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Hotstar Specials starts off with CSK-Dhoni’s comeback story

Hotstar has teamed up with Mahendra Singh Dhoni for a new show, ‘Roar of the Lion’, where the cricketer talks about the darkest phase of his career, when he was accused of match fixing and the Chennai Super Kings IPL team was banned from the tournament. To be aired as part of Hotstar Specials, the show will stream from March 20 onwards. 

‘Roar of the Lion’ is the story of how a bunch of men in yellow jerseys wrote one of India’s greatest comeback stories under the leadership of Dhoni. The series follows the human emotions of not only the members of Team CSK, but also of their beloved fans, during the days that led to the CSK ban and the 2 years that followed.  

Shot across multiple locations, including Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai and Australia, from Chepauk Stadium in Chennai to Dhoni’s hometown of Ranchi, the story weaves in a narrative created by Kabir Khan, who is making his debut in the digital space. ‘Roar of the Lion’ is written by Kausar Munir and is a co-production between Dhoni Entertainment Pvt Ltd and Banijay Asia. 

Hotstar Specials, the new label launched by Hotstar, seeks to bring big, bold, authentic stories created by some of the biggest storytellers across seven languages – Hindi, Marathi, Bengali, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam. 

Adgully spoke with Deepak Dhar, CEO & Founder, Banijay Asia, and Nikhil Madhok, Head of Hotstar Original Content, to know more about the new show ‘Roar of the Lion’, as well as the content strategy going forward. Excerpts: 

What was the idea behind showcasing the CSK story, especially since the decision is still pending in the Court?
Deepak Dhar: It was largely in Dhoni’s mind and he wanted to present his perspective on the whole CSK matter. I thought there was a lot of energy and emotion there to tell the story. Hence, Dhoni’s production house and Banijay Asia decided to collaborate on this project. 

During the course of our interaction, I could see how the whole CSK team operates, it is more like a family and not just another cricket team with the team owner, the captain and the players. When fingers are pointed at a family member, there is a lot of angst, but also perspective there. ‘Roar of the Lion’ is the story of how Dhoni and his core team orchestrated this comeback journey for CSK. It also narrates what Dhoni went through those 2 years when CSK as banned from IPL, during which he played for a new team in a new jersey with a new team owner. He was literally fish out of water; that was not the Dhoni we had seen, who had marshalled as the captain of the Indian cricket team and CSK. 

We then got on-board Kabir Khan to helm the project as the Director. We took the project to Nikhil Madhok since we shared a good rapport as we had produced a lot of content in our earlier avatars together. I couldn’t take it to anyone else since Star and Hotstar are the home for cricket in India. 

How is Hotstar involved in this project?
Nikhil Madhok: For us, there were two primary criteria; the first one being that we were looking for our first Hotstar Special and we wanted it to be standout content and who better than Hotstar as the most authentic and credible home for a story like this. The second part was that though we have done a lot of fictional content in the digital space, for Hotstar Specials we are looking to do a lot of experimentation in terms of the kind of genres and formats. The format of ‘Roar of the Lion’, which is a mix of documentary and drama, has not been attempted before and that’s why we decided to take it on. 

Deepak Dhar: The controversy was just one part of the story, the other part is about the emotions, drama and team spirit that shone through. While everyone knows about the controversy and there’s nothing more that I can add to it, what I want to show is how the team regrouped and with quiet determination embarked on the comeback journey. Each of them silently played for some other franchise for 2 years, but last year returned to CSK and won the IPL tournament. 

Hotstar Specials has signed up with some of India’s best storytellers, what made you zero in on a docu-drama?
Nikhil Madhok: It is out of the ordinary and that’s why it is exciting for us. Frankly, the whole idea of Hotstar Specials is to create content for a billion screens. It is for the first time that we are bringing a content idea which is so big and a story that is very relevant to the entire country, and that too in seven regional languages. I think this marriage of a big massy story and one of the biggest comeback stories in sporting history with the biggest OTT platform of the country is an amazing competition. With the IPL slated to start soon, it is a great opportunity for us to reach out to an even bigger audience. Where this takes us, time will tell. 

Banijay Asia has done several mega reality shows. What is the thought when you conceptualise stories for OTT platforms?
Deepak Dhar: I have done a lot of reality, scripted and unscripted content, but the slate that we have developed for our OTT players is a lot more different. I can’t really take a show of another format across to Nikhil and say, “What do you think of it?” It should feel like it cannot run on any other platform. It should be a show that could not have run on, say, Star Bharat or Star Plus. ‘Roar of the Lion’ needed a platform that believed in sports, especially cricket. So the choice was very clear; it was designed for Hotstar. 

What are your content plans for Hotstar Specials?
Nikhil Madhok: Hopefully, as ‘Roar of the Lion’ launches on March 20, we should have a new show launching very month and you will get to see the variety of content that we try to put up across genres and formats. We are very clear that we want to tell stories that are big and bold and that resonate with a large number of people. It needs to be authentic Indian stories. ‘Roar of the Lion’ fits all the parameters perfectly and is the right one to start off with.

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