Indian showbiz is going through “difficult times”, but it’s a phase that shall pass if content providers remain focused on maintaining quality and universal appeal, says N P Singh, CEO, Sony Pictures Networks India.

According to KPMG India-FICCI Indian Media and Entertainment Industry Report 2017, television experienced a slower growth last year, while films had a disappointing year with growth down to just three per cent.

“We are passing through some difficult times at the moment, but it’s a phase, and this too shall pass, as I always say. We have to stay focused on creating top-quality content, and content that will appeal to the viewers,” Singh said.

He pointed at Sony Pictures Networks India’s “ambitious projects”.

On the film front, there’s Soorma, directed by Shaad Ali and starring Diljit Dosanjh. It will bring to light the story of former Indian hockey captain Sandeep Singh, who went through many ups and downs on the personal and professional fronts.

“This film is currently under production,” he said.

Biopics on sportspersons have become trendy in Bollywood.

N.P. Singh, an industry veteran with almost two decades of experience, reflected: “If you look at any of these stories, they are very inspiring. They inspire not just the youth, but people of all age groups, and, therefore, it makes all the more sense for us to showcase all these stories to inspire people to challenge themselves.

“The fire in the belly inspires the youth. I hope Sandeep Singh’s biopic will be inspirational too, as will be the one on Pullela Gopichand or Saina Nehwal and more… These are inspiring stories and there’s a lot to learn from all of them.”

Sony Pictures Networks India caters to viewers via television, films and even the digital platform. The core idea is to produce content that is consumed by everyone and anywhere.

“We are essentially a content company. We create a lot of content for TV, big screen and also digital. The advantage we have had is 22 years’ experience of producing top-quality content which appeals to a demographic that actually consumes a lot of content on digital platforms as well.

“So, whether it is Kapil Sharma’s show or a ‘Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah’… they appeal to viewers on the TV screen as well as the smaller screen (phones/iPads).

“We are backing movies like ‘Piku’ and ‘Mubarakan’, which have a very wide appeal. They work on television, they work on digital. So, our objective is to create top-quality content, which has a wide appeal and can be consumed wherever people want,” Singh said.

As for the television space, Singh said their latest offering is Porus, a show which pays homage to the era when India was called ‘Sone Ki Chidiya’ for its richness. Produced by Siddharth Kumar Tewary, the entertainer is said to be one of the most expensive ever made for Indian television.

Without delving into the numbers, Singh said: “‘Porus’ has been mounted at a level that the youth has gotten used to watching courtesy digital platforms. Even the characters and story itself, even though it is set in 350 BC, it will intrigue people curious about the golden era of India. It’s something that will appeal universally.”

He said the need to bring out such breakthrough content is being felt more than ever due to the rapidly changing dynamics of the industry.

“They (the dynamics) are certainly changing very rapidly and they should, because they have stayed constant for a very long time. It’s about time that we started to leap forward, and that’s what the industry is doing,” Singh asserted.

On their part, they have scored an industry first by letting the 100 per cent Intellectual Property Rights of Porus to be with the producer.

Could this be a trendsetter?

“It could be, but we have to wait and see how many people have the risk appetite to invest in a concept that they have conviction in. If more people come to us with that conviction and want us to back it, we will be happy,” said Singh, adding that “all the risks have been taken by broadcasters till now”.