July 19, 2001,
Khan dares to be different
She is the
queen of primetime
Khan dares to be different
The success of ‘Lagaan’ has created a new Aamir Khan — a star actor, a producer who means business and a visionary, all rolled into one. It is a rare combination that can only be compared to all-time greats like V. Shantaram, Guru Dutt and Raj Kapoor.
Everything Aamir did for his debut-making venture defies convention. As producer, he chose a director whose only claim to fame were two miserable flops, ‘Pehla Nasha’ and ‘Baazi’. His heroine, Gracy Singh had not seen a movie set earlier. And a large number of his cast and crew were direct imports from the UK and Canada.
Together with this motley group, Aamir set up base in Bhuj and created a make-believe village of the 1890s, called Champaner. He shot in blistering heat and after six months had 24 reels of 3 hours and 42 minutes duration to show for his labour. For nearly a year he sat on the cans and finally, when ‘Lagaan’ was released, it collided with another period film ‘Gadar’!
"I love taking risks," says Aamir nonchalantly. "Why, I am the only actor of my generation to risk working with so many new, young directors — Raj Kumar Santoshi, Vikram Bhatt, Mansoor Khan, Indra Kumar, John Mathew Mathan, Dharmesh Darshan.... The audience knows what to expect of Aamir Khan."
Indeed, the film he is currently shooting for, ‘Dil Chahta Hai’ is also by a newcomer, Farhan Akhtar. This will be followed by ‘Happy Diwali’ — yet another bold move, as it would mark the return of Amitabh Bachchan’s once-defunct A.B. Corp to the production business.
Some more oddities: Aamir Khan refuses to accept awards and has stopped attending such functions. Despite being Bollywood’s most stable star, he stays away from the arclights, taking up one film a year and that too, only if it excites him enough. He is not one to fall easily for big bucks, successful banners, saleable heroines or star hype.
"He is the only star who has not been affected by the Hrithik Roshan mania," observes trade analyst Amod Mehra. "This is why after two debacles, ‘Maan’ and ‘Mela’, Aamir could recover his costs (rumored to be Rs 240 million) for ‘Lagaan’ before its release."
"We have just one life," Aamir reasons. "My dream is to bring back the wholesome cinema of Bimal Roy, Guru Dutt and Mehboob. As a filmmaker, I have always felt the need to be daring and different, rather than repeat love triangles shot in Switzerland."
Ever since he breezed onto the silver screen with ‘Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak’ in 1986, Aamir’s boyish maturity has worked magic through successive hits like ‘Dil Hai Ki Manta Nahin’, ‘Hum Panchi Ek Dal Ke’, ‘Karan Arjun’, ‘Andaaz Apna Apna’ and ‘Rangeela’. Many attribute these successes to his penchant for "ghost directing" the films, much like Dilip Kumar.
And yet, he was always reluctant to take up filmmaking on his own as he had seen the toil that his father Tahir Husain and uncle Nasir Husain — both veteran producers, best known for musicals like ‘Yaadon Ki Baraat’ and ‘Hum Kisise Kam Nahin’, had to put in. Then ‘Lagaan’ came along.
"I simply liked the script," he says. "It is an extremely original story with strong emotional moments. It is also an expensive project. I knew it needed the full commitment from a producer and his crew. I could not find any producer who could share this level of enthusiasm and creative energy with me. So I had to support the project."
But then, acting remains Aamir’s first love, direction, a definite, yet distant, dream. His appearance is telling — his gelled hair, sharp sideburns and goatee show that he is living the ‘Dil Chahta Hai’ role these days. "He grows with every character," says Akhtar in obvious admiration. — MF
is the queen of primetime
With her looks she could give many leading ladies a run for their powered visages. But she’s one Bollywood child who’s turned her back to acting and prefers to stay behind the camera. And she’s been on such a winning streak that today she’s no longer just known as Jeetendra’s daughter. She is Ekta Kapoor — a lady in control of her art.
