HBO to premiere "Tsunami: The Aftermath" in Asia

NEW DELHI: HBO channel today announced the Asia premiere of its latest original mini-series, Tsunami: The Aftermath, a film based on the experiences some tourists had on the two islands of Phuket and Khao Lak in Thailand on the fateful day of 26 December 2004.

It is a film about how human beings faced personal tragedy and then fought back and rebuilt their lives.

The film is being released to mark the second anniversary of the catastrophe that had shattered the lives of millions and shaken the world. Suitably, the show will not carry a single commercial, announced HBO country head Shruti Bajpai.

Bajpai also said that HBO had had a very successful sixth year in India and that the theme for the year 2007 would be "bigger and better", which she asserted, sans, of course, the revenue figures.

The mini-series, based on the book of the same name by Morgan Abi, is directed by Bharat Nalluri, originally from Andhra Pradesh, and will have a lot of big names in the cast, including several Academy Award nominees like Tim Roth, Sophie Okonedo, Hugh Bonneville, Gina McKee and others.

Though the subject had been extensively researched with interviews of survivors, government officials and rescue agencies, the film rotates around a fictional group of tourists. It also a central Thai character, a waiter at the hotel which is the scene of this film, whose own family entirely perishes but who works with the survivors helping them reach higher ground.

Bajpai was on the defensive regarding no Indians being there in the film, but said that the film transcends national boundaries and represented the true genre of HBO Originals, which are quality productions that provoke thought.

"One reason we are not running commercials is, we decided that thought this would be a big hit yet, you cannot have a commercial just after a scene of someone dying. There are things we do where we do not look for money. We have enough and more blockbusters and other programmes which get us the money," she said.

The key characters include a young couple of African origin searching for their little girl; the Thai waiter who later fights against realtors trying to take over his devastated village; a young journalist (who often gets the wrong end of the stick from survivors); a British official whose faith in the system breaks down, and a Thai meteorologist who had earlier predicted the disaster but had been ignored.

Tsunami: The Aftermath, has been produced in association with BBC, Bajpai said.

She also explained that the film was in line with similar, life-based programmes like Band of Brothers on World War II and other quality productions. She said that though this cannot be termed a docudrama, the style is as true to life as possible.

Terming the channel's run in India this year as "great", she said that HBO's motto for the next year would be "bigger and better."

"Bigger," she explained, "because there would be many more blockbusters. And better because there would be many more such quality productions than in the past."

Among the blockbusters coming up on HBO in the first three months of 2007 are King Kong, Da Vinci Code, to be followed later by Batman, Pride and Prejudice, Constantine, a Julia Roberts festival, and Constant Gardner, a moving film on how drug companies exploit African people doing illegal human testing.

She defended the noticeable reduction of classics from the channel, saying that research showed that there wasn't too much viewership for that. "Still, we show such films under various themes, like war movies, romances, etc., and that trend shall continue," she assured.

There will be, as in every year past, special programmes on Holi, Diwali and other major Indian festivals.

Refusing to discuss revenue, she said that the growth is about 20 to 25 per cent year-on-year.

Regarding CAS and fixing of the price pr channel at Rs 5, she said: "We shall go by the orders of the government. The issue is that the whole system will create an environment of choice for the viewers. Our position is that when that when that choice is made, we should be part of that choice… people should say, 'give us HBO, we shall pay for it'."On the issue of which is the number one entertainment channel, Bajpai said that this never really works out, because on some occasions one channel is on top, the others are not, and then over the next few hours, the situation can reverse.

"We can assert that we are among the top English entertainment channels, but if I say that we are always higher rated than our rivals, that may not be true all the time. But yes, in the English entertainment category, it is among the top two. The others are way behind."

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