Syria’s political turmoil  is no deterrent for the flag bearers of the nation’s popular drama production industry.
Tapping into the surging demand, the content creators shift base to Abu Dhabi to continue providing quality content to the Arab world, says Vibhuti Arora.
Twofour54 intaj’s studio in Musaffah exudes an old world charm these days, thanks to the ornate sets built in the facility for an upcoming Syrian drama series titled Hammam Shami.
The 30-episode series is being produced entirely in Abu Dhabi over a period of three months at the twofour54  intaj facility and will employ some of the entity’s local team as well.
This is claimed to be the largest Syrian production  to be shot outside the country. Hammam Shami is scheduled to be broadcast on television to the Middle East and North Africa region during the holy month of Ramadan. Spread across 500 sqm, the studios recreate the milieu of old town Damascus.
Complete with alleys, marketplaces and hammams, the set designs transport the viewers to the Syria of the 1950s. Noura Al Kaabi, CEO of twofour54 called the project “a joint venture” at the press conference hosted in the UAE capital to showcase the studios and introduce the Syrian team including the celebrity actors who will star in the production.
“The production of this major Syrian drama here at twofour54 reinforces Abu Dhabi’s reputation  as the home of original Arabic broadcasting content, says Al Kaabi.
“This particular production is the result of a partnership between Syrian production company, Al Adham and Abu Dhabi based, Al Mohra Productions and twofour54. We are proud of this association and believe that this will encourage more such initiatives.”
For twofour54, securing this deal has been a huge coup as it is one of the first drama-based projects to be shot at the facility. Intaj’s studios have mainly been used for entertainment-based productions in the past. Hammam Shami itself is a comedy series that chronicles traditional family life revolving around Syrian ‘Hammam’ (a traditional community bathing house), where much of the action takes place.
Built by Al Mohra Productions, the set is a detailed depiction of the streets and alleys of old town Damascus.
Paul Baker, Executive Director of twofour54 intaj says that Hammam Shami comes in line with intaj’s strategy to create world-class Arabic content. “We are focusing on our core products and what we are good at.
Our studios offer excellent filming and post production facilities and we plan to further build on that. “We will begin a full revamp of our post facility to create a post house environment. Also on offer will be high quality broadcast services and our graphics team will bring channel branding skills to the table.
This, we believe, will give a further boost to local productions.” Series Director, Momen Al Mulla of Al Adham productions who has previously directed the popular Bab Al Hara 5, has a tall order to fill as the expectations from the upcoming series are high.
The director explains that this kind of drama has been revived after five decades and is entirely different from his previous work.
“We hope to recreate the magic of Bab Al Hara through this drama although the two are entirely different from each other. This is Al Adham Productions’ first partnership with intaj and we intend to have more such projects in the future. With the situation getting worse back home, we are also considering Greece and Dubai for our future productions,” says the director.
The series features a celebrity cast of renowned Syrian actors and is expected to be a big draw in the Arab world.
Drama has been one of the biggest exports from Syria in recent years.
Tapping into the surging demand for original Arabic content, Syrian drama has been received extremely well over the past years.
The phenomenon that effectively took off in 2006 with the release of the first installment of the popular series, Bab al Hara, has since scaled new heights. Bab Al Hara is considered to be a landmark production in the history of Syrian television with the highest viewing rates among all Arab TV drama series.
“Syrian drama is a promising genre and we are expecting this to be a huge draw for everyone. With this comedy, we intend to put a smile on viewers’ faces despite the hardships back home,” says Al Mulla. According to the production team, Hammam Shami will be the latest in the emerging modern tradition of Ramadan drama, which is increasingly being seen as a genre of sorts with productions aimed especially for this season.
Arab satellite channels traditionally broadcast special programming each evening during the holy month, especially catering to family audience gathered together to break the fast.