is ready with its first local content for the Indian market. The channel will air, beginning Saturday, an exclusive comedy series called Mumbai Calling, which is set in India and targets the channel's Asian territory.
The English series will premiere in the primetime slot of 8.30pm on November 8 in India. Full of in-your-face humour and an entertaining plot, Mumbai Calling will focus on the business of outsourcing, with a twist in each weekly episode. The first season will have seven episodes.
Talking to afaqs! about the launch, Shruti Bajpai, country manager, South Asia, HBO Asia, says, "Mumbai Calling is our first big local production for India. We wanted to create something that was entertaining and not a repeat of what we had already done. The series, produced by a UK based production house, has a strong regional flavour and will engage our Indian viewers. It has a unique plot that Indians will be able to relate to."
Shot entirely in India, the show features a host of Indian stars, among them Lillette Dubey, Chunkey Pandey, Dalip Tahil, Raj Zutshi, Vir Das, Vrijesh Hirjee, Rajesh Khera, Namit Das, Ratnabali Bhattacharjee, Anaitha Nair (of Chak De! India fame), Siddharth Kumar, Vivek Gomber, Naren Chandavarkar, Puja Sarup and Raoul Amar Abbas.
The series has been created and produced by Allan McKeown. Sanjeev Bhaskar, who plays the lead character, is the writer.
Though it is gung-ho about Mumbai Calling, HBO does not plan to showcase more local content or to create more India-centric shows. "It's a one-off attempt as we don't want to dilute our image of being the No. 1 Hollywood channel," explains Bajpai.
Mumbai Calling is being promoted heavily through a marketing campaign running across TV, print and radio. Mudra has done the creative for the campaign. The campaign involves a Mumbaiya's guide to English, with a local Mumbaikar teaching his version of the English language to an Englishman.
Some of the original series that have been aired on HBO in the past include Band of Brothers, Sex and the City, and Entourage. Apart from Mumbai Calling, the channel is also coming up with a new season of Entourage.
Clearing the air about HBO going ad free in India, Bajpai says, "We don't have any such plans. In a country such as ours, we won't be able to sustain ourselves for long if we take the ad-free channel route. Our revenue will dip like anything."
HBO, the 24 hour English movie channel, was launched in India in 2000. It offers viewers in South Asia (India, Pakistan, the Maldives and Bangladesh) a choice of more than 150 Hollywood movies every month. It premières blockbuster movies on television first in South Asia through exclusive licensing deals with four major Hollywood studios, Paramount, Sony Pictures Entertainment (Columbia/TriStar), NBC Universal and Warner Bros.