...and we knew that Ekta Kapoor had resorted on the secret mantra again. She did it with her flagship serial Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, then with Kahaani Ghar Ghar Kii and now its Kkusum's turn to take a leap into future to revive the flagging TRPs.
After nearly 550 episodes, Kkusum has stormed ahead by 18 years with a plot set against a time transition. Till now she has been the ideal daughter and wife, after 18 year leap she takes on the role of a single, model mother. She now has taken on a secondary role, allowing her daughter- Kumud, to take center stage along with various other young characters introduced as part of the new generation.
No prizes for guessing that the new generation characters, who will now hold center-stage, are grinning from ear to ear.
AASKHKA GORADIA (18)
Something about Aaskhka....."I am from Ahmedabad. I had received a scholarship from New Zealand University, but I have always nurtured a dream to start an independent career life in Mumbai. I decided to jump right in. Then began my period of struggle; I stayed as a paying guest in various places, before I finally bagged a role in Sab TV's Akting Akting. Then I did Achanak 37 Saal Baad on Sony. Later on I joined the cast of Bhabhi on Star Plus, but that was before Kkusum happened. The role of Kumud- Kkusum's daughter- required a lot of time commitment and since I couldn't keep up with the pace, I decided to concentrate on Kkusum.
On how she bagged the role of Kkusum's daughter... "I did not audition for this role. I has auditioned for the role of the other sister Kali, the surrogate one, which has negative shades. I don't know why, but that role excited me. While Ekta Kapoor was going through the tapes, she felt that I was more suited to play Kumud. That's it!"
"I have got much more than I bargained for. I owe it to Ekta Kapoor, hadn't it been for her conviction I wouldn't be able to play a character that is so pivotal to the plot, the lead so to speak."
About her 'young' screen mom (Nausheen Ali Sardar)... "I think it's quite okay. It is quite an 'in-thing' to show a young mother in serials these days. Look at Smriti Iraani and Ritu Chaudhry in Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Bhi Thi, Sakshi Tanwar and Tina Parakh in Kahaani Ghar Ghar Kii, it is the exact equation that we have on Kkusum.
Opinions on surrogate motherhood.... "Although in the serial, my screen dad Abhay Kapoor (Anuj Saxena) opts for a surrogate when his wife fails to conceive, on a personal front, I am dead against surrogate motherhood. I would appreciate if childless couples opt for adoption instead."
And does she identify with her role... "Quite a bit. I think I would react exactly like Kumud reacts to her father, if I was faced with such a situation in real life. Kumud's dad is coolly living with his other daughter, without bothering about his wife's whereabouts."
AMIT SAREEN (30)
An engineer doing television? "Guess, I always wanted to be an actor. But since I got good grades at the twelfth board exams, my family advised me to think about an alternative career before taking plunge in acting. So I went ahead with engineering and later joined Kishore Namit Kapoor's acting classes. I am also a trained gymnast and dancer."
How will his dance abilities help? "I don't know. But before I took up the television assignment, I shot for a film, directed by Pankaj Parashar, where I did a dance number with Ishaa Koppikar. Parashar wanted someone new who could match steps with Ishaa and I fit the bill. Anyway, I am certain that I will be trying for films in the future."
Something about my role... "I play Kshitij, Aryaman's son. I am a very disciplined guy. There are only two things in his life- time and work. Later on, he falls in love with Kumud and starts viewing his life a little differently."
How many days has he committed to Balaji... "All 30 days of a month! But I am enjoying it. So far so good. Looking back, I think Kishore Namit Kapoor classes are helping me a lot. They not only helped me develop the craft, but also polished my skills."
RUCHA GUJRATHI (21)
About my previous experiences... "After completing my Diploma course in Medical Lab Technology, I did some films like Sahebzade, Dancer, Shikari, Hum Hai Kamal Ke and a serial called Tak Dhina Dhin. Of late, I did some ads like Levon, Frooti, Fanta, Emami.
Why she didn't pursue pathology? "I got tempted by the glamour world. However, I am secured. If I don't make it as an actress, I can always fall back on pathology."
How did I land the role... "Actually, I auditioned for Yukta's character in Kaahin Kissii Roz. While going through the tapes, Ekta thought that I would do better justice to this one."
About the role... "I play Kali, Mahi's daughter. I stay with my dad, but I keep pestering him that I want my mom back into our home. Although he is ready to do anything for me, it is difficult for him as he isn't able to forget Kkusum. Therefore I grow up as a very pampered person. And I am under the impression that Kkusum is dead."
Was the leap actually required... "Yes. For that matter, even Santa Barbara and The Bold and Beautiful had jumped ahead for few years. Plus, Ekta had already succeeded twice. So I think it is a fair call."
What I like about the role... "The fact that it is for a Balaji show. No other production house showcases talent better than Balaji. Plus I am very excited because I will be seen worldwide. It's good that I made my first splash on Sony, which reaches abroad as well."
MANOJ BOHRA (28)
Something about my background... "I am from a filmi background. My dad Mahendra Bohra produced the latest releaseEk Hasina Thi in collaboration with Ram Gopal Varma. I started my career on television as an assistant director to BP Singh for CID and later for Achanak 37 Saal Baad. I also played Saloni's boyfriend in Just Mohabbat."
About my role... "I play Nakul, a rich spoilt brat who is in love with Kali. I have immense hatred for Kkusum's daughter, Kumud."
How did the audition go... "Well, I was auditioned for some other Balaji Telefilms shows, which were scheduled for mid and late 2004. Then, they thought that I would be better off playing Nakul."
