Kavithalayaa Productions blazes a trail with content for digital entertainment

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With the web taking over as the preferred medium of entertainment, there is a growing need for content that entertains us anytime-anywhere. This has resulted in the emergence of new job roles demanding multi-skill professionals. Are we ready with the right talent? In this Skill Story, Mr. Kandaswamy Bharathan, Joint Managing Director, Kavithalayaa Productions, takes us through the transformative journey of Kavithalayaa Productions in meeting the needs of the evolving Media and Entertainment industry with many categories of content. Let’s read on …

Q: Technology has redefined the way we listen to music, watch movies or entertain ourselves in general – what is your vision for the digital entertainment industry?

A: Yes, indeed! The impact of technology on the ways we consume entertainment, whether it is movies, music videos or music itself has never been more profound. The shift from physical product to digital substitutes enabled by broadband internet connectivity and lower data costs has transformed consumption habits and the behaviour. Anytime, anywhere content also means that content creators cannot take the audience (customer) for granted. Recent data suggest that 70% of video consumption in the age group of 15 – 35 today happens on mobile devices – smartphones and tablets.

Kandaswamy Bharathan

Kandaswamy Bharathan

My vision is that the Indian entertainment industry is at the cusp of a great opportunity. Globalisation is allowing companies to push their content to new markets and new audiences. Content is itself getting redefined thanks to the internet, allowing us to experiment with cross-cultural content. My vision for India is “creating world-class Indian content with international appeal” should be our motto; and monetise this content through new global partnerships.

Q: In the emerging business of web-based entertainment, how is Kavithalayaa planning to make a difference by creating jobs for talented artists, enabling sustainable livelihoods, particularly the lesser-known ones from remote parts of India.

A: Kavithalayaa, our Production house was founded by (Late) Dadasaheb Phalke Awardee Dr. Balachander in 1981. We have always been in the forefront of identifying and nurturing creative talent and providing opportunities for their sustainable livelihoods in the southern part of our country. The stars and superstars of South Indian cinema and many technicians – film-makers, writers, music composers and editors owe their careers and success to the opportunities provided by Kavithalayaa in both film and television.

It is now well-known that Kavithalayaa has forayed into digital content creation through the production of short and long-form features and web-based entertainment. Harmony with A.R. Rahman was the first such production that released on Amazon Prime Video a few weeks ago and has received rave reviews globally for its quality and production values.

Kavithalayaa Productions digital entertainmentThree other web-based series are in production. Kavithalayaa has been instrumental in opening doors for many talented and budding film-makers, writers, actors and musicians and help hone their talent and services in our projects. Kavithalayaa already enjoys the reputation of being a real-world film academy as it has trained hundreds of actors and technicians for the industry. These efforts will continue.

Q: What is your view about digital content being a game changer in the world of music and entertainment.

A: Digital content aided by the recent developments in internet streaming technology and encryption will prove to be a game changer in the world of entertainment. Their impact on the entire media & entertainment value chain, from broadcast to home entertainment to cinema, has been considerable. Significant disruption to existing business models is already discernible, particularly in Film, television and advertising industries. The proliferation of mobile devices in the form of highly affordable smartphones and tablets has brought entertainment to the common man in India. India has witnessed the highest growth rate of both internet and smartphone penetration in the last 5 years. The Digital India initiative of the Government of India has also played a significant role in enabling an environment that is conducive to high volume of content consumption across the length and breadth of our country.

As mentioned earlier, these developments provide immense opportunities as well as challenges to the content creation eco-system. This is a very good time for content creation companies who are willing to adapt to the ever-evolving market in a VUCA world and capitalise when others fail.

Q: The recent web-series “Harmony” has won the hearts of many with Mr. A R Rahman’s soulful anchoring, it has also brought some inspirational stories of artists into the limelight. Are there plans to create similar series to promote talent and revive dying art forms, traditions and folklores in music?

A: Thank you for your observations on Harmony. This was an inspirational project for both Kavithalayaa and our anchor, Mr. A.R. Rahman and I am happy to share that the lives of these musicians (unsung heroes until Harmony) have started to change positively! We have several new and innovative ideas following up on Harmony for making into features on both digital and broadcast channels. India has the richest repository of art, culture, traditions and folklores which need to get global attention and recognition. Films and documentaries are the best ways to achieve this goal and as such, Kavithalayaa will focus on creation of similar world-class shows such as Harmony.  We propose to announce these projects early next year.

Advice to youth: Follow your passion but realize that there are no shortcuts to success in this profession (or any other). Work hard to develop and master your skills whether it is writing, acting, singing or dancing. Practice makes perfect!

Q: How can we leverage digital platforms and social media to recognise the artists, appreciate their art as a socially conscious endeavour to identify and promote talent, thus formalizing their entry into the industry?

A: The best way to do this is to make more shows like we did with Harmony. Production houses should realize that while fiction shows are based on mass popularity, non-fiction shows that showcase our culture and traditions also have a sizeable niche audience globally.

We need to also sensitize digital platforms like Netflix, Amazon and also the domestic players on setting aside some airtime or bandwidth for promoting shows that recognise artists and bring out their stories to the people.

Q: Please share your views on the need for formal education and training in the field Media and Entertainment in India.

A: There is no doubt that we need formal education and training in the field of Media and Entertainment. The field has been driven so far only by motivated self-education and working under seniors. This should be complemented by a systematic education.

I believe that Media and Entertainment should become a part of the high school curriculum starting from Standard 9 – 12 covering subjects like Creative Writing, Basics of Visual communication, Art of Storytelling and related topics. This should organically integrate with our B.Sc Visual Communication degree at the College level and further lead to specialized programmes at the PG level. All these programmes should keep in mind internships and industry exposure for at least 3 – 4 months as part of the curricula.

In my own small way, I would like to share that I designed and conceptualized what is now recognized as India’s pioneering course on the Business of Media and Entertainment in 2008. The elective course is delivered by me in the top Business and Communication Schools of India, IIM Ahmedabad, Indian School of Business and MICA (Mudra Institute of Communications, Ahmedabad). The focus of the course is on the business aspects and challenges in managing creative industries such as Film, Television and music and ways to deal with the risks and opportunities.This effort has resulted in new knowledge creation in the sectors mentioned thanks to the interaction with bright young minds of this country.

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