Jio Studios, the media and content arm of Reliance Industries (RIL), aims to scale up the Indian content industry by bringing local stories to the mainstream. With a focus on inclusive and accessible content, Jio Studios plans to showcase stories in various languages with universal appeal, Jyoti Deshpande, President - RIL Media and Content Business, said.
Deshpande added that they would focus on critically acclaimed and commercially successful content.
Jio Studios has recently unveiled its content slate and is ready to release over 100 stories across genres of films and original web series in multiple languages - including Hindi, Marathi, Bengali, Gujarati, South and Bhojpuri, capturing every emotion and genre of storytelling.
Deshpande shared that Jio Studio was set up around five years ago and back then they knew that this is an extremely fragmented business and there are hundreds of small and individual producers who make one or two pieces of content in a year or one in every two years.
"Some of the tenets laid out by Mukesh Ambani were - Don't build a business to a niche. Whatever businesses that we do we build them to scale, so you have to find a way to scale this business as well," she added.
Speaking about the 100 pieces of content lined up by Jio Studios, Deshpande said that they have also focused on family-friendly web series. These different content pieces will come on satellite, digital and even in theatres. However, she added, not 100% of these stories are for family entertainment.
“We have action and some abusive language content as well. Today's youth likes things like that but we have done it only wherever it is necessary and where it's stylised. It is not intended only for young audiences, we are also wanting it to be for family viewing,” she stated.
Deshpande added, “I don't think we are partial to any particular genre. Sometimes a genre gets popular because there is no other content. But if you get your version of Friends or Big Bang Theory then it may be refreshingly appealing to all sorts of age groups.”
We’re seeing a lot of Westernised content today but Jio Studios wants to make content inclusive
"What we are seeing today is a lot of Westernised content but our idea is to have premium content which South Mumbai people are as comfortable watching as a person sitting in Kanpur. We want to make content inclusive and accessible. Our vision is vast and the idea is to make it in India and show it to the world," Deshpande said.
Furthermore, she added, "The idea is to bring local cinema and make it mainstream. We watch Korean shows and we have begun to watch Telugu cinema but today, people in Hyderabad do not watch Marathi cinema. Similarly, people in Maharashtra do not watch Malayalam cinema and so on and so forth. So, how can we democratise storytelling and make it language-agnostic? The point is how do we work with all the storytellers (across various languages) and become a catalyst for cross-pollination of talent in a manner that these stories have a universal appeal?" she added.
She stated that the idea is not to make Western content because one can licence such content from others. Rather the aim is to dig deep into our own culture, across all these different languages, and our own stories.
"I am proud of the wings that we have given to young talent and filmmakers, actors, directors, and technicians, otherwise it is impossible to scale this business. That's something that we have done very beautifully. The whole mantra is can you grow the value chain? If you do so then the market will grow and you may end up being one of the biggest beneficiaries,” she added.
“Earlier, two of our films namely Godavari and Me Vasantrao swept 50+ awards. So, critically acclaimed as well as commercial success - we have an eye for both. Jio Studio's next focus is going to be South Indian language content,” Deshpande said.
Jio Studios' idea is to take local stories and make them mainstream
"Netflix would pay someone like us or Yash Raj Chopra or some other person and take a five-year license (or the content). We own the intellectual property and we own the value chain. Now we may license it (content) to our platform or anybody else," Deshpande stated.
“From the digital films perspective, in the last two-and-a-half years of Covid-19, we saw that a lot of films that people thought would not work well in theatres were put on the digital platforms. So, the perception of digital films really took a beating because of the quality of films that landed on digital platforms. We are doing the opposite. You will see that for the whole slate of films that are theatrical worthy, we may sacrifice the theatrical window to put them on digital," Deshpande added.
She said that Jio Studios’ broader idea would be to take the regional languages, and local stories and see how they can make them more and more mainstream and get more people to consume that localised content.
Jio Studios’ new film line-up includes ‘Dunki’ featuring Shah Rukh Khan, ‘Bloody Daddy’ starring Shahid Kapoor, ‘Bhediya 2’ featuring Varun Dhawan, ‘Bhul Chuk Maaf’ with Kartik Aryan and Shraddha Kapoor, ‘Untitled’ starring Shahid Kapoor and Kriti Sanon, ‘Stree 2’ with Rajkummar Rao and Shraddha Kapoor, ‘Section 84’ featuring Amitabh Bachchan, among others.
Jio Studios has also produced a number of web originals. These include ‘Laal Batti’, a political thriller helmed by Prakash Jha - marking Nana Patekar’s debut in OTT and Sanjay Kapoor, ‘Union: The Making of India’ featuring Kay Kay Menon, Ashutosh Rana among others, ‘Inspector Avinash’ with Randeep Hooda and Urvashi Rautela, ‘Rafuchakkar’ - Maniesh Paul’s debut in OTT, ‘Bajao’ - Rapper Raftaar’s OTT debut, among other originals.
Jio Studios has also announced one of the biggest deals in the Bengali market by entering into a multi-year, multi-film collaboration with SVF Entertainment. The upcoming films in this partnership will include top-of-the-line talents such as Mithun Chakraborty, Prosenjit Chatterjee, Jisshu Sengupta and makers Dhrubo Banerjee, Raj Chakraborty, Anirban Bhattacharya, Srijit Mukherji, and Suman Ghosh, to name a few.