'Porus' will alter the economics of the ecosystem, says SET's Danish Khan

MUMBAI: Gone are the days when high budget would only indicate stellar Bollywood movies. Today, even the Indian television industry is not leaving any stone unturned to give its audience the same feel and quality.

Letting viewers time travel to a centuries-old story, Sony Entertainment Television (SET) is all set to launch its latest mythological show Porus. Starting from 27 November, the show is produced, written and directed by Swastik Production’s Siddharth Kumar Tewary. With the intellectual property (IP) rights in the hands of Swastik, rumours are that it is one the most expensive TV shows at a production value of nearly Rs 400-500 crore.

Speaking to, SET EVP and business head Danish Khan says, “Sony is a big company and we could have bought the IP but big shows are not just made because you have big money. We underrated a large part of the money. The idea of giving the IP was to get Siddharth’s skin involved. It’s his show as much as it’s ours.”

Shot in multiple global locations with an enormous set spread over acres of land in Umargaon, Porus will offer viewers a complete visual extravagance by recreating the different worlds of ancient India and Macedonia, in addition to water transport routes of the yore. Six months ago, shooting was on in Thailand and in the pipeline are Greece and Turkey.

Porus was initiated two years ago with payments being doled out to actors and the production team even before the show was officially announced. “Considering the show’s ambition, we had to redefine certain things such as the structure and process. The show required creative investment two years prior to the launch. Unless you get the economics right you won’t get creativity,” he shares.

Khan believes that this business model will be the future of television industry. He explained that in the US, a big production gets 40 per cent of revenue from the domestic market and the rest from global/ digital market. India also has to move in that direction to tell compelling stories while raking in profits.

Four sponsors have bet their money on the show till now - Pantanjali Dantkanti as presenting sponsor, Raymond and Macho as co- powered by sponsors and PCJ as the jewellery partner. “There is huge amount of curiosity among advertisers. The response has been fantastic and we signed these sponsors long back. They are convinced with the product and wanted to be associated with us,” says Khan.

A senior media planner says that the channel is likely to close more names just before launch but others will wait for initial viewership numbers. A 10-second slot for Porus is being pegged between Rs 1.5-2 lac per episode.

The marketing strategy of before was to create show awareness but with the ascent of the digital platform, a new thing called ‘fear of missing out’ has crept in. “Our marketing presence is not just to be present in the media but focus on having conversations. Our digital push is very strong and we are pushing out content, character and the vision very strongly,” he shares. TV, print and radio ads are also included.

The 30-minute show will be aired at 8.30 pm from Monday to Friday. It will depict the untold story of the greatest conqueror of the world, Alexander and the most spirited defender of India, Porus. Set in 350 BC, the story will trace its roots to a time when India was at its glorious best and Porus resisted the first attack on Indian soil by the Macedonian legend. The chronological narrative will trace the journey from birth to the epic battle between these two warriors born on the same day but raised with completely different upbringings.

The star cast includes Laksh Lawani, Rohit Pareek, Rati Pandey, Aditya Redij, Suhani Dhanki, Praneet Bhatt, Vishal Patni, Amandeep Singh, Chirag Jani to name a few. National award winner Chinni Prakash has choreographed an intriguing dance sequence with 400 dancers, a first on Indian TV screens.  Renowned action director, Tinu Verma will not only train but also design the action sequences. International action director of Bang Bang and Ready movie fame, Nung will oversee action sequences shot abroad. Dialogues have been penned by Vinod Sharma while Kabir Lal is the director of production.

“We spent a lot of time on pre-production such as diction, training and recreating the golden era. A lot is riding on us given that we own the IP entirely, a first in the history of Indian television,” says Swastik Production’s Tewary. Shooting commenced in May and a bank of 15 episodes is done.

Recently, the production house also participated in the global market for entertainment content - MIPCOM 2017 where Tewary says the response was good.

The production house is in the talks with some international broadcasters for Porus. An announcement is expected in the coming days. It is likely that there will be a battle to grab the digital rights for Porus too.

Both the channel and the production house have gambled big amounts on this epic narrative and it is just a matter of days before we see the product and whether it manages to blow away the minds of Indian audiences.

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