Ekta hit big time in 1995 when ‘Hum Paanch’ aired for five consecutive years on Zee. Ever since then her company, Balaji Telefilms has been churning out one successful TV serial after another. Her great middle class soap, ‘Kyonki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi’ hit an all-time high by toppling ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati’ from the numero uno spot.
With a razor-sharp business acumen, Ekta has turned Balaji Telefilms into one of tellyworld’s leading banners. At present, the company is producing almost 30 hours of TV serials every week. Currently 20 of her 34 serials are top-of-the-popularity-charts on all major channels, including Star Plus, Zee, Sony, Metro and even Kannada.
With a projected financial turnover of around Rs 35 crore for 2000-2001, the phenomenal achievement of the 25-year-old has left TV circles gaping.
She has now launched a film career as well. Balaji Telefilms first venture, ‘Kyunki Main Jhooth Nahi Bolta’ with Govinda and Sushmita Sen in lead roles is ready for release. She has now launched another film with brother Tusshar and newcomer Anita.
It is little wonder then that a recent issue of the authoritative ‘Asiaweek’ has counted Ekta among the 50 most powerful communicators of Asia. The magazine says that the selected people are not merely the face but the soul and mind of their respective countries.
Like father Jeetendra, modesty is a virtue with Ekta. She says there is no secret formula for her success. "All my serials come straight from the heart," she says simply and adds, "After six years I am beginning to understand the pulse of the viewers."
An average student, Ekta managed to scrape through school and college and began her career as a producer without any formal qualifications. However just a passion for TV isn’t enough for producing a successful serial. The novice that she was, she lost Rs 50 lakh in her first six pilots that were instantly rejected by all satellite channels.
For anyone, the financial loss would have been crippling. But given her father’s wealth, she could take it in her stride. She pushed her way ahead with a determination that would have surprised most people. Happy days were round the corner. ‘Mano Ya Na Mano’ received a slot on Zee TV and then came her music-based show ‘Dhun Dhamaka’ telecast on DD Metro. The success story had begun to unfold.
Ekta hit big time with ‘Hum Paanch’. Even as the comedy began a swift ascent on the charts, the megabucks — and recognition — started flowing in. It became the first humour-based serial to have the distinction of being on air for five years. Even its re-runs never fail to evoke spontaneous mirth.
With her company’s credibility firmly established, Ekta decided to go regional. Her first daily soap, ‘Kudumbum’ notched up a cult following in Tamil Nadu and its TRPs went through the roof. She dubbed it in Telugu and then in Hindi calling it ‘Ghar Ek Mandir’. "Though the soap was mushy in parts, it never preached and viewers took it very positively," she says.
Kudumbum’s success had spanned a new dimension. Ekta is now planning serials in Marathi, Punjabi, Bengali and Gujarati. She has reached a point where her presence cannot be ignored. Her serials are aired on every major channel — Star Plus, Zee TV, Sony and DD.
For anyone who has as many shows on air as she does, there is bound to be a mindblock as far as ideas go. Says she, "I think of at least a dozen ideas for a scene and then trash them all in favour of the thirteenth. It is like groping in the dark for that elusive source of light."
Though she has a team of writers working for her, Ekta still likes to write her own scripts and weave her own plots. She is involved in all the stages of production and though she gives enough freedom to writers and directors, the buck stops at her table. She is the final boss. Shrewdly enough, mother Shobha handles the accounts.
Ekta is so wrapped up in the production business that she says she has never given acting even a passing thought. Would she like to take it up sometimes in the future? She laughs. "When they see me in the clothes I wear to work, they’ll reject me instantly. I am a creative person. I doubt I can act as well as I can write. So, acting is really out."
With almost 100 persons working under her, including six executive producers, Ekta has come a long way from a confused 18-year-old girl who reportedly tipped the scales at 88 kilos. Today, thanks to her disciplined work-outs, she has the looks of a stunner and more importantly, is an example for all young girls to follow as far as career options go.
"No", she says, "I never had any qualifications. Enjoying what you are doing is the best qualification you can ever have." — NF
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