Prolific Indian studio Applause Entertainment and Zindagi, the Indian subcontinent-focused programming block on streamer ZEE5 Global, have set a wide-ranging content partnership.
The partnership will create South Asian-themed content from across the subcontinent. The initial burst of productions will be in the Hindustani (combining Hindi and Urdu) language that is understood across the subcontinent. Production will then expand into some of the other local languages.
The partnership reunites former Star India colleagues Sameer Nair, managing director of Applause (SonyLIV’s Scam franchise, Disney+ Hotstar’s “Criminal Justice”) and Shailja Kejriwal, chief creative officer of special projects at Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd, who greenlit Pakistan-themed shows “Churails,” “Dhoop Ki Deewar,” and “Qatil Haseenaon Ke Naam” and “Ladies & Gentlemen” from Bangladesh.
Though there is an existing platform in Zindagi, the partnership will follow the Applause practice of commissioning and producing series and films and then look to licence them. Development has been in progress for the past eight months and a slate will be revealed imminently.
“What we hope to create is something which is, in a sense, platform agnostic, and we hope that more and more people will be interested, which they have done and different platforms have been showing interest,” Kejriwal told Variety. “It’s a great synergy for South Asian content. I’m a firm believer of going South Asian, rather than just Indian, and opening up more for people from Pakistan or Bangladesh or different parts. We’ve seen so much content coming out of these various countries, as the big content producer in the region, the more you open up and include diverse storytellers and talent, the richer content is going to be.”
“The good thing about the streamers is that it allows us to tell different stories, and it can go on to audiences all over the world, not just restricted to a geography,” Nair added. “They will be stories about South Asia versus stories for South Asia.”
The content partnership will also include South Asian-themed stories from the U.K. and the U.S. Because of political sensitivities, filmmakers from Pakistan cannot work in India and vice versa and some of the content will necessarily be produced in neutral countries. There are discussions about Sri Lankan content and also others with filmmakers including Meenu Gaur and Asim Abbasi with whom Zindagi already has a thriving relationship.
“In some stories we will take artists from India and Pakistan, but maybe shoot in London. And then, there are some other projects in hand where we might shoot in Bangladesh and Nepal. The idea is to cross pollinate as much as possible and hopefully, get artists to collaborate even though they can’t shoot in each other’s countries,” Kejriwal said.
“I think it’s a big opportunity. I think that we are at the cusp of something quite dramatic,” Nair said. “The idea is to look for storytelling talent from across the region.”