Streaming platforms create new ecosystem for connecting storytellers and audiences: Mainak Dhar

OTT People

Social audio platform Headfone allows listen to content across genres and categories: stories, comedy, audiobooks, podcasts, etc. The platform gives prominence to vernacular content with about 300,000 pieces of audio content across more than 25 Indian languages. Their recent offering is author Mainak Dhar’s audiobook Sniper’s Eye, an action thriller. It is the first of the seven-book series that is soon to be a web series by Reliance Entertainment. The success of the book has led the author to release an audiobook in Hindi which is exclusively available on Headfone. In an interview with ottwatcher.com, Mainak Dhar talks about the inspiration behind Sniper’s Eye and other aspects. Excerpts:  

What is your inspiration behind ‘Sniper’s Eye’

Sniper’s Eye is a thriller about an army major who has been trying to put the demons of his past behind him and live an ordinary life in Mumbai. On a date with his girlfriend in a mall, the man in front of them is shot, and he is thrust into the middle of a terror attack, which brings to open about his past, puts him on a terror kill list, and puts him and his loved ones in danger. As he is sucked in deeper, he has to become the man he once was and confront his past. He also learns that things aren’t quite as they seem, and that there is a deeper conspiracy at play which he must unravel if he is to save himself and those he cares about. To do so, he has to learn to work with the sniper, a man who has sworn to kill him! The inspiration for Sniper’s Eye came from the world around us, where we see conflicts in many parts of the world, where mostly young people are fighting and killing themselves in the name of religion or patriotism, without really thinking of whose purposes they are serving. Sniper’s Eye tries to put two individuals together, who on the face of it are enemies, and get them to discover that perhaps they need to work together to fight those who are actually creating the conflicts in which they and their loved ones are mere pawns. As I write in the book, we live in a world where the young and poor fight and die in wars started by the old and rich.

How has been the response to ‘Sniper’s Eye’ from the public on ‘Headfone’?

It’s very early to say, but I am excited at getting the story of Sniper’s Eye out to more people through this very interesting audio drama adaptation. I do hope that readers who have read the novel listen to this and discover a pretty unique, immersive experience which Headfone has been able to create, and certainly also hope that listeners who haven’t read the book discover the story through this adaptation.

What inspired you to carve a niche for yourself in the world of writing? Was it your childhood dream to work in the creative field?

Ever since I was a child, I loved storytelling; I had an imaginary friend who sat next to me in class and wrote a diary about how the world ended and buried it in the garden so that future historians would find it! The immediate spark for me taking the first real step towards the dream of being a writer was an interview of Stephen King which I read when I was eleven years old and living in Canada at that time. He had said something to the effect that anytime anyone paid you a penny for your work, you were a published author. I took some poems I had written, stapled them together with solutions to the next term’s Maths textbook (figuring nobody would want to pay for my poems alone) and sold them to my classmates at fifty cents a copy. The $12.50 I earned was my first ‘royalty’ payment! That was perhaps when my dream of being a published author was born and I’ve been lucky to be able to follow my passion for writing and storytelling along with my career in the corporate world.

Do you feel audio story telling will be here to stay? What kind of trends are you foreseeing to emerge in the field?

I do think it’s a trend which is here to stay, because it can really complement the written word and bring in new dimensions to storytelling. The Headfone adaptation of Sniper’s Eye, for example, allows listeners to engage with the story in a broader multi-sensory way, which through the combination of music, dialogue and sound effects, creates a really interesting and immersive experience.

What are your upcoming projects in the pipeline?

I just had a non-fiction book, Brand New Start, release in January, which was inspired by my desire to help young people dealing with career uncertainties in the environment we’re living in nowadays. It aims to equip readers to fast-start their careers by building a more authentic, differentiated and compelling personal brand. However, I will be returning shortly to the world of fiction, and to the world I created in Snipers’ Eye. The second novel in the series, Sniper’s Debt, was published in mid 2020, and I’m currently working on editing the third book in the series, Sniper’s Quest, which should release later in 2021.

What according to you is the importance of audio streaming platforms in giving new opportunities/avenues to artists and writers?

It provides another great outlet for writers and storytellers to engage with audiences through a new medium, and for audiences to discover stories in a more immersive, multi-sensory manner. At the same time, it creates opportunities for many other talents who need to bring an audio drama to life: editors, voice artists, those working on music and special effects, and so on. I think it creates a whole new ecosystem for connecting storytellers and audiences, with a win-win for all involved.