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Cover Story
December 31, 2013

Czarina Of Celebration

Text by Shraddha Jahagirdar-Saxena. Photograph by Dabboo Ratnani

Straddling the small and the big screens with her famous Midas touch, Ekta Kapoor has every reason to raise a toast to her life. No wonder then that she is a warm host and a coveted guest on the party circuit. She speaks about the real essence of celebration….

Two nights before our cover shoot, I set out, around the witching hour, for Ekta Kapoor’s residence, ‘Krishna’ in the suburbs. The star-maker/producer of big and small screen sagas is hosting her Diwali party. In front of the huge gates to her home, a host of paparazzi waits – as I walk in, I am quietly asked my name and then ushered into the welcoming interiors of her home. Instinctively, I pay obeisance to the statue of Lord Ganesha on the ground floor and step into the elevator that smoothly whisks me up to the third level of the building where her Diwali party is in progress – with invitees from different generations, from different societal spheres and from the silver and small screen and more. It takes a vivacious Kapoor, dressed attractively in a lehenga-choli, with her bright encompassing smile and just a few words to make you feel at home. And the night is still very young with a shining galaxy of stars adding to its brilliance.

At our cover shoot my conversation with her revolves primarily around celebrations and milestones that warrant a shout: as far as Kapoor is concerned, her many successes she can raise a toast to, and the ease with which she makes her parties a super success. During the year the shenanigans thrown by the TV/film czarina are much awaited and these include most certainly the following at least – like the one she hosted this Diwali, her iftaar celebrations, her Ganesh Chaturthi lunches and her birthday bashes. Last year, it was widely talked about how La Kapoor recreated Goa in her Juhu bungalow and celebrated her birthday with friends, albeit three months late. She wanted the guests to wear beachwear and her art director morphed the interiors of her home to look like a Goan shack! Some colourful sun umbrellas, beach beds and beach chairs added to the ambience. The menu boasted tons of seafood and the dessert was Goa’s famous bibinca. For the event, Kapoor wore a black vest teamed with black trousers that she had bought in Goa and had been waiting for an occasion to wear them.

It is hardly surprising then that she is one of the most important hosts – and sought-after guests – on the party firmament. Yet Kapoor’s take on celebration is uniquely her own.

THE WORD ‘CELEBRATION’ MEANS SOMETHING DIFFERENT TO ME.
I have a very conservative understanding of what ‘celebration’ means. I do not think a party – you host or attend – really celebrates something as effectively as the feeling inside you. This feeling can be generated due to a variety of reasons. It could happen when you achieve something or just be a moment that you may have spent with family and friends.

WHILE I WAS GROWING UP PARTIES WERE MEMORABLE.
My mother hosted huge parties. Half of Mumbai would be there – to me it seemed as if a billion people were there in the rooms. For me, partying while I was growing up, was all about having friends home and going all out. It was sometimes about breaking stuff, naturally accidentally, and getting beaten up by my mother. Now, the party scene has become very clinical, sanitised and conservative where everyone is just there, holding a champagne glass, having a smart conversation.

I AM NOT MUCH OF A PARTY PERSON.
Honestly, I no longer enjoy doing the party circuit. I am not seen for the most part of the year but I do come out during Diwali. I have become like one of those hibernating animals that go away in different seasons. Yet though I am not all out there, I do keep in touch with people who make me happy. This is instinctive for I am a Gemini by birth. It all depends on my mood. Where I go or what I do is completely sporadic.

I TAKE OVER WHEN THE PARTY BEGINS.
Even though I do not like going to parties, I love throwing them. And when I do host a party, it is my mother who takes care of the actual details – the arrangements, the set-up, the music and the guest list. Being more of a social people’s person I step in when the party starts. I am almost programmed to do my role here. I make it a point to spend five seconds or five minutes with every guest as soon as they arrive. Then I do the rounds of the rooms, interact with people, join conversations, leave conversations and return to people, to interact with them a little more. I introduce people to each other – create normal permutations and combinations at a do so that people can interact well. I do my best to ensure that the guests are looked after and that everyone is having a good time.

