Optimystix has format down pat; looks to widen view

From being the first Indian production house to tie up with two international format owners to foraying into fiction, Optimystix has been experimental. The production house will be completing six years of their existence in October this year. And with a total of 11 non-fiction shows and one fiction show telecast on leading broadcasters like Star, Sony, Zee, Nick and Pogo, over six years of their existence, Optimystix this year, has its kitty full with a reality talent hunt show to be launched in October. The production house also plans to venture into film production and set up an advertising division by early next year.

Sanjiv Sharma, cofounder of Optimystix

On entering the Optimystix office, located at a suburb in Mumbai, the first thing that catches your eyes is the office décor, which highlights the colour used in the logo of the production house. Saffron, Blue, Green and Golden…

Ask the "Optimistic duo" or the founders of the production house, ad film director Sanjiv Sharma and writer director Vipul Shah, about it and pat comes a reply, "It is a simple logo. Four bands of colours in the logo depict four earth colours. Saffron is the colour of India, Blue-the colour of water and sky, Golden depicts wheat and Green is nature. And as all these elements of nature don‘t meet, similarly the edges on the logo don‘t meet. It is symbolic to wide varieties of programmes that we have been making, which has no similarity with each other."

Sanjiv is quick to quote a line from Shakespeare, "Greatness is thrust upon you," and this is what happened with Optimystix. While working on Khul ja sim sim in 2001, we got the understanding of the business. It wasn‘t the hottest formats like KBC. Yet it managed to capture the Indian audience. So the point is that it is not necessary that we get the most popular formats. It‘s about understanding the Indian mindset and getting the best format for adaptation."

Vipul adds, "Khul ja Sim Sim gave us the recognition as a production house in format business."

Optimystix tasted success with Indian Idol part one

But it was Indion Idol part one in 2004 which reinforced their position in the market. At that time, Optimystix had a three-man leadership team that included Rajiv Vyas as well. Vyas joined Optimystix as its CEO in October 2003, soon after he quit cable MSO InCableNet where he was CEO. Vyas was with Optimystix till March 2006. It was during that period that the production house not only produced Indion Idol, but also struck a deal with two international format owners, Sparks Network and Zodiak International.

Queried as to the reasons for Vyas‘ departure, Sanjiv says, "He got better opportunities and decided to move on."

While Indian Idol was a sort of watershed landmark in Optimystix‘s evolution, the production house could not be a part of the second series of Indian Idol. So the Vipul-Sanjiv duo continued their efforts to remain in the position of format owners.

The Road To Victory:

Founded by Sanjiv and Vipul in October 2000 with an aim of producing world class programming for Indian television, the production house has come a long way.

Vipul started his career about a decade ago as writer with sitcom Dekh Bhai Dekh, after which he went to write popular shows like Philips Top Ten, Battle of Bollywood, Zee Horror Show, BSA Star ki Pasand and I Love You to name a few.

It takes two to ‘tango‘, Sanjiv Sharma and Vipul Shah

Sanjiv has had a successful stint as an ad filmmaker with nearly 1,000 ad campaigns to his credit. The talented twosome met during the making of BSA Star ki Pasand and since then there has been no looking back.

Six years down the line, the production house has undoubtly managed to attain the objective of bringing quality entertainment into the television industry.

And when asked, why a name likes Optimystix Sanjiv says, "Why not Optimystix?" Vipul then explains the meaning. He says, "Optimystix is a combination of two words. First is Optical, which deals with optics and the second are Mystix, which means mystery. Therefore, we relate story telling as being mystical." The camaraderie between the two is such that that you are tempted to call it endearing.

From format shows to reality shows... including fiction, the production house has done it all. A sneak peak into Optimystix through the eyes of its creators.

Formats: Format shows are currently in vogue in the Indian television market, with every broadcaster having one or more reality format shows running. Optimystix has also managed to carve its own space by being the first production company in India to tie up with two international format owners to exclusively market their formats in India. Both tie-ups were announced at MIPCOM, Cannes October 2005.

One is Zodiak Television, which is a leading international TV-format distributor based in Copenhagen, Denmark. Kam Ya Zyaada launched on Zee Television on 12 December 2005 was based on a format owned by Zodiak TV, and adapted for India by Optimystix. And the other is Sparks network. But as Sanjiv puts forward. "With Sparks‘s network, it was not a tie up. Rather it was getting on board with 12 independent producers from Europe and one from South America. Optimystix, being the only Asian company in its network."

