India seeks starring role in production of content

Execs want to go beyond services work

Bolstered by a soaring economy and creative confidence, India's media industry wants to seize control of its destiny by moving from a service provider and market for Western productions to a producer and exporter of media content.

At a MIPCOM panel Monday titled "Indian Content on the Move," some of the subcontinent's leading executives briefly sketched India's eye-popping media boom before calling for more homemade productions.

Although Bollywood is a massive producer and exporter of feature films, India lags behind many Western territories when it comes to other forms of production, be it TV drama, video games or mobile applications.

But things are changing fast.

Tapaas Chakravarti, head of animation giant DQ Entertainment, this year became the first Indian producer to win an Emmy when the Egyptian-themed cartoon "Tutenstein," a co-production with PorchLight Entertainment for Discovery Kids, won a Daytime award for outstanding special class animation series.

"We are not just a service provider anymore; now we are looking for (real) partnerships," he said, adding that India media companies can now bring in "hard cash" as well as production expertise, particularly in the area of animation.

Soundarya Rajinikanth, managing director of Ocher Studios and daughter of Bollywood action star Rajinikanth, gave a glimpse of where India animation is going with a trailer for her upcoming feature film "Sultan the Warrior." A fantasy epic that features an animated version of her dad, "Sultan" is India's first-ever 3-D animation feature. Rajinikanth said she hoped the film would set new benchmarks for what Indian content can be.

But to listen to other members of the panel, the real future of India programming could be mobile. With 200 million mobile phone users and a growth rate of 8 million-10 million users a month, India quickly is becoming a major market for all forms of mobile content.

Vishal Gondal, head of video game publisher Indiagames, dismissed television as "boring" for the 54% of Indians under 25. "But games rock," he said, citing figures that Indians pay for half a million mobile downloads every day, the bulk of them games.

Gondal also believes that the major game producers slowly are catching on to the fact that India can be a hub for the international distribution of mobile properties.

"We have the exclusive worldwide mobile rights for NBC's 'The Office' and handle properties like 'Spider-Man' in some 80 countries," he said.

Anurradha Prasad, whose BAG Films & Media produce content for India's leading channels ZEE, Sony Entertainment and Star TV, summed up the industry's newfound confidence and ambition.

"Today, anyone who wants to do business with India can't view India content in a limited sense but see it in a 360-degree context," she said. "India is becoming the lab, the research lab (and) recasting the image we present to the world."
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