The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Miss Kapoor and I have not spoken for five months: Smriti
Smriti Irani, Vinod Khanna and co-stars in Mere Apne

From an actor you have moved on to being a producer too. Is it difficult to juggle both the roles'

Smriti Irani: No, because when I became a producer I was totally conscious about having to juggle the two. I knew I had capable hands to manage production.

So far your production house has been given good reviews by actors who have worked for it on Virrudh and other shows.

Everybody has a right to work in an environment which is respectful and comfortable. As an actor, I know what kind of treatment I would want from the crew. So I just try to give the same to all my colleagues. I ensure that the team I hire doesn’t get the feeling that they are just employees. We work as a team.

You have come across a lot of gender bias in your life. Was Virrudh a reflection of that'

No, no, my personal and professional lives are two different things. Yes, one can be inspired from real life stories but Virrudh is not one of those stories.

Every second month there are rumours about Virrudh being scrapped...

It has been happening with our show from day one. I am touched that one of my first daily soaps has created such a great impact to get this kind of a reaction from competitors. The quality of the show and the actors in it are outstanding. Also, the show has variety and a set design, which makes it difficult for some to lump it. As a competitor, one gets used to all kinds of rumours.

What is your new serial Mere Apne on the new channel 9X all about'

Mere Apne is very traditional in terms of its outlook. It is about a man who has been very forceful in his control over the exterior world. Mere Apne shows whether he has the same kind of power on his own family. It is a clash between the traditional Benarasi ideologies of the older lot and the modern philosophies of the younger generation. It is a story which is beautifully woven around a family which prays that they never fall apart.

You have signed up Vinod Khanna for Mere Apne; how difficult was it to convince him'

He agreed in the very first meeting.

But why Vinod Khanna'

I wanted an actor who was authoritative yet had a soft side to him. Somebody who could look violent yet could easily crack a joke with his family. He fit the bill perfectly. What is fascinating is that as an actor he has given so much to the show.

As a producer is it economical to get a film star of that calibre and cost'

Getting high-calibre actors within the limited budget of the television network has become my trademark. These are not budgets which are higher than what other producers across all channels get.

Several film stars have tried their luck on television — but with little success. Aren’t you scared of history repeating itself with Vinod Khanna '

No, because we have concentrated on the concept and cast our members according to that concept. TV is one medium where, unlike cinema, content rules.

What is your yardstick of success'

In such competitive times, maintaining the quality of creativity and content of the show is a challenge and recognising that quality is the hallmark of a producer. I am glad that within one-and-a-half years, people have started identifying me as a producer. However, as far as acting is concerned, an actor keeps evolving every time, every place, with every project. I have bagged the Best Actress award for six years but that doesn’t mean that I stop growing.

Smriti Irani

Is that why you tried to break away from the Tulsi image through Virrudh....

(Interrupts) No, Virrudh was done not to break away from any image; it was only made to tell a good story. I have made whatever I have, out of Tulsi, after a lot of hard work. I will never consciously try to break away from it because I have given it seven years of my life. So I am neither ashamed of making a Tulsi nor of the fact that people still associate me with that name. I will make sure that I carry that name along with me all my life, with pride.

After leaving Kyunki… have you seen the new Tulsi'

I didn’t watch myself as Tulsi so leave aside watching others. See, when you reach the stage where I am standing right now then you don’t bother about such things. You just move on.

Any plans of reappearing in Kyunki'

In fact, I never wanted to leave the show, I don’t know why I was sent off. Miss (Ektaa) Kapoor and I have not spoken for five months. The last time I spoke to her was when I wished her on her birthday in June. Since then, there has been no contact.

Are you planning to do films in the near future'

I am hoping to do so. But I don’t call it a plan; I call it ‘work in progress'.

Finally, what do you see yourself as… a politician, an actor, a producer, an anchor'

As a working mother of two children.

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