Films and series of different genres, documentaries, reality and comedy formats are all a part of the platform's efforts to maximise viewership in a country
Global streaming giant Netflix, which has had a five-year run in India, is out to satiate the expanding content demand with an exhaustive and varied menu of at least 40 "powerful and irresistible stories" from all corners of India.
The line-up was rolled out during a virtual See What's Next India 2021 event on Wednesday, a day after a host of Indian celebrities created a buzz about the announcement with social media posts using the hashtag, #AbMenuMeinSabNew.
The 'menu' has love, tears, laughter, action, excitement, twists and turns galore.
Films and series of different genres, documentaries, reality and comedy formats are all a part of the platform's efforts to maximise viewership in a country, which has the world's fastest growing streaming market, and is poised to become the world's sixth largest by 2024 by reaching a revenue of $2.9 billion.
"This year's slate is a big leap for Netflix. We have some really power-packed series, returning seasons of some series that have done very well for us, a big slate of unscripted content, reality series, documentaries and a dose of comedy. We are also bringing true crime as a genre. The attempt is really to bring something which talks to every viewer, suits the taste of every viewer, and we have tried to put all the formats to play to achieve this," Monika Shergill, Vice President - Content, Netflix India, told BW Businessworld in an interview.
India is a key market for Netflix, and there has been a concerted effort to ramp up India Original productions. Back in December 2019 itself, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings had spoken about a planned expenditure to the tune of $400 million on Indian content for 2019 and 2020 for the platform, covering both originals and licensed content.
For 2021, a year after the Covid-19 pandemic gave a boost to OTT subscriptions and viewership in India, Netflix has a robust content calendar.
To start with, there's a bold and sassy series titled Bombay Begums. Subsequently, they will launch relationship drama Ajeeb Daastaans, a quirky film Pagglait, apart from showcasing love and longing in Meenakshi Sundareshwar and the consequences of desire in Penthouse, among many more.
Bringing top-notch talent from the country to the streaming world, Netflix will be home to Jagame Thandhiram, starring Dhanush, Taapsee Pannu-starrer Haseen Dillruba, Kartik Aaryan's Dhamaka, Arjun Kapoor and Neena Gupta-starrer family drama Sardar Ka Grandson, Raveena Tandon's Aranyak, and R. Madhavan’s comedy series Decoupled.
Comedy king Kapil Sharma will be seen in a 'Special' on the platform, as will comedians such as Sumukhi Suresh, Aakash Gupta, Rahul Dua and Prashasti Singh. This will be apart from a Comedy Premier League, where the competition will be based on humour.
The documentary space will be padded by docu-series such as Crime Stories: India Detectives, House of Secrets: The Burari Deaths and Indian Predator, apart from a docu film titled Searching for Sheela.
For series that have been embraced by viewers, Netflix is giving the audience more with new seasons. There will be Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives Season 2, The Big Day Collection Season 2, She Season 2, Mismatched Season 2, Masaba Masaba Season 2, Little Things Season 4, Kota Factory Season 2, Jamtara - Sabka Number Ayega Season 2, and the much-awaited Delhi Crime Season 2.
Srishti Behl Arya, Director - International Original Film, Netflix India, quipped how while "we are announcing over 40 titles for now, let's say the year is not over yet".
"We are very fortunate that we are in a land of storytellers. We have fabulous talent in the country, and at Netflix, we are very committed to making sure they have the world's best practices available to creators to bring the best content to viewers," Arya told BW Businessworld.
The virtual conference, hosted by Rannvijay Singha, was graced by filmmakers Karan Johar and Imtiaz Ali, producers Siddharth Roy Kapur and Ashvini Yardi, actors Raveena Tandon, Amala Paul and Vivek Gomber, screenwriter Puneet Krishna, and Netflix officials, all of whom deliberated upon the world of difference that the medium of online streaming has brought to the content landscape of India's dynamic entertainment industry.
On one hand, while Raveena, who is making her streaming debut with Aranyak, stressed on the "prominence" that women have got on and off screen, she also noted how long-form storytelling has allowed filmmakers to explore characters and stories with a deeper arc.
Imtiaz Ali, creator of She and its upcoming season, agreed.
In a film meant for theatres, he said, "you've got to encapsulate a story in 2 hours". But with the "streaming revolution that has happened, we got invited to make things in a longer format". This, Imtiaz said, gave them an edge to showcase more layered stories with situations seen from different points of view. As a creator, he hopes "more comes out of me".
According to Siddharth Roy Kapur, for content that ticks all the "typical no-nos for a theatrical", the streaming world is a boon. He cited his production Yeh Ballet, which was centred on the ballet art form and featured two newcomers, as an example.
Actor Amala Paul, seen in Pitta Kathalu, said digital streaming platforms are not only diluting boundaries for content within the country, but are also giving actors freedom and courage to take on more impactful roles.
Vivek Gomber, who has drawn acclaim for his role in Is Love Enough? Sir, and will be seen in Chaitanya Tamhane's The Disciple on Netflix, delved upon the diversity of audience that streaming platforms generate, allowing them to watch content as different as Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Lives and Is Love Enough? Sir.
Karan Johar, who is producing five new projects under his Dharamatic Entertainment banner for Netflix's new slate, said what made him look at Netflix with really "strong eyes" was the impact that Lust Stories had not just within India, but internationally too.
"Subsequently, it has been a digital revolution," noted Johar, who believes "co-existence" of films in theatres, and films on digital platforms, "is the future".
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