Benita Chacko
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Indian stories will now travel much faster globally: Banijay Asia's Deepak Dhar

The production house has created several adaptations of international shows. Its latest show 'The Night Manager' releases on Disney+ Hotstar on February 17.

'The Night Manager', starring Anil Kapoor and Aditya Roy Kapur, is releasing on Disney+ Hotstar on February 17. Produced by Banijay Asia, the show is an official adaptation of the British television series of the same name.

The production house has been bringing several adaptations of international shows to India. It has created shows like 'Ranveer vs Wild with Bear Grylls', 'Call My Agent Bollywood' and 'Fall'. It has also announced Indian adaptations of popular shows like 'The Good Wife', 'House' and 'Suits'.  

It is producing reality television shows 'The Kapil Sharma Show', 'India's Laughter Champion' and 'The Big Picture'.

In an interview with afaqs!, Deepak Dhar, CEO, Banijay Asia, talks about adaptations, cutting down on content spends and its impact on the production house's pipeline, TV shows and plans for this year.

Edited excerpts:

What are the factors that make an international show adaptable for Indian audiences?

The primary filter, while choosing content for the Indian audience, is relatability. It needs to connects with the audience. They should feel that the story can emerge in their backyard or affect them. If it's a crime or spy thriller, it should be close to our cultural tastes or the kind of content we watch.

What are the challenges involved with adaptations?

I see this as an opportunity. We only want to tell great stories. So, if it's an adaptation of an international show, then it's a little easier, as we have the story, screenplay and broad guiding principles around which the show can be made. But, at the same time, we also have the responsibility to adapt it right and closer to our tastes.

With 'Night Manager', the the adaptation wasn't a challenge, because our writers did a fantastic job with our showrunner and director. They have made an Indian story, where the audience can empathise with the characters. Considering its massive popularity internationally, adapting the show was quite an experience and a great opportunity.

We see a plethora of adaptations on Indian OTT platforms. British, American, Israeli, Korean, Turkish and even Nordic shows are being adapted. Why don't Indian shows get adapted internationally?

Indian shows are very close to our milieu. The content we have been creating, has been largely telenovela or soapish, and they cater to our cultural sensibilities. So, it has limited takers internationally.

But now, the entire scripted business has ballooned around us. The opportunity for Indian stories to travel, will unlock much faster. People are consuming all kinds of content. The scripted space is at a great inflection point. So now, we will see Indian stories travel internationally much faster.

OTT platforms are now cutting their content spends in a bid to be profitable. What has its impact been for Banijay Asia?

It is a phase. There will be some amount of rationalising across costs. We are ready for it. Even with the spends going down, we have a lot of IPs and formats that can be made at a favourable price point.

We have seen the peaks and the lows across TV and OTT. It hasn't really impacted us, as we deliver content to both linear TV and OTT platforms, and the growth and opportunities come from both sides. At different times, we see growth on different sides of the fence. There are times when there is less growth on one side.

Last year, Banijay Asia had plans to put out 35-45 shows on TV and OTT. Has that number gone down?

The number has not gone down, but the price point will differ. At the same time, we are seeing growth in Tamil, Telugu and other languages. We are pretty much on track...

You have said in the past that every four or five years, there needs to be a massive TV disruption. What will be the next disruption?

It will largely be a lot of interactive TV. That will be a disruption in the way we consume content and interact with it. We are actually championing that cause because we have already delivered India's first interactive series on Netflix. We are taking the learnings and the skills from that, and want to deliver more in that space. It's already on the drawing boards. We'll announce it after the Indian Premier League (IPL).

What are Banijay Asia's plans for this year? What will you focus on?

Our focus will be more on the scripted as well as regional space. We will also do some unscripted content for big formats. We have our plans cut out and are already on track. We are going to better the number we have already put out, as we go along. We are already on track to better our numbers. A lot of these shows - 'Dahan', 'Kapil Sharma', 'Ranveer vs Wild' - will return with subsequent seasons.

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