The Tribune - Spectrum

Sunday, February 2, 2003
Lead Article

Super woman, supercop
“You’ve got to evolve, you’ve got to grow.
You can’t stay put”

Kiran Bedi
Kiran Bedi

KIRAN Bedi, the first woman IPS officer in the country was voted by our readers as The Tribune’s Woman of the Year 2002. Besides being the winner of the Magasaysay Award for her reforms in Tihar Jail and countless other awards and honours, Bedi has not only carved out a niche for herself in a male-dominated world but also has her pulse on the needs of the common man on the street. Being recently nominated as the first Indian and woman Civilian Police Chief of the UNO, was yet another feather in her cap. In an exclusive interview, where she exudes energy and dynamism and bristles with ideas, she spoke to Aruti Nayar on what makes her tick.

You were the first to storm the male bastion and a society used to subservient and submissive women. Have you found that (being a pioneer) a burden to live with?

The credit for this goes to my upbringing because I shed that factor of perceiving being a girl as a handicap even when I was not aware of it being a handicap. I attribute this to my mother and father and my teachers in the college and the university. I was born with the love for hard work. Even as a kid I wouldn’t waste a moment. You can call it samskara but the good thing is that this samskara has stayed with me and it’s not gone.

What is your advise to those who do not have the courage and grit you have displayed in your life?

You’ve got to evolve, you’ve got to grow, you can’t stay put. How will we grow, how will we become aware of the fact that every woman’s time is as precious as a man’s time? If a man can be a father while at work, why can’t a woman also grow while managing the house?

But a woman herself is plagued by guilt…

It’s time she shed it… right in her childhood. I know that a girl during her childhood is much more dependent upon her environment. A boy may not be so. I do understand that in the Indian circumstances a girl is very much dependent upon the kind of home she is born into, the kind of parents she has, her friends, teachers…etc. But an education that does not liberate her—even if she has a constricting environment—is no education at all. If an educated woman is not free, she is not educated, she is only literate. An education should set you free, not for breaking all moral values but to value who you are. An education should give you confidence, a sense of security and courage, otherwise the education is not complete.


Your appointment as the Policing Chief of the UN is indeed a feather in your cap, what will be the nature of your job?

Working in that capacity would be totally international policing in real terms. You are required to work in different parts of the world in areas where there is strife or internecine warfare, while the soldiers go to keep peace, the civil police go to build peace and consolidate it.

Are you used to firsts?

(Laughs loudly) Yes! But the first came even before the police, to go back to my college. We were the first family of two sisters (my sister Rita and me) to get the inter-varsity tennis trophy to Punjab for the first time. Not once but three times. Rita is a clinical psychologist of great repute in England. We were a unique family of girls. Because of my parents’ vision it was possible for us to achieve. I moved in here in Delhi, my daughter was born in 1975 and my parents moved in to run my home. Till mummy left me three years ago, she ran my home. Tell me even today how difficult it is to move into a daughter’s house, even if she needs her mother. Then my sisters went to work and her son also was looked after here, so it became one big joint family. My mother never said that she had retired as a grandmother. She worked until her last breath… she was a total karamyogi. More than a sheet anchor, she was a pillar of strength because she was conscious that her daughters were continuing to evolve. Most mothers would say: Main tainu palaya hun tu jaa, meri mauj. It was such a strong bond. On my part, I gave her my salary to do whatever she wanted to and she saved it all for me. She would say zara jeb wich paise pa lai. There was no tightrope walk… No, I did what I was brought up for and what was needed at that time, for what I had been brought up.

How do you do justice to all the roles: as a daughter, wife, mother and daughter-in-law?

There is no conflict, there is love, space and respect for all and there is giving. Each person gets space according to need. There is no compartmentalisation, it is an open door, the moment I am home, I am there for everyone. If at home I can’t be myself then I am a robot. My mother-in-law was a truly educated woman, who appreciated me.

