Famous for all the Saas Bahu sagas on television and also known as the queen of soap in India, Ekta Kapoor takes an unexpected turn with her recently released film Love Sex Aur Dhoka (LSD). The film is a total departure from the kind of serials and films that the TV Queen has been associated with earlier.
The powerhouse producer speaks to Businessofcinema.com about LSD, the film which has truly sparked dialogue and opened many unlikely doors within the industry and her new company Alt Entertainment.
Love Sex Aur Dhoka is a total departure from the kind of serials or films you are associated with. What made you produce a film like LSD?
I went with pure instinct on this one. I liked the concept and story and felt it was about the youth of today. I felt that it would definitely reach out because of its very urban yet folklorish story telling.
The film as we know is a low budget film, has it recovered the cost? How has the response been?
It’s on its way to recovering the cost. I can’t take numbers but you can easily say that the theatrical will take care of more than just the cost of production. The rest of it will be profits and just publicity. The response has been great.
Your production house is one of the top as far as television serials are concerned and now you’ve started Alt. How important are movies to you? And where do you see Alt in another five years from now?
That’s a very tricky question! Well movies are very important to me, it’s a completely new company I am a very company person. I believe in doing work whatever work is required for the company. It’s not like today I feel like making films and I make 10 of them and then suddenly I decide that I’m not going to make any more films. The company decided very clearly that it wanted to make films because it had strong equity and that’s the future.
In the next five years, I see Alt being a completely new age and a commercially very successful brand. Probably attain cult status and be a large niche mass viewer.
What will be the differentiating factor between the kind of films that will be produced under the Balaji Motion Pictures banner and those under Alt Entertainment?
The difference will be in the script and sensibilities and budgets.I am talking not only about the niche market but there is something like a niche mass like Kya Kool Hai Hum, which means it will appeal to a bigger larger audience, for example besides Mumbai, Pune, Delhi or Bangalore even the kids in Navsari or Bhillai will like it but it will be made in Alt. It will not go into the Balaji brand or the Balaji thought process of mass family movies. A film like Once Upon A Time in Mumbai will be made under Balaji but a small film, which is completely edgy again like Kya Kool Hai Hum will be made under Alt Entertainment.
You mean to say that the smaller budget films will be made under Alt?
If you take it in that distinction then yes but sometimes a big budget film, which does not have mass sensibility but has a niche mass number like Special Chabbis will go into Alt. Having said that, there are many other factors, which will decide what film will go into Alt and what will go to Balaji Motion Pictures; it’s not just the budget.
2008 – 2009 has not been a really good year for Balaji, since in September 2008 you had around nine shows on air and in a just a few months from then you were down to four, the company also announced a net loss of 14 crores in 2009. What measures have been taken over the last one year to put things back on track?
It was bad debts that can happen to any company, it wasn’t like a risk we took that went wrong. The loss was not that huge it was very minuscule in fact we mostly broke even in that company. What happened was bad debts like I said could happen to any company. When recession hits you and somebody else is losing on wrong risk taking, you’re stuck with your money not coming in. The kind of recession that hit us last year is not a regular thing to happen. We lost money due to the things which were not in our hands. We are not a company that takes illogical risks ever but in a bad debut situation when the whole market falls and equity of companies go down by half there’s really little that we can do about it.
We tried to put in least amount of money out in circulation, see to it that no company has a huger outstanding than planned, take in smart programming, programming that brings in good amount of money. Our aim is to run the television business the way it should be run since it’s our base and we understand it. So if we ever want to scale up we can do it anytime. We are also spending time in building up our movie business and as a parent company, create two three new brands that financially break even initially and also create equity for the company at the same time.
Are you also thinking of launching your own channel?
Not as of now.
You had also signed film deals with Suniel Shetty’s Popcorn Entertainment, Sanjay Dutt and Sanjay Gupta but all those deals have fallen through what was the reason?
There was a project that did materialize but we did not go on to do many more things because we wanted to clearly keep the talent in-house and we’ve done that. We’ve got the creative and business talents in-house and we’ve also got the distribution and marketing functions in-house.
What is your strategy for the films division going forward? Will you be looking at independent productions only or will you be willing to look at co-productions too?
Clearly very smartly budgeted films, that will be less on stupid and erratic fluctuations at pricing. Today I can’t make a film, which has anything more than a 20 per cent risk factor, so I have invested very smartly in films. We don’t want to take high risk projects.
Co-productions are very very acceptable as long as budgets are in place.
What are the other films in the pipeline?
Special Chabbis, Shor and Once Upon a Time in Mumbai are some of the films that are currently underway.