India’s Zee Studios had significant participation at this year's EFM, with the series "Brown" being officially selected for Berlin Market Selects 2023, as the only Indian series to do so; and the film "Aatmapamphlet" having officially been selected in the 'Competition Section' at the 73rd Berlin International Film Festival. To describe the value of this market for the global expansion of the company, Señal News spoke with Shariq Patel, Chief Business Officer at Zee Studios.
What does it mean for Zee Studios that "Brown" is the only Indian series selected at Berlin 2023?
"It’s a matter of great pride to be the only series selected for this prestigious festival market. It’s a first for us, and as a content studio, we are excited to showcase it to programmers, agents, and buyers at EFM."
How would you describe the global appeal of the show?
"On the face of it, It’s a murder mystery, a deeply engaging thriller, a cat-and-mouse game between cops and a killer set in the underbelly of Kolkata, India. However, at the heart of it, the story is of a middle-aged mid-level washed-out cop’s redemption and self-discovery. Hence it will connect emotionally with viewers across the world. Karisma Kapoor (Zubeidaa, Raja Hindustani), who plays the protagonist, is one of India’s leading actors, and she was amongst the most popular actresses through the 90s. It’s a type of role she has never attempted before, and the impact is like the one all of us, as viewers, felt while watching Kate Winslet in Mare of Easttown."
How does this recognition help the company's international expansion strategy?
"Zee Studios is part of Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd, a 30-year-old broadcasting company with 45 channels in 26 languages beaming into 190+ countries. Its flagship TV channel is ZeeTV, and its OTT platform is ZEE5 which is also available in 190+ countries worldwide. So as a company, we already are a global media player. Several of our long-running TV soap operas and non-fiction formats are also syndicated worldwide. Zee Studios is the film studio and content production arm, and we have been producing and distributing films across the world aimed largely at the Indian diaspora for almost a decade now. With a series like 'Brown' and a film like 'Aatmapamphlet' in competition at the Berlinale, we now aim to expand our premium shows and films beyond the global South Asian diaspora and address the world market."
"Aatmapamphlet" has also been selected for the Berlin International Film Festival. What international business opportunities does that bring for the film?
"We hope to win the category we are nominated in and have several meetings with potential sales agents, distributors, and platforms lined up. The interest has us overwhelmed already, and I am looking forward to closing a few deals with buyers, both theatrical as well as other ancillary rights for multiple territories in the market."
What will be the next global expansion steps for Zee Studios' content?
"I am very proud that we have crafted a very strong slate for potential international sales. Apart from the two discussed already, we have a film called 'Joram,' directed by Devashish Makhija (Ajji, Bhosle), starring National Award winner Manoj Bajpayee (Bhosle, The Family Man on Amazon). 'Joram' was in competition at the International Film Festival Rotterdam 2023, and received rave reviews. We will be traveling with that film for the entire year until Busan International Film Festival. We also have a silent film ready titled 'Gandhi Talks' that stars Vijay Sethupathi (Farzi on Amazon, Vikram Vedha), scored by Academy Award winner A.R. Rahman (Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours). Anurag Kashyap (Gangs of Wasseypur, Sacred Games on Netflix) has directed a gritty thriller titled 'Kennedy,' which is also almost ready and being sent to various festival programmers. This year we are focussing on showcasing these films, and we hope that all of them find a release in a number of countries."
By Diego Alfagemez