We spoke to Manav Sethi, CMO, ALTBalaji and Indranil Chakraborty, CEO, Big Synergy about the newly launched OTT series.
Balaji Telefilms owned digital platform ALTBalaji, has released the much-awaited web-series - 'Bose: Dead/Alive' - on November 20, 2017. The nine-episode-series is produced by Big Synergy and directed by Pulkit under the creative supervision of Bollywood filmmaker Hansal Mehta. "We were clear from the very beginning; we do not want to make it look like a documentary or a biopic. We wanted to create a thriller based on various historical events in Bose's life," informs Indranil Chakraborty, chief executive officer at Big Synergy and producer of the show.
The show, based on Anuj Dhar's bestseller, 'India's biggest cover-up', takes you from Calcutta and Afghanistan to Vienna and Germany with every episode as a different chapter well connected to the previous one. The visuals reflect the early 19th century and the production quality on par with some of today's big hits. Critics' favourite, Rajkummar Rao, plays Bose, but the entire story unfolds from Darbari's point of view. 'Darbari', played by 'TVF Pitchers' fame, Naveen Kasturia, is IG Calcutta Police, Stanley's assistant, who was entrusted with the job of spying on Bose. He narrates how complicated it was to understand Bose's next move and how easy it was for Bose to get away with things subtly. What also complements the chain of events is the background rap created by 'Q' Quashik Mukherjee and Neel Dutta.
The political thriller sheds light on various controversies involving Jawaharlal Nehru, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and the Indian National Congress; Nine episodes of demystifying ends. But 'Bose: Dead/Alive' remains a mystery; it's a series with an abstract ending, much like Bose's real-life story.
Big Synergy and ALTBalaji began work on this project in 2016, "A year ago, a one-line brief came from ALTBalaji - We want to do a show around the enigma called Bose. After that, we started doing our research and it took us a year to finalise the screenplay. We tried different writers and got lucky with the third when we found Reshu Nath," says Chakraborty.
"Rajkummar Rao was the first name zeroed in on," recollects, Chakraborty, "After that, three months down the line, we got Hansal Mehta as the creative producer and then he got Pulkit to direct the show," he adds.
The crew went deep inside Poland, in Kraków, to shoot various scenes. Apart from that, the show was also shot in Chiang Mai (Thailand), Ladakh, Kolkata, and Mumbai. "We went to Kraków because the city still reflects the narrative of the '40s. Chiang Mai helped us recreate imageries of Manchuria and we showed Afghanistan on the show which was shot in Ladakh. Bose's house was a 100-year-old residential building in North Calcutta and then we shot several studio scenes in Mumbai," shares Chakraborty
About 70 technicians worked on the project for six months; the series had 190 characters and at some stage, while shooting in Kolkata, there was a crew of 250 people on the set. "The quality, according to me, is no different from any international series; obviously we cannot compare it with something like 'The Crown' and frankly, we don't need that either. In terms of production value, I don't think we are very different from Narcos," adds Chakraborty.
Chakraborty refused to share any financial details, "This, so far, is the most expensive digital production in India," is all he had to say. But if sources in the industry are to be believed then ALTBalaji has dished out around Rs 13 crore to make this series, "... and this does not include Rajkummar Rao's cost. So far, Inside Edge was the most expensive one, but 'Bose: Dead/Alive' has even surpassed that cost," the source adds.
ALTBalaji has made all the episodes available for viewers to stream. One can stream up to five episodes for free and to access the rest, they will need to subscribe to one of the three available plans.
Subscription is the only source of revenue for this video-on-demand platform. This brings ALTBalaji CMO, Manav Sethi, into the picture as he now needs to market Bose in an appealing manner so that people pay and subscribe.
In conversation with afaqs! Sethi termed this as ALT's biggest show so far and subsequently he has set aside a great chunk of his marketing budget, "We have bought YouTube mastheads; we are on the front page of the Economic Times (daily broadsheet); we will have a three-week campaign running across news channels; and then there will be a very aggressive campaign on social media," Sethi shares his marketing plan, all of which is already rolling.
80 percent of the marketing budget will be spent on digital media while the remaining 20 percent will be divided up between print, TV and outdoor. Sethi is targeting males in the top 10 cities of the country and has chalked out a marketing plan to tap into that audience. "We will soon roll out a Hindi-dubbed version of this show," he informs.
Sethi is happy with the online engagement and finds plenty of encouragement, "There is already a buzz online that for the first time, an Indian platform has created Netflix-like content, which for us, is a great comparison," he concludes.
The show is well made but what remains to be seen is if 'Bose' helps ALT get more subscribers on board.