Siddharth Kumar Tewary founded Swastik Productions in 2007 after a career in the media industry, where he did some fabulous work at SET Max first and then Sony Entertainment Television. Carving a niche for himself with mythological and historical shows and having produced about 22 successful shows across channels, currently he is writing, producing and directing his epic series PORUS for Sony. In this exclusive interview, he talks about his mega series, for which he has retained 100 per cent IP rights, thus becoming the first producer in India to claim IP rights of a TV show.
Tell us about Porus, your 10th anniversary gift to your viewers.
History is written by those who ruled, I like telling stories of inspirational characters. The channel wanted me to make a show that depicts and celebrates the golden age of India. That’s when I thought about Porus, a story set around 350 BC, a time in history when we were the richest nation in the world, we were called the Golden sparrow as sparrows are an easy prey and the invaders started entering our country. Alexander, the biggest conqueror in the world set his eyes on us and it was Porus who stopped Alexander from entering India, with his small army he fought on the banks of river Jhelum, he lost the battle but won the war. This is a story of India’s first defender.
I have been working on it for more than two years now, Writing is the soul of the series, then it’s the characters, costumes, production design of the Golden age of India and the Macedonian world, the biggest challenge was to create the water transport route, which will be the most differentiated aspect of the series.
How did you manage to get the research material for this project?
When you do research, it is done specific to the subject as also to the specific era, a lot of data is scattered but when we look at the era we get more material to understand the world that existed once upon a time. His name itself was not Porus. It was Puru and his real name was Purushottam. He was called Porus by the Persians and the Greeks. When we do research on that particular era, we get lot of information. We have taken many visual elements from Ajanta Ellora, as that is something there as a reminiscent of that era. Similarly on Porus, there are a lot of researchers who worked on him. Alexander spoke a lot about him. For example, we know where Taxila was around that time and we know about the KuruRashtra. A lot of time goes into such research. Finally, we created that world and it was an interesting thing to do.
What is your objective at MIPCOM?
It’s the first time that a production house is owning the complete hundred per cent IP rights of a series. It is also the biggest production of the country. Porus is an Indian story told globally and that’s what we intend to do. The idea is to show more of our culture to the world. The One Life Studios is basically into distribution. We have taken a stall at MIPCOM to showcase Porus there as well as other people’s work. Its our first step in taking Indian content over a global footprint.
What will make Porus interest global viewers? Is ‘Make in India and Show to the World’ apt for Porus?
I am very clear that we are making an Indian series and we did not try to ape the west. I believe that every country should depict its own culture and that what appeals to a global audience. Our idea is to show the Indian culture – our colours, our world, and how lived and what we believed in. For example, when you see a Chinese historical, they depict their culture. So, the main objective for me is to show the Indian part of the story. We are also showing the Mediterranean world, the Alexander’s world, how he grew up and what made him decide to come all the way to India, what happened with him on the way. But for me, the core of the series is India that we are depicting in Indian way. Our culture should be visible to the world and that’s what Ii believe will generate interest in the series.
What made you to have international IP rights of Porus to your production house?
Yes we do own 100 % IPR and I believe it’s the best way to improve the quality of content as it leads to direct accountability, we have heavily invested in the series, Sony is the anchor broadcaster and they have underwritten part of the cost, They will have the first right of television broadcast in India and wherever the footprint of the channel goes, the rest of the rights stay with us. Yes its is a big risk but we are creating a world class series, which can travel to any digital platform in the world and be showcased in any language across the globe. That’s the way we optimize our business. It’s the first time in India and it’s definitely a great leap for content as it will ensure that the viewer comes first and we don’t make shows for the sake of it, we only create what we believe in and more importantly we put our money where our mouth is. I thank the channel for backing us to take this bold big step.
One Life Studios is also a distribution platform for other production houses. What kind of projects will you be taking to MIPCOM?
We have a very exciting line up of shows at MIPCOM, apart from Porus and some our other series, we have handpicked 40 best shows from the country which are truly worth traveling the globe. We are representing the entire content line of TVF, one of India’s leading digital content company, content from esteemed production houses from South India like Radaan and Viketan, who have created some of the best content in the country and many more extremely unique shows which depict India the best way.
Why are the audience glued to mythology in India across age groups and regions? What’s the difference between mythology and historical series?
I am blessed, as it not just a great creative challenge to but I also learn though the whole process, every aspect of our Mythology has so much to learn from, there is a reason why they are still relevant today, and to write even a word or create anything, first I need to understand what are they actually trying to say, what’s the subtext of the story, then have my own opinion and make it relevant to the viewers today, its not just plain entertainment its got a much deeper message for viewers and that’s what really works for me. It has actually changed me over the years as an individual. I believe our history and Mythology is really cool.
A new area is opening up for creators like you in platforms like Amazon and Netflix. How do you see this medium?
It’s very interesting to see how all these platforms are coming up. These are not limited to the Indian borders. They have content that the whole world can see. I think it’s a great time for content. Language is no more a boundary. It’s great time to create good content.
Have you tried making content for online medium?
We are in talks and when we’ll do it we’ll talk about it.
Do you also plan to release Porus in different languages?
The idea is to make an Indian series and take it to different countries. Many countries should watch what India is all about. People should watch our glorious days and know about our story.
What do you think of Baahubali?
Baahubali is really a mammoth movie and it helps when people have faith in this kind of product. It showed that historical content can also work in Cinema as well, which is a great thing.
What kind of challenges you see in content business?
I believe the viewers’ taste over the years has changed. Now the exposure level people have, it is becoming more challenging and exciting to create content that’s appealing. You should be clear about who are you talking to. Because of the exposure level that people have today, its challenging because your content has to constantly evolve. You have to step up the game at every level and change at a very dynamic speed. The whole equation of content creation for entertainment is very different. You constantly have to look at who you are talking to and then make content which can meet their requirement at global level, according to the exposure levels they have. Today, rural audiences are exposed to the same media that urban audience are consuming.