‘Half Girlfriend’ is the ‘Naagin’ of my films : Ekta Kapoor
She’s the original czarina of television, whose serials redefined the way Indians watched TV. However, her foray into films was seen with cynicism — ‘dekhte hain kya karti hai’. While her tryst with the box office has been interspersed with hits and misses over the years, some of her last big-screen ventures didn’t exactly replicate the success of her small-screen outings. ‘Half Girlfriend’ (‘HG’), her first release this year, has given the much-needed boost to her company (Balaji Motion Pictures), but Ekta Kapoor asserts that she’s not planning big ventures. In an exclusive chat with BT, she says that she will only make movies on strong subjects and focus more on producing digital content for her mobile app, which was launched last month.
You have begun the year on a successful note with ‘Half Girlfriend’…
Yes, it had a good beginning and maintained well on Monday and Tuesday as well. Anyone in my place would be ecstatic. I had earlier produced ‘Ek Villain’ (2014), which was also directed by Mohit (Suri), so I knew that his films connect well with the masses. There is a section of audience that loves melodrama. Having said that, you can never tell how a film will open. It’s the first time in the past year-and-a-half that distributors have called up saying that my film is running to packed houses.
However, critics haven’t been too kind in their reviews. The audiences also seem to have mixed reactions…
(Laughs) I look at it this way; clearly, here, we have two nations in one — India and Bharat. Right in the beginning, my marketing head told me that there is a lot of prejudice against Chetan Bhagat (author of the book ‘Half Girlfriend’ and also one of the film’s producers). Most of the reviews were also more Chetan-bashing than film-bashing. In a way, I was expecting such a reaction, but check the numbers and you’ll see that the film is tracking almost at the top. Across the world, there is a tendency among the high class to look down upon writers of popular fiction. Chetan’s strong opinions irk some people. Moreover, Arjun (Kapoor) and Shraddha (Kapoor) also enjoy a huge mass connect, and our so-called intellectuals have a problem with that as well.
Any plans of another film with Mohit and Arjun?
I don’t want to reveal any plans right now. But I must say, working with Arjun has been a revelation. I had preconceived notions about working with a producer’s son, but he is very hard-working. He has been subjected to so much body-shaming; ironically, by the same intellectuals who cry hoarse against it. Mohit made ‘HG’ with all his heart. This is his best work so far.
You’ve backed films that few would bet their money on. Last year, it was ‘Udta Punjab’, which didn’t have any takers before you got on board. Like you said, Chetan also attracts a lot of negative reactions…
I don’t want to work with biases; that’s a myopic way of looking at life. I knew ‘HG’ would work with the masses. It is the ‘Naagin’ (TV serial) of my films. I remember waking up to articles about how regressive it is. And, the same people watch ‘Game Of Thrones’ and ‘Harry Potter’. ‘Naagin’ is our folklore, it’s rooted in India, but there was no respect for it. However, despite being panned by critics, that show got me ratings and this film got me box office numbers.
After some of your films flopped, reports said you were going slow on production. Has HG paved the way ahead for re-strategising?
I won’t deny that we’re going slow on production. Now, I want to be making, selling and promoting only the movies I believe in. I have ‘Veere Di Wedding’ with Kareena Kapoor Khan and Sonam Kapoor, ‘Laila Majnu’ with Imtiaz Ali as its creative director, and a film with Gattu (cousin, director Abhishek Kapoor), which has an interesting subject. That’s enough for now. Apart from these films, I’ll take a call depending on the subject. Otherwise, I’m focusing on my app ALT Balaji and digital content. I don’t want to say I have huge plans. What saddens me about the industry is that people refuse to accept each other’s success. They feel happy about other’s failures and your own peers pull you down. They don’t realise that when a film flops, the industry also suffers.