BBC Studios, Applause Continue Partnership With ‘Guilt’ Indian Adaptation (EXCLUSIVE)

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BBC Studios India and India’s Applause Entertainment are continuing their partnership with the Indian adaptation of British crime drama “Guilt.”

The as-yet-untitled drama will be directed by Shaad Ali (“Bunty Aur Babli”), whose adaptation of hit French series “Call My Agent,” also for Applause, is in the works. The six-part “Guilt” adaptation, in the Hindi language, will be headlined by Jaideep Ahlawat (Amazon’s “Paatal Lok”) and Mohd Zeeshan Ayyub (Amazon’s “Tandav”). They will play brothers whose lives spin out of control when a tragic accident occurs. The cast also includes Tina Desai (“Sense8”), Shruti Seth (“Mentalhood”), Maya Alagh (“Adaalat”), Mugdha Godse (“Fashion”) and Satish Kaushik (“Kaagaz”).

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The “Guilt” adaptation continues what has been a successful partnership between Applause and BBC Studios, with past collaborations including Indian versions of “The Office” and “Criminal Justice,” with “Luther” adaptation “Rudra – The Edge of Darkness,” starring Ajay Devgn, currently in production.

“Fundamentally we know that crime dramas have a very strong resonance in India,” Matt Forde, MD international production and formats, BBC Studios, told Variety. “So, (what) we’re looking for in our catalog, or in our new shows, (are) those sorts of themes. And, of course, they’re equally popular in the U.K. They have global appeal as well.”

Forde also revealed that discussions are happening around older formats like “The Weakest Link,” “Dancing with the Stars” and “Top Gear” and the executive said he is bullish on new formats like “The 1% Club,” “Hungry For It” and “This is my House.”

“Not every show works in every market, but we’ll have two or three interesting shows that we’ll be bringing to India,” Forde said.

“Once we think that this is something that would work in India, then we obviously try to stay close to source material, because that’s the reason why we acquired the format in the first place,” Applause CEO Sameer Nair told Variety. “But that being said that we do a lot of localization and even contextualizing it to the Indian culture and milieu and people.”

Nair, a media veteran with stints at Star India and Balaji Telefilms, cites the example of Applause’s “Criminal Justice” adaptation. The version the Applause team had seen was HBO’s “The Night Of,” starring Riz Ahmed as a young Muslim man accused of murder. The team decided not to make the character a Muslim.

“The default position in India would have been to have the young boy who ends up in jail to be a Muslim, but then we decided to go against that, because that would make it too pat,” said Nair. “We wanted to stay away from the ‘othering’ that happens and actually tell the story of a regular boy, or regular person in a regular family who will suddenly come in contact with the criminal justice system.” For “Guilt” Nair says that some local poetry has been added to the two brothers to give them some color.

“If you haven’t seen the original, you won’t get the sense at all that this is a foreign show that has been remade in India,” said Nair.

“What’s changed in the last ten years is the sophistication around adapting them,” said Forde. “And sometimes, we don’t talk about them as adaptations, we talk about them as re-imaginings of the original show – how do you take the DNA that sits at the center of the show and the plot, but make it relevant to to the local markets.”

Meanwhile, ITV Studios and BBC Studios India recently struck a deal to adapt several ITV Studios scripted dramas for the Indian market including “Gold Digger,” “Sticks and Stones,” “Trauma” and “35 Days.” Indian partners for those have yet to be finalized. At the time, BBC Studios had announced their intention of tapping into the vast Tamil and Telugu language markets, which have footprints around the world, not just in India. Forde says that those discussions are “fairly far along” with some decisions expected in the next three months.

An Indian platform for “Guilt,” Applause’s 25th show, has not yet been decided upon. Applause typically makes the show first and once the show is produced, shows finished tape to different platforms. Applause shows have found homes on all the leading Indian streamers including Disney Plus Hotstar, Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, Sony LIV and MX Player.

Applause is part of the $48.3 billion Indian multinational conglomerate Aditya Birla Group, which has already invested INR 4 billion ($54 million), a number that is expected to grow ten-fold in the next three to four years.

“We are on track. Business is good. The Birla group is quite excited and pleased with the way things have turned out,” says Nair. “We’re looking forward to a period of increased investment and more content creation and diversified genres.”

Applause is actively expanding in the documentary space and has created a movie slate. Its first film production is the Delhi-set “The Rapist,” directed by Aparna Sen and starring Arjun Rampal, Konkona Sen Sharma and Tanmay Dhanania which has completed production.

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