mid-day's 39th anniversary: Ekta Kapoor is not alone

By Letty Mariam Abraham | Mumbai

Updated: Jun 29, 2018, 14:22 IST

A young female producer has quietly challenged gender bias to make more room for women in cut-throat television production

Preeti Simoes says clean comedy is the toughest to create, and most successful on television. Pic/Ashish Raje

Preeti Simoes, 34
CEO, Little Frodo Productions

Being an animal lover, Preeti Simoes couldn't muster the courage to slice open a frog during lab class. And so, she quit science to take up mass media. "After graduating, I approached Kabir Khan, who took me on board as trainee."

From her first job as an associate producer and reporter for Zoom's Popcorn, to being part of arguably India's most popular show, Comedy Nights With Kapil, Simoes has had a diverse career. Along with sister Neeti, she has played a part in hit shows like Comedy Circus and The Drama Company. Her latest project, Dhan Dhana Dhan, is the first offering from her own production house, Little Frodo Productions.

Interestingly, her foray into production was the result of a promising collaboration gone awry. "We were working with Kapil [Sharma]. People were under the impression that Kapil and I co-owned K9 [his production house]. Neeti and I were only the business front of the company. The moment news broke about us going our separate ways, channel heads backed us. Eventually, Danish sir [Khan, SET senior executive vice president and business head], Ashish Golwalkar [Sony programming head] and Hemant Ruparel [owner, Frames Production] helped us set up this production house. A week later, we had our own new show," says the producer, now leading a team of 22.

Having handled the production of reality shows like Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa and Fear Factor, Simoes soon realised that she enjoyed comedy more. Now that she's her own boss, she enjoys the freedom of choosing projects she has her heart pinned on. "If you can't watch a show with your family, it's pointless [to make it]. My intention is to be part of clean comedy, which is actually, tough to create."

And no, she won't mince words when discussing gender bias. "When you are a young girl, you are working with writers who have been doing comedy for eons. They want to look at things a certain way. I didn't have trouble in getting the job done, but it was a challenge to make them believe that I could get it done."

The success of Comedy Nights With Kapil, however, changed the game. One would assume that comparisons would be drawn between her and Ekta Kapoor. Simoes reveals TV's czarina has actually been a secret guardian angel in her life. "Before any project rolls, Neeti and I visit her. She has guided us on negotiation and acquiring primetime slots. Ekta has been our biggest support in this business."

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