We would like to share with our readers what you would wish to say as a role model and how does it feel to be selected for such a prestigious position?

I would like to thank the readers for giving me this honour and great respect. I am a Punjabi and was born and brought up in Amritsar. In fact, even when I am away, I look for an opportunity to speak Punjabi. These nominations add responsibility, with god’s grace, I would continue to live up to their expectations. In a male world, nothing comes unless one deserves it.

Is it true that a woman has to work twice as hard…?

Let me tell you, by nature, a woman works twice as hard. Women in different capacities, who run a home, work twice as hard. I didn’t have to run a home, I worked twice at work. You work your way up as you think the work demands and as per the requirements.

Any memorable incident that left an indelible impact on your mind?

I think my sitting for the Vippasana retreat in January 1999. I can easily divide my life into before and after. Mental and internal nourishment that I received was amazing. It was as if a spark had been lit and it was going to stay with me for all my life..

What about the teachers who influenced you and who are your role models?

Whether a nation is built or it crumbles depends on two pillars of society, the parents and teachers. I can tell you we will need much less policing if these two perform their responsibilities well. A teacher is a personality builder, he teaches you the art of living. To J.C. Anand I owe becoming research oriented. The way in which he taught political thought made me thirsty for more reading. Mrs. Taneja who taught political science motivated me to read Plato, Mills, Rousseau and Locke, while Mrs Khera in Amritsar made me love English literature. My role models have been all those who have sacrificed for the country: Mahatma Gandhi, Golda Meir, Mother Teresa and Swami Vivekananda.

You have been accused of playing to the gallery and being media savvy. Do you court controversy or does controversy dog you wherever you go?

I didn’t invite the media, they wanted to come. Rules did not bar them. I’m not into undercover intelligence work, if I was you wouldn’t have seen me. I’m into policing, which is for the people. I’m wearing a khakhi uniform to interact with the people, to serve them and provide them security. That’s what I’m therefore. I believe in communicative policing and media reports work. If media reporting is seeking publicity then something is wrong. Media is reporting issues that are coming up through work. You can’t put the work in a trunk. A clean road is for everyone to see as is the work done. I perceive the role of the media as a bridge between police and the people and want to build on that.

Do you believe in God?

I do believe in a spiritual hand that continues to steer you. Opportunities that were not there knock at the door. Meditation is invoking internal audit looking at yourself in a special way.

Any movies that you like?

I saw a very good movie, Mr & Mrs Iyer. I don’t waste time on barely clothed dance sequences. I hate them. It is demeaning when men are fully dressed and women are undressed. It is an insult to womanhood. These women are dancing in their undergarments, while the men are fully clothed in coats and ties! We are reinforcing stereotypes. For me it’s not art at all, it’s obscenity. We should be protesting.



Ekta: Primetime Princess
“The women in my serials are strong, with minds
of their own”

V. Gangadhar

 Ekta Kapoor
Ekta Kapoor 

THE ugly duckling, so goes the fairy tale, finally turned into a beautiful swan. But there was no mention of its IQ. But in real life, we have a podgy, plump, mediocre-in-studies teenager who has not only emerged as a stunning, poised young woman but has also displayed a yen for doing business and has, in the process, got millions of viewers hooked to her television serials.

That is Ekta Kapoor for you. The Creative Director of Balaji Telefilms, she is the Primetime Princess of Indian television. Winner of the Economic Times’ Best Emerging TV producer Award, 27-year-old Ekta Kapoor has truly arrived!

Since 1994, when Ekta made the hugely popular Hum Paanch, serials from the Balaji Telefilms stable have dominated the television scene, becoming the staple soap opera diet on all major channels. On any single day, at least 13 Balaji serials with the Ekta stamp can be viewed on different channels at different times.

This confident, young woman with her infectious laughter knows exactly what she wants. Daughter of former filmstar Jeetendra and air hostess, Shobha Kapoor, Ekta, hardly evinced any interest in show business while growing up and was not groomed by her father to join films. But the young woman was keenly watching the entertainment scene. She had no interest in a 'before-the-camera' role. It was the enormous potential of the small screen that she was keen on tapping.