I PREFER TO HOST MY PARTIES AT HOME.
I am not worried about privacy because I do not host parties outside my home. Whether the party is large or small, we are lucky that we have a big house and so it’s just normal to have a house party. Even if the catering is from outside, the service is done in the house. My mom’s done up the house so well, what other way to celebrate with friends than have them over? Having it in a hotel or a restaurant could get messy. Sometimes, the service becomes an issue. And, honestly, no outside venue can be as warm as your own home.

I DO NOT ENJOY MY OWN PARTIES.
It may sound odd, but I am not much of a party person. And at something I host, I am so busy entertaining others that I never really enjoy my own party, I wait till the party is factoring out well and then I can relax. It is normally early morning by then and that is when I can put my feet up and have dinner.

I CHILL WITH FRIENDS.
There is no better way of relaxing than to spend time with friends. We have dinner, catch a movie and perhaps have a creative discussion on the film later on. You would probably see me at Cinemax watching a movie, eating popcorn.

I DON’T WANT PEOPLE TO EXPECT ANYTHING WHEN THEY COME HOME.
I really don’t want to fall into the trap that the next party has to be better than the last one. As long as my guests have good food and good alcohol, that is enough for me. At the end of the day, you are having a party at home. There is a certain amount of balance and standard that I have to keep in mind while hosting it with my parents, but if I had my way I wouldn’t even do that. I would tell my friends to come home. I would get biryani and raita and we would chill. I think casualness is what all parties should actually have because one’s comfort zone is so important when in more private spaces.

THERE ARE MANY LANDMARK MOMENTS THAT I COULD CELEBRATE.
One of them would be my coming-of-age moment, the time I grew up and pulled myself together. It was when I had taken a pilot episode to a channel and they told me that it was not going to work. I was driving back and I thought to myself that I was a good-for-nothing kid and that I had actually wasted my dad’s money. I was 17-and-a-half at that time. I got my act together and began to lose weight. I tried to make up the money that I had lost, and put on a decent show and put it on air. That is what growing up and coming of age meant to me. It was the drive from the production house to my home that turned things around for me. I told myself that I am doing this to make myself happy even though I had been told that I was not really capable of doing television. I put my mind to it and it all worked out.

THERE IS NOTHING BIGGER THAN THE JOY RECEIVED FROM A PERSONAL CELEBRATION.
It could be anything – your friend’s birthday or a great achievement of your father. Professional achievements too are celebrated – like getting an award. But by then you have almost lived out the experience. If there’s a personal achievement, like, for example, things you never thought you would do, then that kind of celebration can never be equated with any professional achievement. It could be just the fact that you have lost weight or that you have run a marathon. Or it could be your dad’s 70th birthday where you have gone with him to Vaishnodevi, which would matter much more than anything else!

TO ME, GIFTS ARE NOT IMPORTANT.
I am not much of a gift person even though gifting is sweet – but only if it is relevant. I give and get a lot of gifts, but for me what really matters is that a person has made the effort to come to my party, spend time with me and share my joy at my home. Could there be a bigger gift than that?

EKTA’S WORLD

TWENTY FOUR HOURS ARE NOT ENOUGH.
I work hard but on the occasions that I do celebrate, I party hard; so at that time, the 24 hours that make a day are not enough. In fact, the last week has been so hectic, I cannot tell you how much! I have a TV show launching soon. The whole team is working around the clock. And I am working on three episodes in the next three days. And plus, it is the festive season. So there are social engagements as well.

MY BIRTHDAYS ARE MORE CASUAL AND FUN.
These bashes are definitely different from our Diwali dos. Everyone comes in dressed casually; there is lots of music, lots of good food and we party till the morning.

THE BIG PARTY SCENE IS A MUST IN SOAPS.
It is a matter of getting all the characters under one roof – that can happen only at a wedding or a big party. Normally, the soaps have small dramas happening with a few people almost every day. In a party scene, we fit in a big drama into the party scene. At these celebrations, all the people come into one place so that the interactions get heightened. There are lights, there is opulence and of course, there is a lot of celebration…. The stage is set – and then suddenly something big happens. There is a dramatic twist that takes the tale ahead. And that is what these parties are all about!

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