Contiloe Pictures has carved a niche for itself, developing and producing multi-genre, quality content that is showcased over a range of prime-time networks both in India as well as abroad. They are a fully integrated, premium, broad-based entertainment content Production Company that has produced over 7000+ hours of content.
In the business for more than two decades, Contiloe Pictures has a strong pulse of understanding the audience and has created content varying from mega-budget Historical, Mythological to some of the longest-running horror, courtroom drama, thriller and comedy shows. Contiloe Picture believes in bringing quality content and delighting their viewers with exciting new ways of storytelling. In the years Contiloe has been in the business of content creation, won many awards and have also won the prestigious 2017 National Film Award in the Best Animation Film category for their 3D animation feature, ‘Mahayoddha Rama’
After creating their mark on the broadcast industry, Contiloe Pictures is additionally venturing into the digital space and have two big ticket shows underway – State of Siege: 26/11, a show on the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai.
MediaNews4u in conversation with Abhimanyu Singh – Founder & CEO, Contiloe Pictures
At a time when GEC was all about ‘SaasBahu’ your content came as a breath of fresh air. What made you explore genres like Mythological, Historical, Comedy and Horror and now Digital?
It has been quite an interesting journey because we grabbed the opportunity. Luckily, there was a demand for alternative makers, who were thinking beyond soap. We were able to deliver thrillers, horrors, and comedies at a time when there weren’t too many people providing content in these genres. I think this understanding has laid down the foundation for us to be able to create interesting content. This set the momentum for us to create a variety of genres including historicals and mythological. Having said that, each genre comes with its own set of challenges. The key, we have realized, rests in constantly innovating.
Our focus in the last two and a half years, apart from content for TV, has also been to learn this new space and the change of mind-sets. So we started off by understanding how to structure the writing in the space which is very different from the way TV shows or films are written.
Understanding the structure of how a Bible is created, how a story arcs, characters, journeys, and episodic outlines are made to then you seeing the whole show holistically. This is followed by putting a draft together that goes through multiple iterations, then into production and post-production. Overall, it’s been a real learning experience for us, we have understood the ecosystem that exists in this space which has strengthened our groundwork for the future.
On the experiment with the ‘Horror Genre’?
Horror on TV, then, lacked strong visual effects, smart camera work and believable makeup. What we have always focussed on is identifying the need gaps and filling it accordingly. This is what we did with the horror genre and crated shows like Sshhh Koi Hai.
Planning and strategizing for ‘The State of Siege 26/11’?
When we set out to make the show which is heavily dependent on commando operations, our focus was to create authentic-looking gun battles between the Commandos and the Terrorists. A battle like this has never been filmed before i.e. a commando operating in action. We wanted to bring alive each emotion and the true nature of the counterinsurgency. We got Col. SundeepSen on board who was the second in command in the 26/11 attacks, and in charge of the Nariman House operations who handheld us throughout the entire shoot.
The audience will get to experience exactly how the commandos communicated and acted during those three days. It’s absolutely authentic. It is again a matter of how we prepped for it. Here again, we concentrated on visual effects, which was unique, we had to film the blast, gun battle, helicopters, aircrafts, and a lot of other things and we needed to get it right.
How we went about doing it was we reinvented the way we prepped for it.
Our story needed us to shoot in India and Pakistan. We wanted to tell the story of Kasab, and narrate the story of the 10 terrorists who came into our city and held it at ransom. We wanted to show how they were trained, who they were, what their background was and why they towards Jihad? We created a set in Bhopal and this part was shot there, it gave us the feel of Lahore and Karachi.
We have got the best people from across the globe on board as supervisors to bring out a great premium drama series. I think we are the only digital show that has actually collaborated with the West. We have got our director, DOP, editor, certain heads of departments to come in from the US to make the show of International proportions. The way we have approached the prepping, the making, and the post-producing of the show is that it has been in line with the way premium content is made globally.
In the earlier days broadcasters were willing to think out of the box, have they now gone back to ‘SaasBahu’, Naagin etc.?
Let us be fair to the broadcasters, they have always wanted to experiment. They have always made a variety of shows. Some of them succeeded, some failed, but what broadcasters give is what the consumer wants, right? So the blame cannot rest solely on content makers or broadcasters.
Luckily for us, we have explored a variety of genres and have always observed a set of audience who have wanted to experiment with TV.
Contiloe has expanded its operation by setting up your own Post-production facility, why?
Setting up your own post-production facility means convenience, it rally helps us as makers to know we’re not operating in a fragmented way. Secondly, we also believe that visual effects and animation are very important to the process of storytelling.
We want to deliver seamless experiences to audiences. For ‘State of Siege’, we shot with actual helicopters and have filmed commandos getting dropped off on the top of the combat facility. That same helicopter has been replicated as a digitally enhanced CGI helicopter.
This kind of finesse and detailing can happen only with an extremely high-quality VFX team. Multiple shots in series are a result of our own visual effects capabilities, it would have been extremely difficult and prohibitively expensive to have done it somewhere else. With our own studios and facilities, we are able to control costs and keep a check on the quality.
OTT arrived 6-7 years ago, what made you enter this platform so late?
In the beginning, OTT was only offering acquired content or catch up TV. It’s only in the recent past that a slew of originals are being made. What we’ve done is that we have really studied what’s happening here domestically and internationally.
We wanted to be fully prepped for this new medium, and it’s taken us some time to understand it. From the process of writing it to getting it close to where you want it to go – it has been a part of this new learning. We are treading very cautiously as we wanted to do it right and that is what we were focused on. And I think that’s the reason why it’s taken us a few years to get where we are.
Why this particular subject?
This is a story that has never been told holistically due to its length constraints. What I mean is this story was too short for a film and too long for a TV series. So the digital format gave us the right length and breadth to tell the story perfectly.
What’s your focus for 2020?
The times are both, exciting and challenging. Which then makes it very interesting because with excitement and challenges come newer opportunities.
So I think 2020 is a very interesting year and I actually feel that it holds a lot of opportunities. It’s about rising to the occasion. I think digital gives us a great voice to spin a new narrative and tell stories we have always wanted to tell.
The Economic slowdown has affected Production houses?
Honestly speaking, the world is interconnected and today, everything affects everyone. It just the degree that differs, how much it affects your neighbour as opposed to how much it affects you is debatable.
But this space is not as badly impacted at the moment given that content is only just flourishing in India. To add to that, content is available at affordable costs, it’s not very expensive to have a cable network running in your house.
Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
We want to keep an eye on the ball by telling stories in a bigger and better manner.