Interestingly, it is the mother-daughter duo that has been responsible for the success of Balaji Telefilms. Shobha Kapoor, for years, was content to be a housewife. But when the daughter grew up, she encouraged her to tap her creativity and hone her business acumen.

Producer Ekta Kapoor quickly realised that the millions of Indian housewives, who formed the bulk of the TV audience, were potential viewers waiting to be wooed. Her earlier serials, Hum Paanch and Ithihaas, were mostly meant for middle-class audiences. Very soon, it was time for mass entertainment.

Presiding over a team of seven creative heads and 14 executive producers, Ekta focussed on concept -building, strong women-oriented scripts and high-quality technical effects. "I think I brought professionalism to the art of serial-making," she maintains. "My serials are noted for their full range of emotions. They also provide, in ample quantities, family values, fun, pathos, seriousness, all garnished with special effects and quality music."

One after the other, her serials began hogging primetime on all channels. Kyunki saas bhi kabhi bahu thi, Ghar Ghar ki kahani, Kasauti and Kutumb became household names, holding millions enthralled from 8.30 pm to 11 pm. Even when Kaun Banega Crorepati was at the peak of its popularity, the serials held their own in the TRP ratings. The 'K' factor added to the intrigue. "It just brought luck to us," laughs Ekta. "Call it superstition or anything, why leave out something symbolic when it has turned out to be good for you?"

Ekta believes that it was the strong storyline of her serials which appealed to the viewers. Wasn't the pace slow? May be, but then television serials are not like movies which have to pack everything in less than three hours. "We can afford a leisurely pace, the serials reflect the way events take place in life," she feels.

The intellectuals and media critics were rather harsh on the Balaji hype. "Nothing really moves in the serials," wrote one. "The characters, particularly women, look alike. Stiff, dolled up in finery at all times of the day and night, they sport plastic smiles. The themes are often regressive. Do you ever find such women in real life?"

But Ekta is unapologetic about her portrayals. "My eight years of hard work is now finally paying," she points out. "I enjoy my work, making people laugh and cry. The women in my serials are strong, they have minds of their own. They also stand for tradition and middle-class values."

The unit members respect and admire her. "Yes, occasionally, Ektaji can be moody and does yell at the people on the sets," says a co-worker. But that is how work gets done and the producer can let off steam. She has the reputation of being a well-organised person, delegating responsibilities and expecting deadlines to be met. "We enjoy a lot of freedom," explains a creative head. "Ideas are freely tossed around, themes for serials discussed in detail, but Ekta has the final say." Cost-conscious, she has a tight hold on the budget and hates extra spending.

Success had not stifled the creative urge in Ekta. She had just finished her second film, Kuchh to Hai with brother Tusshar and Esha Deol in lead roles. An earlier film, Kyunki Main Jhooth Nahin Bolta flopped badly. "I was not much involved in that film," Ekta explains hastily. "I just put money into it, and did not play any other role."

But making Kuchh to hai was different. It was produced with the cricket World Cup breathing down its neck. There was a change in directors, Anurag Basu being replaced by Anil Vishwakarma, who, according to Ekta, came to Mumbai from Bihar with just Rs 50 in his pocket. The parting with Basu, however, was without bitterness.

Will she ever direct a film? Not likely, says Ekta. "I am happy being the producer and in charge of the entire operation. The execution of plots from the director's point of view bores me." But Ekta wants to be firmly established in the world of films too. If Kuchch to Hai clicks, it will be followed by two, three…even six films!

Here is a young woman in a hurry. Yet, she knows, unlike the medium of television, where she has become a veteran, she is a newcomer to films. The nervousness and anxiety show clearly. But knowing Ekta, one can predict, she will not rest until she hits the winning formula in films too.