Benita Chacko
Media

“A show cannot be just a television show today, that’s the wrong way of looking at it”: Studio NEXT’s Indranil Chakraborty

The head of Sony Pictures Networks India’s independent content division speaks on his upcoming shows.

After receiving a phenomenal response for its show ‘Scam 1992’ (the recent evidence of its success being the large number of wins at the Filmfare OTT Awards 2021), Sony Pictures Networks India’s independent content division Studio NEXT is gearing up for the release of its next series on Sony Liv ‘The Whistleblower’. At the same time, it will also be launching the Indian adaptation of the popular international business show ‘Shark Tank’ on television. Another show produced by it, Dhadkan, started airing on television last week. The show presents its protagonist’s journey as a working woman and her challenges.

The two shows will be replacing Kaun Banega Crorepati, another show produced by Studio NEXT, in the weekday primetime slots. Afaqs! caught up with Indranil Chakraborty, head, Studio NEXT, to know more about this interesting content pipeline.

Tell us about the new show ‘The Whistleblower’. What interested you to make a series on whistleblowers?

When we thought about making a show on whistleblowers, our whole effort and concentration was to bring their life story- what happens in their mind, why they do what they do. It's our bigger mission to create a long series and this season is the beginning of the journey. It could be in any industry. During our research, we realised that our educational system is a bit of an unjust system, where meritocracy is sometimes forgotten. Students with merit do not get a chance. This story is about a whistleblower in an education system.

What are the challenges you faced while creating the show?

When we create a fictional story there's a lot of research behind it. The biggest challenge I feel is that the research material outpaces the story. You do not know which one to take and which one to remove because you get married to the content. Another challenge is creating an endearing character and an engaging story with all the information and research. As we write the story and screenplay, shoot and edit, the constant process that goes on is chipping away the things until something meaningful and compact can be offered to our viewers. It's like carving out a statue out of a monolith. It is challenging to chip away when you get married to it.

With Dhadkan, we see a different portrayal of women compared to what we see in other shows. What made you think that Indian television is ready for this?

When we set up Studio NEXT, over two and a half years back, one of our missions was to create entertainment content with a purpose. For example, KBC, apart from being an entertainment show, also offers inspiration to the viewers.

There are a lot of shows being made right now. We decided that we need to be known for something. Today a show cannot be just a TV show. The only decision we will take is am I going to pay for that show, or I want to watch it in an AVOD model. If you typecast the show, as a TV show or as a digital show, it's the wrong way of looking at things. This show will have viewership across the channel, and also Sony Liv platform. People will pick and choose when and how they want to watch. We are not here to either change anything of a viewership pattern, our whole focus is on delivering quality content.

Shark Tank will be the first time that we see a business show on GEC. Who is the intended TG?

A similar question came up in the year 2000 when a quiz show was being launched. I was not a part of the television ecosystem at that point of time. Shark Tank has the potential to be that big. The same question was thrown at us during Scam 1992. But look at what has happened. It is the highest viewed show.

Studio NEXT proposed to make content for other platforms as well. How far have you progressed on that front?

We were progressing very well in the first year. We did Scam 1992 for Applause. Later Sony Liv bought it from Applause. We have done some of our nonfiction content with other platforms like Colors, SunTV and Malayala Manorama. We were progressing very well with other platforms, but COVID hit us and then there was the resurgence of Sony Liv version 2.0. Now, there was a lot of demand from Sony Liv. So a lot of initially developed material got sucked up by the OTT platform. As of now we are producing about four shows, including the second season of Scam for Applause. But we are in discussion with two or three major platforms and are currently concentrating on delivering some of the promises with Sony Liv. We are in discussion at a very early stage of development with one or two prominent platforms, but I'm not saying that it might see the light of the day in 2022. There are lots on the plate. So it's actually a problem of plenty right now.

Are you open to making content for platforms like Netflix or Amazon Prime that directly compete with Sony live?

I am a platform-agnostic production house. If given a chance I will do. People are speaking to us because they look at Studio NEXT as an independent content creator. Everybody is working with producers who are producing for all all platforms simultaneously at the same time.

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