Some 25 years ago, a yesteryear Bollywood superstar’s daughter decided to venture into the world of television with her own production house. Over the coming years, this production house was going to hook Indians to soap operas like never before, eventually spinning into a media giant, that allowed its young owner to dabble into films and even launch a video-on-demand platform. That production house was Balaji Telefilms, brain child of Ekta Kapoor, who celebrated 25 years of her venture’s establishment with a tweet. Love her work or hate it, but you surely can’t ignore it. So immense is Kapoor’s imprint on the tele industry in India, most prime time Indian soaps still follow the blueprint set by her shows in late 90s and specifically, early 2000s. Plastic surgeries, jarring camera effects and time leaps anyone?

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • Balaji Telefilms celebrates 25 years in 2019.
  • Ekta Kapoor’s venture changed the world we consumed small screen entertainment forever.
  • While Kapoor has produced shows which many may found regressive, she has also backed quality content on her streaming platform and in films.
  • Kapoor’s success shows us why it is important for women to dream, and to dream big.

In the year 2000, Kapoor took two family oriented daily soaps to this channel which was looking to ‘Indianise’ itself, Star Plus. With Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi and Kahaani Ghar Ghar Kii, Ekta heralded a change in the television industry which altered its path forever.

My first brush with Kapoor’s brand was with a show most 90s kids may remember watching, Hum Paanch; yes the show that gave us Vidya Balan. I remember how the show starring actors like Ashok Saraf and Priya Tendulkar, known for their comic timing, created a stir among parents, who alleged that it taught girls to insult their peers, especially fathers. This was the 90s, so you can imagine how girls talking back to their dads were frowned upon largely. And then in the year 2000, Kapoor took two family oriented daily soaps to this channel which was looking to ‘Indianise’ itself, Star Plus. With Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi and Kahaani Ghar Ghar Kii, Ekta heralded a change in the television industry which altered its path forever.

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Many may argues, that the said path was regressive. Joint families living under the same roof, with relatives scheming behind each other’s back, while bahus and saasu maas floated around giant mansions in finest of jewellery and sarees that we had never seen on small screen before, 24 by 7. There were tears, there were twists, and then there were adarsh bahus. The instantaneous and stupendous success of these two shows soon snowballed into various soaps on similar lines on all possible Hindi general entertainment channels, which tasted varying levels of success and longevity. Kabhii Sautan Kabhii Sahelii, Kkusum, Kasautii Zindagii Kay, Kasamh Se and Pavitra Rishta to name a few, many of which I was forced to swallow with morsels of food during dinner time.

Balaji has sustained itself and grown for the past 25 years, and this shows what women can achieve if they are single minded, up for a challenge and thick skinned to criticism.

But long before Balaji ventured into the digital space to give us shows about same sex relationship, Kapoor showed streaks of hunger for challenging stories with some of these seemingly mundane soaps. For instance, Koshish… Ek Aasha was about struggles of a woman tricked into marrying a mentally challenged man, while Kaahin Kissii Roz was a revenge thriller. It is this streak that became a full-fledged subscription based video on demand platform called ALT Balaji in 2017, which catered to the audience base which wasn’t pleased with the tear jerkers that Balaji specialised in churning out. With Balaji Motion Pictures, Kapoor also went on to back stellar films like The Dirty Picture, Lootera, Udta Punjab and the recently released Kangana Ranaut starrer Judgementall Hai Kya.

Why am I writing about the success of Balaji telefilms and Ekta Kapoor? Partly because it forms an integral part of my growing up years. In my small town middle class household, books were a sort of luxury, but cable entertainment was affordable and readily available. Just like the town I come from, I look at daily soaps cooked up by brand Ekta, with nostalgia. It isn’t about liking them or not, it is about them being memories from your childhood and teens, and memories always fill you up with warmth.

Secondly, Kapoor for us is that rare woman in our country, who found success in a relatively new medium. Balaji has sustained itself and grown for the past 25 years, and this shows what women can achieve if they are single minded, up for a challenge and thick skinned to criticism. Kapoor’s success teaches us women not just to believe in our dreams, but to dream bigger. There aren’t many Indian women whose success is widely celebrated and recognised by all. So for embarking on a 25 journey as a producer, for dreaming big and for her sheer zeal to keep reinventing her venture, Ekta Kapoor’s success is something which needs to be celebrated.

Image credit: Asian Age

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Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.

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