From its inception in 2007, Swastik Productions has brought to audiences in India and world over some of the most memorable, diverse and path-breaking TV content in recent times, including the dramatic epic Mahabharat ( He has been applauded for his interpretation and retelling of India’s greatest epic);
the grand historical based on India’s first woman Mughal ruler Razia Sultan; Shani; Shri Krishna; Suryaputra Karn, (Mahabharat thro’ Karn’s point of view), Mahakaali and other landmark productions such as Agle Janam Mohe Bitiya Hi Kijo, Mata Ki Chowki , Amber Dhara, Begusarai among several others.
Siddharth Kumar Tewary says, “I am blessed to have got the opportunity to make one of the greatest epics and interpreting stories from mythology, Also very blessed to have a wonderful family—wife Gayatri(also a writer), and 2 adorable kids– one 5 yrs and the daughter turning one in few days.They are my stress busters. I also watch a lot and read less ,and my wife is exactly the opposite, so we complement each other beautifully
1. Idea behind Porus…time spent on Research ?
The thought came to me when Danish Khan of SET,( I worked with him in Mahabharat) and during a conversation , said we should do something during the golden age of India, it was a very interesting period. I started thinking and suddenly got a flash from my past, as a student had read about Porus, so started reading about him. He was against the mightiest of all, during that period we were a very rich nation and that was the reason we have been attacked for centuries. This was the time when Alexander the Great wanted to come to invade India.
India was called the ‘Golden Sparrow. ‘ There is an interesting take to this.We were called sparrow because Iths easy prey. Alexander didn’t know that there was a King called Porus, Porus lost the battle but won the war as per research. Porus was not written about in the Indian text but more in the western history from the point of view of Alexander.
It is an interesting subject where the local hero is standing against the mightiest King in the world, he stops him from entering the country.
2. Is One Line Productions working on the lines of International Production houses ?
Absolutely, we own the complete IPR of PORUS and Sony is the Anchor Broadcaster and , this model is a great boost to the broadcaster because otherwise they would be spending huge monies but in this model primarily the core focus is on the viewer. As a Creator Production House when we own the IP we rather make it so well that we are able to monetise it across the world, firstly recover our monies and then make profits.
It is an International model and I genuinely believe that we need to make it a practice and have more partners
3. In this long journey of 10 years you have directed & produced many shows but today Siddharth Kumar Tewary is known as the Mythological/Historical man. Your take?
I should thank Vikas Behl the then programming head of Star TV ,who said I like the way you characterise people and why don’t you do Mahabharat for us. I thought a normal show takes 3-4 months to make and this would take slightly longer, then I met Mr. Uday Shankar, ,the CEO of Star India, and he told me that we need to make Mahabharat in such way that the whole country will sit up and take note of.Can you do it ? That was the challenge I took up and it changed my whole life and I realised that it couldn’t be made overnight, it took me 5 years to make it I had to read a lot and realised that it was not a remake but had to interpret it for today’s audience. The story couldn’t be told as it was so we had to tell the tale interestingly with a huge amount of sub text in the story which has to be understood. You don’t need to read the vedas. One thing led to another, one had to first read, learn, understand, interpret and create the whole world nobody has seen and showcase it in an entertaining way to the viewers and get the message thru. I feel blessed. Also we took the call to finish it in 6-8 months otherwise the Mahabharat can go on for 10,000 episodes.
After this I did many other shows nd even a comedy. My personal belief is that a story has to be told with a finite end, otherwise you are doing the same thing and not learning anything new.
4. Any plans to enter the OTT platform?
We are a premium content producing company and we are completely platform agnostic and doesn’t matter which platform it is coming on we will do it at the right time. Not do it just because everybody is doing it, we need to be very clear on what we are doing on every platform. It’s a process and once we are ready we will announce.
