Television

"It took five years to put 'Mahabharat' on air:" Siddharth Kumar Tewary

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MUMBAI: Known for shows on Hindi general entertainment channels (GECs) like MahabharatRazia Sultan, Yam Hai Hum andManmarziya amongst others, Swastik Productions has completed eight years in the television industry and in its journey so far, the company has managed to create differentiated content as well as maintained its position as one of the top show churners.

Since the launch of its first show - Amber Dhara in 2007, Swastik Productions founder and creative director Siddharth Kumar Tewary has left no stone unturned in making it a successful journey.

Launched with the vision to create and tell stories in a way that no one had done before, Swastik Productions' journey has been sprinkled with huge amount of learning. 

In an exclusive chat with Indiantelevision.com, Tewary said, “I realized a month back that we are completing eight years. It’s been a very exciting journey. I always wanted to tell stories to the world and the only way I could do that was by opening my own production house. That's how Swastik came into existence.”

The production house took up the challenge to deliver unique content from day one in the form of Amber Dhara, which was a story about conjoined twins. 

While coming up with a subject like Amber Dhara eight years back was progressive in thought, it was difficult to portray on screen. “The outcome is not in our hands but as long as you try, you will be rewarded sooner or later,” Tewary said.

It was while he was working with Sony that Multi Screen Media CEO NP Singh advised Tewary to open his own production house if he wanted to do something on his own. “Singh has been a very important person in my life. He assured me that I would get an opportunity if I did well. At the time of Amber Dhara, we were very raw and didn’t have any experience. We used to shoot without a set and it was tough to shoot at different locations on a daily basis. Sleeping on the road or in a car was normal for me at that time. I was moving like a zombie but it was an amazing experience,” Tewary recalled.

A major breakthrough for the production house came in the form of Mahabharat, which did really well on the small screen. Star Plus approached Swastik Productions to give the epic a different identity without changing its history. And Tewary was quick to rise up to the challenge. Talking about the show, he said, “When Star Plus asked me to make the show, I had no clue whether I would be able to do it or not. Uday Shankar (CEO Star India) is the most visionary person I have ever met. He asked me to make Mahabharat in a way that nobody else could make it in the country. He was instrumental in upping the scale of the show and that in itself was a big challenge for us. The idea was to put the show on air in eight or nine months but when we actually started working on it, we realised that it was not something that could happen overnight. We needed to go deeper into the subject in order to interpret it and give the show a new take.”

Making the show from a different perspective was no cakewalk. “It wasn’t a remake, rather it was a reinterpretation of the epic. It took us five years to put the series on air. In hindsight, it was much more difficult and than even starting Swastik Productions. Doing a show on a large scale isn't an easy task. It took us five years to complete the show. We wanted our work to be remembered and Mahabharat was an effort in that direction,” Tewary asserted.

Mahabharat became the talking point because of the story, cast as well as costumes and was much appreciated by the audience. Tewary's research and studying of every character closely worked. From costume to casting, everything was done under his observation. After trying out numerable people from the industry to give a different look to each character, he zeroed in on Oscar winning costume designer Bhanu Athaiya to design costume for the cast of Mahabharat.

While Mahabharat rakes in the praises, the production house's other show Manmarziyaan failed to generate sustainable ratings despite being appreciated for its content and production quality. “We made an experimental show and an effort in telling a story in a different style, which connected with the younger audiences but not with the older ones. While we didn’t get the desired number, we are happy and proud that we made an attempt to do something new.” 

After the success of Mahabharat, Tewary was keen to come up with a comedy and it came in the form of Swastik Production's next show - Yam Hai Hum, which airs on Sab. “We were keen to explore other genres and I really wanted to produce a comedy show. I met Anooj Kapoor (Sab business head) and discussed the concept with him. He loved the idea and that's how Yum Hai Hum happened,” he informed.

While television remains the mainstay of entertainment, its digital counterparts like OTT and VOD platforms are fast catching up. More and more entertainment content is consumed on the go today. Tewary is of the opinion that in the coming years, digital will be the way to go and there will be no other option left. “Indeed the market is growing and digital will appeal more to metro centric audiences, whereas television will cater to the masses. There is huge market out there for digital, which is needs to be explored,” he said.

Swastik Productions currently has three shows on air namely Yam Hai Hum on Sab TV, Razia Sultan on &TV and Suryaputra Karn on Sony. “Primarily at the core, we are a content company and that is core purpose of Swastik Productions. We are happy with our work. There are some projects in the pipeline and we will make the announcement when the time is right,” he concluded.

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