Remember Vikram Seth’s legendary poem, “Frog and the Nightingale”? The poem, like many other stories told by our grannies in our childhood started with the trademark phrase, ‘Once upon a time’. The phrase is back. Only this time it’s on the web. Vikram Bhatt, the storyteller, is reviving the art of telling stories with his web series, “Once upon a time with Vikram Bhatt“. The series is live on Sony LIV. Stories will be released on Sony LIV’s web and mobile platform on every Monday and Thursday. Pandolin spoke with Bhatt about this series, his foray into the web space and why he believes in giving opportunities to newcomers.


Vikram Bhatt at the launch of “Once upon a time with Vikram Bhatt”

What is the motivation behind this series? Tell us about the format of the show.

Somewhere they (Sony LIV team) saw something in my stories that I couldn’t. For me it was just a release. A medium to express myself. Every story has an inspiration from life and incidents. For instance, when you go out of this interview and talk about it with someone, it becomes a story. Our lives are stories. Here I get to tell stories. What more can I ask for?

As far as the format of the show goes, it will be in a classical storytelling format. Every episode will feature a story written by me. In total, there are 104 stories and I will be narrating them on camera. The idea is to bring back the art of storytelling. If we are able to create spaces and events in the viewers’ mindspace, then the job is done.

The idea is to bring back the art of storytelling

What made you venture into the web space? Could you also shed some light on your other web series?

People talk about the financial hurdles of making a film. Cinema is getting costlier day by day. I think web is a great option to move to. I feel it is a brilliant platform for telling stories.

The web series that I am coming up with is called ‘Maaya’. It’s about BDSM and the S&M sub-culture in the city. It’s about a submissive woman meeting a dominant man. How people who are defiantly sexual are considered perverts. How they fear being judged and have to live the life of cast outs in the society. It deals with all of this.


You have mostly worked on erotica and horror. Will the style reflect here as well?

Out of the 104 stories, only 12 are going to be horror. Likewise, the stories are divided between all kinds of genres. The short stories will be tackling themes as diverse as mythology, horror, detective fiction, social issues, interpersonal relationships and wisdom on daily basis. There are also stories about the parallel universe and quantum physics. There are stories of all kinds. I think I am the new princess of Arabian Nights (Laughs).

There are stories about the parallel universe and quantum physics too

There aren’t any censorship issues in web content as much as that in cinema. Will that also determine your choice of stories for the show?

Let’s be honest to the situation. Films are going through a really bad time trying to make it to the screens. If you get a star and a studio to back your idea, then you run into some sort of Censor trouble. You can use certain words in your films. If some political group is upset, they create a ruckus and throw stones at the theatre. It’s a stranglehold on storytellers. Films have been a whipping horse for too long. If you want to make a statement against smoking, then you first have to put a disclaimer about it . But the government will not stop the pan shops from selling it. India is the only country where you get loose cigarettes. So, we have become a whipping horse. In that climate, Sony LIV and this show come as a breath of fresh air for anyone who wants to do something creative.


Uday Sodhi -

Uday Sodhi, EVP and Head – Digital Business, Sony Pictures

Have you only shot interior for this show?

This is my study room that you see in the episode. I tell all my stories from there. The point is to be at one place and take you everywhere with the story. Because the minute I start shooting in different spaces, it just defeats the purpose. Some stories are even in outer space. (laughs) We can’t shoot it there. The idea is to take you along with the story. I want people to visit characters’ houses and spaces with the story and not just by means of how we shoot the show. That’s storytelling!

The point is to be at one place and take you everywhere with the story

Who is your target audience for the show?

Uday Sodhi, EVP and Head – Digital Business, Sony Pictures would be in a better position to answer this question.

Uday Sodhi: “English-speaking urban audiences are who we are targeting. The mobile handheld users are our audiences. Because mobile phone audiences and 3G and 4G audiences are in urban cities, our current focus is precisely in that area.”

You are known to always give newcomers a chance, an opportunity. Here it’s not possible in terms of acting as you are going to perform solo. What about behind the camera?

Yes, I am glad you asked. The whole team is brand new. There is Anupam Saroj, this is his directorial debut. He is the son of Santosh Saroj, the celebrated writer. There is Krishna, my daughter, who creatively handles the show. Esha is the writer of this show. Manu and Sugandha are there to eat my head twenty-four by seven (Laughs), they are the Business Heads. It’s a team of youngsters working on their first venture.


Vikram Bhatt
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