‘Khul ja Sim Sim‘ was the first format show from Optimystix

Some of the formats adapted from Sparks were Khul Ja Sim Sim (Let‘s make a deal) on Star Plus, Kismey Kitnaa Hai Dam (Night fever) on Star Plus, Indian Idol (Pop Idol) on Sony, Dum Dum Dum on Nick and Bum Bum Bum Gir Pade Hum on Pogo.

And this year at Cannes, they plan to go a step further by not only buying formats but selling its indigenously developed format to production houses in France and USA.

With their shows, Kam ya Zyaada (Zee) and Jet set go (Star one) coming to an end, with a lukewarm response this year, there has been a decline in the programming hours of Optimystix.

But in 2007, Optimystix will once again be adapting a "Zodiak Format" (Stars on the Stage), which will be launched on Star early next year, "In this show, a trained singer would train a celebrity. For instance, Sunidhi Chauhan will train Ronit Roy and both of them will perform together. They will be judged on the basis of their performance. Besides this particular format two other formats will be locked soon," informs Sharma.

Stills from ‘Yeh Meri Life Hai‘, the first fiction show from Optimystix

Fiction: The production house forayed into fiction with Yeh Meri Life Hai in 2004. The serial had a run of 323 episodes from May 2004 to November 2005. "It ran parallel to Jassi Jaisi koi Nahi, which was considered to be the most successful property on Sony," says Sharma.

Future plans on fiction: Plans are afoot to launch two fiction shows by March 2007. And each show will be targeted to a 600 episode running. As put across by Sanjiv, "Our team is already in place. Vipul, being a writer is working on the shows."

Film Production: In all these years, Optimystix have established themselves as major players in format shows on Indian television. With a script writer and director at home, Optimystix plans to get into film production next year. "Our objective is to be in every genre of entertainment," asserts Sharma.

Without revealing much, Vipul says, "There are two subjects that we have worked on. One would be a crossover film and the other film would depict a journey of a middle class girl." But if given a chance Vipul says that, as a team they would like to make a comedy film. "A comedy film with a message-to be more precise… Something like Lage Raho Munnabhai."

Take on the Optimystix team:

The optimistic team of ‘Optimystix‘

We are a team of around 40 people. "We believe in having the best people with us… not necessarily experienced, but definitely bright people. The stress is on the creative mind," says Vipul. Sanjiv adds quickly, "As a result of which we are proud to have a fantastic team of creative people as well as a management team. And as far as the production team is concerned, since most of them are with me since my advertising days, they have an eye for detail. And all of them have a hunger to prove a point."

Motto: To be the best... "We work as a football team and not a cricket team. As in a football team when you know that you pass the ball down to someone… the person will try to the best of his capabilities to take it to the net. Its teamwork and trust put together. "


Future plans: There are three major divisions of Optimystix right now. One is the TV (India), the other is Focus (which deals with International projects and development work) and the third is the Emerging media division. Sanjiv elaborates, "Our plan is to set up an advertising division by January next year. In the next few months, say six months from now, we will tie up with Dentsu on a few productions. We will also be getting into a partnership with an Australian company Ambience Entertainment. It doesn‘t stop here. It‘s like an organic process. More people, more creative minds and better output at the end of it."

There are six ideas on which the creative team of Optimystix is working and by March end next year, Optimystix plans to have eight international properties in its kitty.

On Cine star ki khoj 2: Zee has awarded the production duties of Cinestar Ki Khoj 2 to Optimystix. The shooting schedule has started and the show will be launched in October. We are involved largely in two key areas, "Production support and format. The set this time will be different from the one in first series. We have worked with Umang on the sets," informs Sanjiv.

Five years from now: Next to Walt Disney and Pixar. Sanjiv says, "Creative leadership propels the company, not the desire to amass wealth and going by our approach and vision will lead us to that position. After five years we see ourselves as an entertainment company working in association with a creative team which becomes the cynosure of media at that point of time."

Vipul Shah, cofounder of Optimystix in conversation

Finally Sanjiv on Vipul:

We are totally different but our goals and objectives are the same. When two people stand and look at a horizon and dream of reaching it one day following two different paths, the result will be unexpected. He is the man who understands the need of television as a medium better than anybody else. My advertising background gives him technical support.

Vipul on Sanjay: It‘s about aesthetics. Latitude between two people. When two sets of values cojoin to the same people… the success rate is higher.

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