5. A promising career in advertising what was the reason for the shift to Television?
I joined Euro RSCG and doing well, I was handling Sony as a Brand and also going thru the process of what I wanted to do, I knew I wanted to tell a story but didn’t know how to go about it so I had taken to advertising. This journey in advertising from Euro to JWT a span of 2 years. By then I had realised that I want to direct, I want to write. In advertising you learn the short format of writing and I wanted to learn the long format, that’s when I quit advertising. Hunted for an Asst Director’s job couldn’t get any then joined Sony Max in their Marketing Department. They didn’t do any content, only Cricket and Films. So I did Gully Cricket with kapil Dev, a lot of marketing activities around Cricket but I would keep on writing and making small AV’s in the channel and from there moved to Sony programming in the New Content Development. Here producers pitched new ideas, this were I had this idea of Ámbar Dhara’ I then realised instead of taking it to a Producer let me do it myself. I started a production house and made a Pilot and pitched it to Sony, they liked it and 1 ½ years later it was on Air. It was a path breaking idea and it worked very well for us as it gave a perception that we are makers who think differently. That was the stepping stone and 10 yrs ago Swastik was born.
6. How has the journey been?
The journey has been good I have done things which I never did before so every step was a learning experience, very aspect was a learning understanding the financials understanding the whims and fancies of being creative and the after effects, setting up teams and working with people, Ups and downs, its been a roller coaster ride but whatever I have learnt is commendable and on the whole a very satisfying and fulfilling journey.
7. You have taken PORUS to MIPCOM, it’s the first time an individual producer is in the market there? Your experience?
It was very exciting as it was the first time a Production House out of India showcasing their Creative Content. We were competing with known players i.e. Broadcasters, but we had something very different which the others didn’t but nobody knew us. This MIPCOM was about One Life Studios, which is about telling new stories to the World. We also picked up other shows from other players in India — Shows from down south, so we had a mix of digital content, shorter formats, longer format, a show which we have done for MTV. It was a nice mix of content spearheaded by PORUS of course. We had a great time and people looked at our content and happy with this kind of content coming from India.
It was our first and we have sold to a particular country already and now with ATF in Singapore this month end we are heading towards more closures and this journey definitely new as we have never ventured on this route before it will take us about a year to understand to get our own set of buyers and the Networking which we currently don’t have, we have partnered with established players. But it’s a whole new world out there, if you create world class content you will see the value of your content in the world. All these factors put together it inspires you to create great content and India has many deep-rooted stories and we don’t need to make mediocre stuff and somebody saying we can make better. My reasoning we should make world class content to the best of our abilities and take Indian Stories to the World. That is the Core of One Life Studios, Wherever we own IPR it will be under this banner.
8.Now on would you on certain content you would keep the IPR?
It’s very simple there is a certain amount of risk the company is taking and very clearly depends on which content we would like to own the IPR. So It’s more about how much risk we want to take on which content we want to own. Of course we will be owning more IPR’s as we move ahead, the objective being we should as we are in the business of property which is intellectual in nature so we need to own it.
9. As a pioneer in owning IPR have you opened the floodgates for other producers?
I don’t think in this business one rule applies to all, but yes if anybody creates a product that they want to put in that much effort and money will do it and willing to take a shelf life of 2/3 years to recover the costs, forget profits then any Broadcaster will see the commitment and agree to give the IPR.
10. What was the thought process of wanting to get the IPR for PORUS?
When we conceived the show we realised that if you do it in a particular way this will be the budget because spending huge sums doesn’t make economic sense to the Broadcaster, but I felt that if we don’t make it to another level how am I growing, how as an industry we are growing or how as a Production House we are growing, what’s the new challenge and the subject needs to be made in much bigger way as the audience watching television content are exposed to lot of things in the world today so we thought lets upgrade ourselves and let us give the audience a Premium content more premium than what is available today on television, So when I spoke to Sony about this, Danish Khan and NP Singh were very receptive and got the drift as to what I was saying. So we worked out the financials, the major part was to be put by us, and we were taking the risk so we got the IPR and we have licenced the show to Sony for certain years and certain number of repeats.
I am genuinely thankful to NP Singh and Danish Khan for backing me on this venture. It’s been a great challenge for all of us, it has kept us on the edge to deliver the best.
11. Way forward is venture into Celluloid?
Like I said earlier we are platform agnostic, but I just don’t want to be Producer, I want to tell the story right and I need time. There has to be a reason, we have created a company which takes pride in creating great content so we will like to enter any medium with that thought and just not about being Producer for the sake of it .