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Mahabharat is finally on... Mukesh Khanna once again makes a fool of himself, and ekta is Laughing...in spite of setbacks.
Your Mahabharat is finally on air?
I wanted to see everyone's expressions. And the response has been a relief. Frankly when I saw the first episode I liked what I saw. Did you?
Yes I did. But Mukesh Khanna seemed to hate it.
(laughs) I know some people hated it. I was prepared for it. On Tuesday Mr Mukesh Khanna went on television to blast our 'sets' for Mahabharat. He didn't realize we shot on location at the Aamir fort in Jaipur.
He said, "Yeh to bilkul authentic set nahin hai. 'My response, 'Yeh to asli location hai, Sir.' We shot the first two episodes at the Aamir fort. It took me seven days.
There's no escaping Aamir these days.
Ha ha. I love him. And I love the Aamir fort. Thank God we shot there. The response I got was overwhelming. The best one was, 'I can't believe this is you. Have you hired someone else to produce Mahabharat?' I did it without caring about the results.
I've made the Mahabharat for a new generation. If I manage to do this I don't care what the traditionalists think. For the first time critics liked what I've done. But with the joy came the sadness. I lost my most trusted director Gary Bhinder.
That came as a blow?
Yes. His death really hurt me. Just the other day on 15 June I was explaining the scene to Gary and I promised him we'd hug each other on the day the first episode of the Mahabharat was released.
Today exactly three weeks later everything that we had imagined has come true. But he isn't there. It makes you wonder what is life about.
How much of a difference will his departure make to the Mahabharat?
Gary and I knew each other so well, we had interconnected minds. We knew exactly where to take the Mahabharat. But we've a fantastic team.
I don't think the serial will be affected half as much as I am. At any given time we've four different directors working on four different units of Mahabharat.
There's a creative head supervising each and every episode. We've only canned 9 episodes in 3 months. Each episode takes 11 days as compared to an average episode of my other soaps which takes 1 ½ days.
How will you cope with the deadlines?
I'll increase the number of units. But I won't compromise on quality. I'm loving the feedback I'm getting. A friend from London called to say, 'Dude, you just re-made Ben Hur for me'. I died.
You've tampered with the structure of the Mahabharat. You started your narration with the cheer-haran episode?
Yes! I decided to do my own take and take on the criticism from the very first episode. I used the cheer-haran like a prelude to grab viewers' attention. People are shocked by our beginning.
This is my most ambitious project and I've been ready for the raised eyebrows. Every change in the original Mahabharat has been done in close consultation with me.
I don't want this to be just another one of my soaps that comes and goes. Twenty years from now I want someone to call up another producer and say, 'Dude you just made the new version of Ekta's Mahabharat.'
Are you setting aside your other soaps to look into the Mahabharat?
Not at all. I'm doing everything I was doing earlier. Plus I am also doing the Mahabharat. But yes I'm a little more enthusiastic about this project. No one can touch Ved Vyas as a writer.
Would you like to employ him at Balajee?
You think we could put him in a time machine and bring him back?
Are you marketing your Mahabharat on the dvd?
Of course. We're already getting eye-popping offers for dvd deals, even if Mr Mukesh Khanna faults us on authenticity although we shot on location (cracks up with laughter). He thought we were shooting on a Balajee set.Dude, this isn't Kyunki.
Is it true Mukesh Khanna was offered Shantanu's role while he wanted to play Bhishm Pitamah again?
Why have you cast all the regular Balajee artistes in Mahabharat?
Oh, there're lots of new faces. All the gods and goddesses are going to be completely non-Balajee artistes. How can audiences accept actors they've been seeing for years and months as deities?
But Sakshi Tanwar is cast?
She's playing Ganga. I could only think of her for the role.
What about your reality show Kaun Jeetega Bollywood Ka Ticket?
Very honestly, the Mahabharat came a day after the reality show. I've been too taken up with the Mahabharat to bother with anything else.I think we all are too excited by this project to bother with anything else.