Former Walt Disney India head Mahesh Samat opens up about Epic TV

Former Walt Disney India head Mahesh Samat opens up about Epic TV

MUMBAI: Mahesh Samat has a distant look in his eye as he speaks. "TV content has been commoditised in India," he says. "It is positioned like Hindi cinema was in the seventies and eighties where a certain class of viewers simply did not go to the cinema. Then came multiplexes and content, which drew back viewers to the theatres. I am hopeful of bringing about a shift in the kinds of content and narratives that television viewers get on their screen."

The former head of Walt Disney India has cobbled together a group of investors among which figures Anand Mahindra (in his personal capacity) to fund a company Epic Television Networks Pvt Ltd which is setting up a new channel. It plans to tap into the new digitising cable TV ecosystem and DTH and take advantage of the opportunities that these are offering.

Called Epic TV it is a bringing to fruition of a passion for history that Samat has had ever since he can remember. "I am fascinated with our rich historical past and numerous fictionalised stories can be told over the various eras," he says. "And this is what we are hoping to put forth in our programming."

Samat has brought in former YRF TV head Ravina Kohli as development head, apart from senior programmer Aparna Pandey to work on content and packaging, Kohli and Samat have been meeting with TV producers on various programme proposals. "We will have three hours of fresh programming every day," says Samat. "Our shows will be different from what India has been watching."

Amongst the shows being developed is one based on a novel by Indu Sundaresan called The Twentieth Wife which tracks a young widow named Mehrunissa, daughter of Persian refugees and wife of an Afghan commander, who goes on to become the empress of the Mughal Empire under the name of Nur Jahan by getting married to emperor Jehangir.

He is loathe to reveal any financial investments, adding that his business model is a flexible one. "We are working with various alternative scenarios. We expect the channel to be on air by August. We will examine our progress by December and plan further from there. Our focus currently is on putting everything together."

Samat says his company will work very closely with partners and not have a traditional organisational structure like other private satellite channels have. "We are in a new era of digitisation. We want to bring about a paradigm shift," he professes.

Spoken like a true pioneer.

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