How I Got Here: Sidharth Jain on his Netflix drama ‘Trial By Fire’
The Soho House Mumbai member and founder of India’s leading book-to-screen adaptation company takes us behind the scenes
Monday 20 February 2023 By Soho House
Sidharth Jain makes the process of turning books into films look easy. A voracious reader, Jain founded The Story Ink – which has grown to become India’s largest book-to-screen adaptation company – in 2018. Since its inception, Jain and his team have set up over 200 books across more than 50 production Houses. He also heads up House of Talkies – the production company behind Hindi-language crime drama series, Trial By Fire.
The series follows the search for justice in the aftermath of fire in a cinema in Delhi during an afternoon screening in which dozens of people were killed and many more injured. Its powerful look at the tragedy has been hailed by Variety as ‘one of Netflix India’s strongest titles to date’. We sat down with Jain to learn more about the challenges he overcame to produce the series and the value books have had throughout his life.
Could you tell us about Trial By Fire…
‘Friday 13 June 1997 altered the lives of hundreds of families. The series traces the story of parents, Neelam and Shekhar Krishnamoorthy, who alongside other families fight for justice.’
Why was it an important story to tell?
‘This was not just any story for me. I emotionally connected with the parents and other families of the victims of the fire. Being part of telling this tale to millions of people across the world became a personal mission for me, and I wanted to do this without any compromises. We had the ideal director, writers, actors and crew. For me, every story needs to have a strong emotional connection, genuine insight and the right team.’
What were the challenges with producing the series?
‘The pandemic was the biggest setback; the shoot was disrupted a few times. Because Prashant [Nair] – the director – lives in Spain, the travel issues made the execution more complicated. It took an extra year to produce, but it all ended up turning out in our favour. Its final release date was the ideal time to air the series.’
How did the series get picked up by Netflix?
‘I had the book and the life rights of the story through The Story Ink. I shared it with Prashant and he was excited to come on board. I then pitched it to Netflix and they instantly agreed to green-light the project. I then partnered with Endemol Shine India for production and the rest is history. My team and I are on track to produce two more series and one more feature film this year.’
You make it sound easy. Tell us about a significant career challenge you’ve faced – what did that experience teach you?
‘Not every project or initiative is successful. A decade ago, a company I started had to shut down. I took a lot of learnings away from that experience, was more intentional about the timings of my career moves since then, and now have the right teams set up with The Story Ink and House of Talkies.’
Did you always want to work in film?
‘Never. I wanted to be an equity fund manager after I read Peter Lynch’s book One Up On Wall Street. I started as a stock market trader when I was 16. I later founded a dotcom company, bollywoodauction.com – which was India’s first online auction site for original Bollywood memorabilia – before settling into film and TV production. I also founded Bollywood’s first script-shop, called iRock Films, and later The Story Ink. But Trial By Fire has been my career highlight to date.’
If you had to name one thing that got you to where you are today, what would it be?
‘Working hard consistently and with great persistence. And books. I read a lot of biographies – they have been my mentors.’
What does the Soho House community mean to you?
‘I love the Soho House community. Since Soho House Mumbai’s opening, I have hosted a monthly event where I interview an author, writer or filmmaker about their craft. Various professionals from the industry have come along to the events and so we’ve been able to create our own creative tribe. It’s been very enriching both personally and professionally. It’s a great place to network and build relationships.’
Is there something you would like our members to know about you?
‘I am always looking for talented screenwriters, book authors and film directors.’
Find out more about becoming a member of Soho House Mumbai here.