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Offbeat: Swaroop Banerjee – always heeding to the call of the wilderness

Adgully’s special feature section – ‘Offbeat’ – seeks to give a peek into the lesser known facets of our very well-known industry leaders. We present, in the industry leaders’ own words, an interesting read on areas that are not usually highlighted in regular media coverage – be it about their childhood days, secret skills that they possess, how they unwind from their hectic schedules, and much more. 

Swaroop Banerjee is Chief Operating Officer at Zee Live, ZEEL’s live original content and live intellectual property business. 

Banerjee had started out with the IIFA Awards at the special projects international wing of Wizcraft Entertainment, leading to his foray in broadcast live entertainment. In the course of his career, he has conceptualised and created over 15 business models with Live Original Content & IPs at the core of the businesses at MTV Asia, Star World & Movies, Viacom 18 INS and the Laqshya Media Group; some of which include VH1 Supersonic, Bollywood Music Project, Windmill Festival, Pulsar Festival of Speed, Enchanted Valley Carnival, Pepsi Darbar Marg Festival and Global Fighting Championship. 

Banerjee has worked with international talent for arena size entertainment events in Amsterdam, Dubai, Singapore and Australia. 

A precious childhood trait that you still possess?
Intrigue, compassion and grit. I can safely say that these traits have gotten me where I am today. 

Ever wished you had superhero powers?
Of course! And maybe I could also tell you about that Tesseract location. 

What is your biggest fear and how do you face it?
I used to have this paramount fear of the dark until I read about Elon Musk and his fear of the dark. I travel for roughly 180 days a year. Imagine having slept in all those hotels with the lights on for years! When you read stories of how really strong and successful women and men overcame their fears, especially when they share the same fears as you, it helps. 

A secret that you have which no one knows about?
I am a superhero. And I do know about the Tesseract. Now let’s keep that a secret. 

What would one find in your playlist?
Growing up, my father gave us no choice.The voices of Kishore Kumar, Manna Dey, Lata di, Mukesh, Mohd Rafi and KL Sehgal echoed in our house until we left for college. Apart from these, you will find a lot of country music, hip hop and a truck load of folk sounds in my playlist. I am also particularly interested in emerging bands and great lyrics. Currently, I cannot stop listening to ‘Khudi’ by Local Train. 

Your go-to activity to relax?
Wildlife photography and a lot of reading. I grew up in Kenya. Most of my childhood was spent visiting Maasai Mara, Amboseli and Kikorok, making the wilderness a natural choice. In fact, I just finished my time in Bandhavgarh. 

What is the greatest lesson that you have learnt from life so far?
Standing at the foot, boys,
Looking at the sky,
How can you get up, boys,
If you never try?

I give a lot of credit to my father for having recited this poem out loud, at least a million times, while I was growing up. Very early on in life, he ingrained in me that while you may have the talent, skill and an acquired genius in your field, there is no replacement for hard work. The single differentiator among talented people will always be that one worked harder than the other. 

A social cause that you are most passionate about?
Wildlife. I dedicate as much of time and any money as I can towards agencies that serve this cause. 

What’s the one thing that you would like to change about yourself?
About time I went back to the gym and the tennis court. 

If not the COO & Business Head at Zee Live, what would you have been?
I assure you that this is exactly what I would have been doing. This is what I do. This is who I am. Designations are a temporary time in life. I create, construct and conceptualise ideas in the world of live entertainment and I would like to think that I do it decently well. 

What are the three apps on your mobile that you couldn’t live without?
Economic Times, Netflix, WhatsApp. 

Any content/ film or book you saw or read recently and why?
Ah, let’s see, I have started, for the second time, on a book called ‘The Modi Effect’ by Lance Price, which was written sometime in 2015. I read almost everything I can lay my hands on, but the world geo-political equations and pieces on it intrigue me the most. I finished watching the ‘Alienist’, ‘Frontier’, ‘Blacklist’ and ‘Triple Frontier’ this week. For me, my flight time is pure binge time. 

Which two organisations outside your own do you know the most people at and why?
I think it’s a rather unfair question.The media and entertainment industry in India is a close knit affair. I would think that my time at Wizcraft, MTV, Star, Laqshya Media and finally here at Zee Live has made me some very, very close friends across this paradigm. 

Two things about this industry you don’t like or don’t understand?
The Live IP and entertainment industry is evolving at the speed of light. The CAGR over the years has been extremely healthy and the growth chart is poised to tip the forecasted scale. International and local producers are on the top of their game. There has never been a better time for the industry. 

But in all this, pragmatic issues like government liaisons, single window clearances, entertainment licensing, I think need to be addressed. 

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live?
The wilderness! Bandhavgarh, Kanha, Ranthambore, Tadoba, Kabini – my list goes on!

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