six who get filtered out are likely to be absorbed in other Balaji shows.

For Zee:

According to our sources, the Queen of Soaps is doing something for Zee TV as well. The show promises to be thriller on the lines of Kaahin Kissii Roz. But she refuses to confirm and simply smiles.

Cut to the present:

As for the ongoing series Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi and Kahaani Ghar Ghar Kii, they will continue to rock on the Star Plus horizon, says Kapoor. "There's lots of Mahabharat (read epic family battles) coming up in KGGK. Three boys and a girl will make a dramatic entry and soon lay claim to a part in the Aggarwal empire," she reveals, adding, "KSBKBT will take another 20 years fast forward in February 2005. Sudha Shivpuri (who plays the matriarch, Ba) will obviously have to go, but I will fit her into some other serials. She is my dad's friend's (Om Shivpuri) wife and I have great respect for her."

Will Smriti Z Iraani don whiteners? She is just 28! "She may have to. She will be shown as a 60-year old woman. But let's see. I have not taken a call on that as yet. Today, so many elderly ladies colour their hair. Think of it, Savita (Apara Mehta) is not donning whiteners, though she is exactly where Smriti will reach in the next six months."

But hasn't the Kasautii Zindagi Kay story come to almost a deadlock? Without denying or confirming that Cezanne Khan (who was pushed off the cliff a few days back) will return, Kapoor is emphatic, "There's another huge shock coming up in KZK in two weeks. Plus the serial is ready for a fast forward which will take place in October, which in turn, will involve the entry of a new generation marked by new characters, something like we did in Kkusum sometime ago."

Not again! "Why not?", she retorts, "In all my shows, it has worked so far. A serial is mostly like a story whose book has tons of pages. These pages have acts, don't they? Abroad, almost all shows which do well go ahead by a few years every now and then. So why not here? That's exactly why filmmakers have started thinking of sequels these days if and when their film has been successful."

No grey hair for Prerna after the fast forward in Kasautii Zindagi Kay

If Smriti at 60 may not don whiteners, would Shweta Tiwari (Prerna of KZK) do so? "Not at all. Prena will be shown in the 40-45 bracket. Gone are the days when people didn't maintain themselves. When 40 or so, people don't look their age these days. Look at Salman Khan! Look at Anil Kapoor! Have you seen my dad's photographs when he was 50?" she asks.

Have Rajeev Khandelwal (Sujal) and Aamna Shariff (Kashish)'s problems been sorted out? Buzz was the two had decided to opt out of the late night blockbuster Kahiin To Hoga. All Ekta says is, "Was it? I don't think so," adding, "I am so glad that Sujal's character has clicked with the viewers in such a big way. When I was conceiving the character I was confident that it will stand out. Taking all my serials into account so far, I don't think that I have made a more interesting man than Sujal."

"Watch out for Raunak played by Alok in K Nights," she continues in the same vein, "I have a gut feeling that Raunak's character will click in a major way; people are going to love him, there's something very attractive about an anti-social man, he does not fit in, so he stands out. You know what I mean?"

Goes without saying that all the new 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 Ekta, even the names of the titles are susceptible to change till the last minute.

The less said about the number of changes which Karma has had, the better. In fact, K Nights has already fallen prey to the K factor. "K Nights is likely to undergo a change in name," she informs.

On the film front:

Kapoor's Koi Aap Sa starring Aftab Shivdasani, Natassha and Dipannita Sharma is almost ready, while Kya Kool Hain Hum, a sex comedy starring Tusshar Kapoor, Ishaa Koppikar and Ritesh Deshmukh is fast nearing completion. "I have realized that the audience is not willing to see thrillers like Krishna Cottage and Kucch To Hai. So I thought of making a film of completely different genre," she admits.

Post Mitra's flick, Kapoor is likely to make films with Satish Kaushik, Rajkumar Santoshi and Vikram Bhatt, though not necessarily in that order.

As a parting shot, we quiz her on her marriage plans. "For the next two years, it's going to be only work. But you'll definitely see me married and my kids in my parents' (Jeetendra and Shobha Kapoor) laps in about three years' time," she concludes with a big smile.

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