Ubaid Zargar

Deciphering the delicate art of adaptation

Here is how production houses select, contextualise and recreate popular TV shows and movies from across the world. 

The growing popularity of streaming services and video on demand (VOD), has motivated production houses to one up each other in providing the most engaging shows for viewers. More and more entertainment studios are adapting previously made movies, books or TV shows into their own original content.

However, not all adaptations yield the same results. With adaptations, the production houses often also shoulder the responsibility of satiating high expectations of the fans of the original work. Sometimes, the feedback can be quick and unfavourable.

To understand what goes into the making of a successful adaptation, afaqs! recently hosted a panel discussion on the topic ‘The Secret of a Successful Adaptation’ during the seventh edition of vdonxt asia conference and awards.

Moderated by Vanita Kohli-Khandekar, author and contributing editor, ‘Business Standard’, the panellists included Mrinalini Jain, executive vice president, business and content, Banijay Asia; Priya Jhavar, senior creative director, Applause Entertainment; Shailesh Kapoor, founder and CEO, Ormax Media; Siddharth Hirwe, head of scripted development, BBC Studios India; and Vaibhav Modi, founder and director, Victor Tango Entertainment.

“We start the adaptation process by assessing the source content. A TV show that we want to adapt, has to have a context - the potential to be localised in India. The key is to stay true to the plot, without changing the story,” opines Jhavar. 

Hirwe points out that while adaptations can help cut down a show’s development period, the process can still take up to a year to finish. With originals, he adds, the development period could be much longer. 

“The development period, even with the existence of original script, can take almost a year. It obviously isn’t just about translating the original scripts. It takes a lot of localising and contextualising.”

Many times, the production houses turn to globally successful TV shows or books for inspiration. But can a book that is popular in Europe, translate into a successful TV show in India? 

Jain suggests, “The story of the source material is always the first filter for selecting and adapting it. The second filter is popularity. Sometimes, when you bring a legacy format, there’s a lot of anticipation around it in the industry. But for the audiences, what needs to be kept as sacrosanct, is the story’s ability to stay regionally relevant. Formats need to feel very Indian first, and then anything else.”

Speaking from a writer’s point of view, Modi mentions, “A story needs to speak to your dreams and desires, and yet remind you of your reality. Essentially, we’re looking at stories from not just a popularity POV, but also a POV of something that can resonate well with our audiences and hasn’t been tried yet.”

You can watch the full discussion, with exciting anecdotes and insightful analogies from the panellists, below:

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