Some other assignments... "I am doing a Star Plus serial Shararat as well. Plus, I have modeled for Chlormint, Levi's, BPL, Fun Republic, Frooti. I am also into the Art of Living; it helps me to bear the physical stress involved in television acting where we actors are required to shoot for 16-17 hours every day."
About plans to get on to the silver screen... "Of course I want to do films. But it's too early to say anything. Let me take this role to its logical conclusion and establish myself as an actor. I started my career as an assistant-director because my dad advised me to. He often told me that you need to understand the craft and skill of acting from a director's perspective behind the camera, only then you won't falter in front of it."
JENIFER VINGET (18)
Something about my background... "This is my first television venture. I have done a film, Kuch Na Kaho where I played Abhishek Bachchan's sister. I have modeled for Johnson & Johnson and Reynolds.
Something about my role... "I am playing Simran, Kumud's best pal. I have grown up with Kumud in Ludhiana, where she was born. Kumud's mom, Kkusum, agrees to send us together to Mumbai- because Kumud has secured a scholarship, which she wants to pursue. I am shown to be crazy about boys. And I am crazy about Shah Rukh Khan and keep bragging that I know him and his family very well."
Other assignments that I have on my platter... "I am also a part of Balaji's other show Kkoi Dil Mein Hai, where I play Purva Gokhale's younger sister. After seeing me in that serial, Ekta thought that I could carry off Simran's role."
How does she shuttle between the two serials... "Had both the shows not been Balaji's, it would have been difficult. But now, my shots are so adjusted that they don't coincide."
Wasn't the serial getting boring... "It had become monotonous. The viewers were getting tired looking at the same faces again and again. I wouldn't say that the serial should have wound up, not because I am into it now, but there's no harm in trying to revive a good brand. Some zest and vigour has been added to the serial so that the story moves on."
CHETAN HANSRAJ (28)
About my acting experience... "I started with a film- a biggie- Rajiv Rai's to-be-released Asambhav with Naseeruddin Shah, Arjun Rampal, Priyanka Chopra and Dipannita Sharma. I play a Pakistani ISI officer. I have done commercials like WagonR, Thums-Up, Cinthol among many others. I also tried my hand in music videos like Bar Bar Dekho and Yahoo."
Why did I opt for television after such a heady start... "Today, television is not the smaller medium. Plus, I got a great role of an introvert and obsessive lawyer- Shweta Kawaatra's son- who is crazy about Kali. Quite a possessive character. If someone acts smart with her, he'll whack him."
I didn't actually jump at the offer... "Actually, I was a bit apprehensive whether I should take up a TV offer after I had done a film. My best friend Tony helped me to reach a decision. He explained that movies were not keeping me occupied throughout the year till now. So why not Kkusum?"
Was I actually aware about the show? "Hardly. Only if my mom and dad were watching and I happened to enter the room. I have heard people talking that they had enough of the same thing, again and again. Guess it's time for youngsters to take over now."
About my action plan ... "I can't do any other serials outside the Balaji banner for some time. But they haven't forbidden me from ads and films. All I need to do is inform them sufficiently beforehand, so that they can build a bank of my portions or change my track."
SAURABH ARYA (22)
Where do I come from... I am not a Mumbaikar. I am from Delhi. I came down to Mumbai, because I wanted to act."
Why television? "I think television would give me a better scope to establish myself. Characters on television are better sketched these days. I might get lost in a multi-starrer film."
About my role... "I play Nakul's friend who impersonates as Nakul in his absence. I misbehave with Kumud. I am out-n-out negative character"
How did I land a role with Balaji Telefilms? "I auditioned for them, about three months back. Thereafter, they called me for a second audition."
My philosophy in life... "Live for the present. Work hard. Don't bitch or backbite. You'll be the happiest person in the world."
MANEKA LALWANI (24)
About my academic background... "I have done BSc in Home Science, followed by Post Graduation in Advertising and Public Relations.
Why didn't I take up advertising as a career option? "I am from Baroda. I did advertising primarily to occupy my time, while I played the waiting game to get into a TV serial. I always kept a close track of the Balaji auditions. Balaji serials are popular and they have always fascinated me."
About my career moves prior to Balaji... "I did an ad for Top-In-Town Raincoats, an episode of Sshhh... Koi Hai on Star Plus. I also modeled for Parag Sarees, Planet Digit and I contested in the Miss InMumbai Pageant last year. I also learnt Bharatnatyam and Kathak."
What character do I portray? "I play Shweta Kawaatra's daughter and Garv's sister. It's a negative character. I hate the fact that my brother likes Kali."
I wasn't apprehensive about playing a negative role "It is not necessary that one negative role can stamp you as a negative actress forever. That way, the same can apply to positive roles. In fact, I can learn much more in a negative role. Soaps are all about mind-games and evil plots being designed by women. So I am bound to have ample scope to perform."
What attracted me to this role? "The fact that I play Shweta's daughter, so it's not going to be fluffy. Kumud is the centre of attraction because she is Kkusum's daughter. If you are the son and daughter of one of the main characters, you are unlikely to get lost in the crowd."
While the move seems to have just about managed to hold on to audience attention, the law of averages seems to have caught up with Ekta. She has not proved lucky, fourth time. The same 'leap' trick for Kaahin Kissii Roz has backfired. In fact viewers have started complaining that the serial has touched the realms of absurdity.
So is it likely that the jump-formula is something over and done with? Normally you can't keep playing the same shot and gathering runs, can you?
All said and done, the six youngsters of the new Kkusum revealed are signed under a contract. They would not be allowed to undertake any projects on television other than those offered by Balaji Telefilms for a period of one year, at least. It's a gamble they've taken. Whether it pays off, we'll have to wait and watch.