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Ekta Kapoor India’s Soap Opera Queen on Being a Film Festival Virgin in Busan

Ekta Kapoor is the undisputed queen of Indian content. In the 25 years since Balaji Telefilms was set up by her and her parents Jeetendra Kapoor and Shoba Kapoor, it has become the single largest television content producer in South Asia. The company’s two-year old OTT platform ALT Balaji has already notched up 27 million subscribers. But Busan is Kapoor’s film festival debut.

Balaji’s film production unit that had slowed a few years ago is now back in business and its latest production, Alankrita Shrivastava’s “Dolly Kitty and Those Twinkling Stars” had its world premiere at the Busan International Film Festival on Friday. This is the first time Balaji has participated in a film festival.

“I am a person who wants to explore new aspects of my life and of my company, and I’m like why can’t Balaji go to Busan?,” Kapoor told Variety.  “We might be a mass production house but this is an experience for me, and life is all about experiences. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’m told that this is how film festivals work. It’s great to be a newcomer somewhere.”

“In the last 25 years we have had a lot of change,” Kapoor said. “Entertainment on digital and movies has become far more evolved, but television still stays similar to what was done in the past. This is a common perception. What people don’t realise is that in a 1.3 billion population television has just about penetrated into smaller towns, in cities with populations of less than one million. So in the landscape of entertainment, the percolation has finally happened, television has reached the smallest towns. they are now getting to see content. It will take time for that evolution to happen.”

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Kapoor is excited about the OTT medium because being self-regulated, so far, and not subject to censorship, a plethora of content not suitable for conservative Indian family viewing can be explored. “We, as a country, because of new content coming constantly, have evolved even socially,” says Kapoor. “We can even pick up topics on women, sexuality, working women. I’ve made a show called ‘Gandii Baat’ which is highly sexual. I was panned because it was sexual, but I would say it is the most progressive show I have made. It is highly sexual, it is highly graphic, but I have never dealt with topics like the third sex before, I have never dealt with small town sexuality of women on television, and I’m doing that here.

“I wouldn’t have been able to tell theses stories on TV, and it’s being watched, and in some way, even though it is graphic and sexual, it is not misogynistic at all and it is actually promoting some kind of liberation internally.” “Gandii Baat” began streaming in 2018 and is now in its third season.

Simultaneously, ALT Balaji has produced “Mission Over Mars,” about the women behind India’s space program and “The Verdict – State vs Nanavati” which explores the truth behind the 1959 court case that led to the abolition of juries in the Indian legal system. “I could not have told these stories earlier,” says Kapoor.

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