Hotstar has launched its seventh Original show “Special Ops” – The story of a 19-year hunt for the terrorist behind the biggest attacks on India.
Special Ops features an outstanding cast including acclaimed actor Kay Kay Menon along with the powerhouse talents such as Karan Tacker, Saiyami Kher, Divya Dutta, Vinay Pathak, Muzammil Ibrahim, Meher Vij, Vipul Gupta, Sajjad Delafrooz, Parmeet Sethi, Gautami Kapoor, Sana Khaan, Sharad Kelkar, KP Mukherjee and many others and it is produced by Shital Bhatia, Friday Storytellers.
The story talks about a role of Indian intelligence in a series of real terror attacks that India faced over the last 19 years, The promo looks gripping and promising. The show has been directed by Neeraj Pandey and co-directed by Shivam Nair
On the side-lines of the media launch, Medianews4u caught up with Gaurav Banerjee, President & Head- Hindi GEC, Star India to get some interesting insights on the show and other things buzzing in Hotstar.
Before we talk about Special OPS, tell us about the response that you got ‘Out of Love’, what sort of eyeballs did the show attract the platform? What percentage of growth did the show bring to the platform?
We are thrilled with the response! We don’t give out those specific numbers. But the show has got a lot of wide viewership and a lot of in-depth engagement. So it’s one of our best performing shows, and literally the Top of the Pops, we’re thrilled! Absolutely thrilled.
Purab Kohli, Rasika Duggal and the entire cast and crew actually did a just a super job.
I don’t want to get into the details of those growth numbers, but I want to tell you that I think on every data parameter that we look at, it did exceptionally well.
Coming to Special OPS… is it a true Hotstar Original or an Indian adaptation of an international show? And can non-subscribers of Hotstar sample a few episodes of the show or everything is behind pay-wall?
It’s a totally original story that Neeraj Pandey has written, viewers can watch the first episode and hopefully be convinced to pay that one rupee a day and become a Hotstar VIP subscriber.
How did the cast come in place as everybody is seen playing a role which they have never done before?
Honestly, Neeraj and I had a lot of conversations over the last 18 months, just sort of debate and discuss his idea about who are the right people and how should the entire series be mounted.
I think a lot of those discussions resulted in the final casting on the series.
I think for all these actors, the big drop is Neeraj Pandey and an opportunity to work with him. We were very excited to have all these actors on board for two reasons. One, that they’re all really gifted actors and when you have that even if it’s an image that you need to break, the person has the craft of the talent to be able to do it.
Second, we needed to have an ensemble that looked really believable and also looked a little intriguing. So hopefully the response that you have here into the trailer is the response that we get from our viewers as well.
What are some of the key consumption trends across the original content that you are creating very aggressively?
The first big thing for us is that viewers really want to see a range of stories in cinema and on TV, perhaps our range has been a little bit limited. At Hotstar we wanted to really start by changing that in a big way and we have seen a big sort of thumbs up, given to that.
It’s a victory for variety. I think the second thing is people want to see different things, new things. So there is a premium for differentiation variation, newness, freshness, exploration of character that is edgy is something that viewers are excited by.
You mentioned Out of Love, I think Rasika Duggal’s character in the series lead to a lot of chatter, a lot of engagement which is very interesting and the same thing happened with the Vikrant Massey and Pankaj Tripathi in Criminal Justice as well. So I think those are the top two or three trends that I really think fascinated us.
Tell us about the content strategy of Hotstar Specials… starting from Roar of the Lion which was a docu-drama to now Special Ops which is an espionage thriller you’ll have tried almost everything that exists… how will you continue to differentiate after Special Ops?
We have a few tricks and we are not done yet! A lot of surprises from our side are still remaining. Well, thank you for noticing it.
I think that’s the big thing that we were very clear on because we felt that some of the work that was happening was, again the way strait jacketed stuff which only seemed to target men.
It seemed like everyone only for some reason wanted to make adult only content and we felt that we should question both those things, nothing wrong with that. But why only do that?
We should do a drama with a strong female protagonist and we did that, we should do a sports based docu series and Roar of Lion was that because it was a good story and if it would had not been true story and people that come to us to pitch we would have been come on this is how every story is and it’s no big deal. But it actually happened here that happened in front of our eyes and that is great.
I think Hostages was just such an intelligent and interesting script. So I think we’ve taken all those bets. They’ve been interesting. We’ve got a lot of shows coming up, which are hopefully very different from one another and also different from what’s happened in the space earlier. I don’t want to comment on them today, But yes I don’t think we are done when it comes to offering surprises.
When are we going to see Hotstar Specials’ first regional series? Plan for regional content?.
Very soon, really soon. We have a lot work to be done and let me tell you something, since I’m not going to mention a particular show, I think the first Hotstar Special that you’re likely to see outside of Hindi will probably be in Tamil as we found a great story and a great storyteller.