MUMBAI: It was in an interview with Variety on the launch of his new content development platform All Things Small that media veteran Sunil Doshi had talked of developing storytelling opportunities that lend themselves to syndication and licensing purposes in multiple foreign languages. With Manzar Studios, his latest joint venture with Rainshine Entertainment, Doshi plans to do just that - acquire foreign high-concept IP for adaptation and trans-creation in India along with developing and producing original content.
Doshi, who has floated ABCL, NDTV Lumiere, The Adaptation Company, Alliance – India’s first talent management company, packaged Kaun Banega Crorepati with Amitabh Bachchan, Satyamev Jayate with Aamir Khan, and Koffee with Karan and served as an advisor to leading media and entertainment companies, spoke at length with indiantelevision.com’s Shikha Singh about his newly launched studio, creating content for Indian and global audiences, distribution and much more.
On setting up Manzar Studios
With my two decades of experience with some successful and some unsuccessful propositions, I thought to launch Manzar Studios. I was in talks with various investors for many business plans, but out of four or five different thoughts of setting up different things in my life, I decided to dedicate the rest of my life to do something which was purposeful, relevant, and that is something which I could contribute to bring the awareness acceptance of have's and have not’s on one side of the table. And I thought that this is what it was my calling card. Now I have found a forum wherein we will create a story around some subjects but the entire process took one and a half years.
On Manzar Studios’ content slate
We wanted to be in resonance with the time, hence wanted to create a studio that leaves a mark in society. Our content consists of original as well as adaptation of riveting stories that are backed by immense research and development. We will touch base on all the taboo subjects that are prevailing today. The approach is “local for global” and “global for local.” We will also work with various partners on co-productions, licensing, and distribution arrangements in different Indian languages. At Manzar, we will adapt storytelling from across genres whether it is animation, an interactive form of storytelling, or a book adaptation.
We also want to focus on Indian regional stories. I am doing a story around Sultana Strings, a science fiction written in 1905. As per my observation, the kind of content which OTT platforms are offering is dark, thriller or murder. There is a great demand for these kinds of shows, however, I believe there is not enough series on young adult space or family drama. We are looking to fill this gap. The audience is not just in Mumbai, Delhi, Calcutta or Madras but the hinterland of the country. Manzar is not just looking at OTT platforms, we will indulge in short-form content, series, podcast, graphic novel, TV shows, or even movies. We are making content for all kinds of screens.
On distribution and licensing
We are going to pitch our ideas for a few of the IPs that we are developing to the platforms. Some of them are feature films, then some are limited series. We are also going to fund or co-fund or co-produce with some of the existing studios with collaborations. Of course, we are going to create properties funded by ourselves, which we will then license to various platforms across the globe. We are currently distributing few marquee titles like I am Greta – a documentary on Greta Thunberg which premiered at the Venice Film festival a few months ago, Hillary which is on SonyLIV, and some other award-winning titles like Yalda, Persian Lessons, SuperNova among others from Europe and North America. Manzar Studios will own the IP.
On global selling
My peak strength is actually global selling, content productions, curation and adaptation. So it is not necessary we will always make Hindi or regional language content, if a foreign language resonates with me, then I shall make content on that as well.
On expanding Manzar Studios
We are a team of about five people at this point in time. I am currently looking after content creations and connecting the dots with the talent community. There are people who are looking after business affairs, and international affairs. I am also looking after all the IP acquisitions and licensing, we will expand but we don’t mean to have a main organisation as most of our shows will be on a project basis. In terms of scriptwriting, we are focusing a lot on Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu, Marathi, and Bengali shows.
On plans to start production
Currently, we are involved in very advanced stages of development, though in three to six months’ time we will have a few titles ready to talk about. Post-March we would actually make some announcements on specific projects.
However, we have recently acquired a Latin American film called 4X4 to be remade in Telugu, an Argentinian movie named Father Of My Child that we are developing as Tamil and Malayalam film projects. Currently we are working with a talent called Surya Balakrishnan, a first-time woman filmmaker who’s come from the world of advertising. Then we roped in a writer from Chennai called Rajiv Raja Ram. Soon we will start shooting at a studio in Hyderabad. Both films will be co-productions.
On whether he is looking at big, small or medium-budget shows
The budget will completely depend upon the script. Of course, the risk appetite will be taken into factor, it is a pure core relationship of storytelling and what it requires to be done and who are your producing partners, because this business has an interest in taking that one project can cost X and the same project can cost 5X also. Because in this part of the business, 70 or 80 per cent of your cost is basically based on the artist. I would rather demolish that fact and I would like to put 70 to 80 per cent of that money into storytelling, and not on the artists alone.
In spite of Covid, I will not cut down the budget but we will do justice to the budget required and not go above it. I believe in today's time, less is more and ideas don't cost money.