High on content

Debarati Palit Singh
Sunday, 24 March 2019

Vikram Malhotra, founder, Abundantia Entertainment, talks about the kind of content they want to create, among other things

Since its inception, Vikram Malhotra’s Abundantia Entertainment has focused on content which is not only entertaining but socially relevant too. The production company has made some of the biggest hits in the last few years. Recently, it announced its biggest web show with Amazon Prime Video. Malhotra says that they create content which is uniquely Indian and globally appealing. He tells us more about what’s coming up.

Working on the web
Malhotra, who has collaborated with Akshay Kumar on several of his movies including Airlift, Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, Rustom and Baby, is also producing the actor’s debut web show The End, along with Amazon Prime Video. Congratulate Malhotra and he says, “We are pretty excited about it. The whole reason behind creating content and scaling it up for viewers is to do compelling storytelling and give you more reasons to come back and move towards this platform. That was the core thing in our head while working on this project.” 

And how difficult was it for him to convince Akshay to be a part of the web platform considering he is one of the busiest actors in Bollywood today? “After doing so much work with him, one thing I know is that what drives him most is the ability to be differentiated and innovative. If you look at the work that we have done together, it includes not only innovative characters but genre-breaking content or stories. Keeping that in mind, the conversation I had with him was, ‘We have done a certain kind of cinema and now the future of the medium (web) was in front of us. He responded by saying, ‘That’s all my son keeps talking about these days’. That goes on to show that he keeps his ears to the ground in terms of changing trends and what the youth is watching. So there was no convincing,” said Malhotra during an interaction in Mumbai. 

The challenge, he says, was to create content which would match Akshay’s stardom. “We had to create something which was not only exciting for Akshay but his fans too,” adds Malhotra. 

Creating content for different mediums
“Our production house is driven by insight, events and individuals around us when it comes to selecting stories. If a story excites me and my team enough, we can’t wait to share it with the world — that’s what matters most. Everything else will follow,” says Malhotra. 

That said, he does realise that the world of web and films are completely different eco-systems. “Yes, at the heart, it’s about storytelling, creative talent and audience at the other side of the screen. But just like how the consumption of both mediums is vastly different, the thought process of the creation of stories is also quite different,” he says.

While selecting stories for web and films, they look at certain things — what’s the vision of the storyteller, where the story best fits and where will the consumer of that story be most comfortable watching it.  

Focusing on global stories 
The production house is currently working on a variety of projects on the screen including the official remake of Hollywood film Begin Again, the remake of Malayalam hit film Angamaly Diaries and the biopic on the celebrated sports icon Pullela Gopichand. 

As for the web, The End isn’t Abundantia Entertainment’s first production. It had entered the platform with Breath, a thrilling series starring R Madhavan and Amit Sadh. The production company recently announced the second season and have roped in Abhishek Bachchan.
 
Malhotra says that in the future, they will continue to enhance the scale of their storytelling on the web, and not just in terms of cinematic experience. “We will try to engage our audience over a longer story arch. I believe that a story, when told in the digital world, knows no boundaries and engaging original stories can come from any part of the world. We consume stories from Spain, Korea, UK, Israel, USA, so there is no reason why Indian stories can’t create the same kind of global market. One of my proudest statistics for Breathe is that 40 per cent of its viewers are from outside India. We will therefore continue to create content that are uniquely Indian but globally appealing and acceptable,” he shares. 

Creating different content
The production house recently introduced two new verticals to the firm — one is Psych, which caters to content in the space of ‘horror’ genre which is increasingly finding a growing market in India, and the other is Filters, which will concentrate on the booming global young adults’ audience segment, with stories that talk to the viewer in its language. “This is a part of our overall strategy to create progressive, breakthrough work and finding, nurturing and enabling young storytellers to come to the fore. These segments are under served in our market despite such a large number of viewers. Also, the sensibilities required to create such stories cannot be served by a standard one-sided thinking, so stories will be created by fans and consumers of these verticals,” he quips. 

Training young writers
With the growing demand of high-level content by the audience, Malhotra believes that the industry needs to train upcoming writers. 

“There are two ways to do that — one is through the educational system where institutes are set up and the other is to learn organically on-the-job. The digital boom is serving as a launch or test pad for a lot of our writers who are honing their skills. I am proud to share that in the three years we have been working, we have with us close to 20 young writers who have probably never written scripts before,” he says adding that the young talents are working on a platform where demand for their sensibilities is much more. 

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