Friday, July 20, 2018
facebook

google plus


The summer of content
Game Changers : (From left) Anurag Kashyap, Radhika Apte, Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Vikramaditya Motwane who are part of the Sacred Games

The summer of content

With a huge growing market, streaming services like Netflix & Amazon Prime are going ‘native’15 Jul 2018 | 3:13 AM

Sacred Games on Netflix India, has shown beyond doubt that the streaming giant means business and plans to have a huge impact on the way that Indian viewers choose and view content.

[ + read story ]

Aradhika Sharma

Sacred Games on Netflix India, has shown beyond doubt that the streaming giant means business and plans to have a huge impact on the way that Indian viewers choose and view content. 

Unencumbered by fear of censorship, this gutsy, dark series, which has earned rave reviews globally, is shattering the boundaries of entertainment and filmmaking with its experimental and original form and content, has been helmed by critically acclaimed filmmakers Anurag Kashyap and Vikramaditya Motwane. Both are known for their unconventional and bold moviemaking choices. 

Sacred Games is especially significant because it heralds a new era whereby both the movie/ serial/ documentary maker as well as the viewer have the power of choice It's a win- win situation for both because the makers have the license to create complex characters; the freedom to break stereotypes in terms of plots and formats and the power to experiment with techniques, choreography and camerawork and the viewers have the option to accept, reject or simply move on. 

Battle for eyeballs

The streaming giants, Amazon Prime and Netflix believe in flooding their portals with a huge variety content to cater to all kind of intersts so that every user finds something of their choice. Since China is inaccessible to both providers, India is crucial in terms of the huge marketplace it provides and it is natural that both companies try to grab a big piece of the pie by providing local content. Amazon has upped its ante by introducing a selection of regional content, in addition to the original content.

Netflix does not plan to do that yet. Even Sacred Games is expected to cater to a global audience. The focus of Netflix is thus, to create original local content for an audience far beyond India, a strategy it has been adopting in other countries as well. eg 1983 (original series from Poland), Fauda (Israeli series), Terrace House: Opening New Doors (Japanese reality series) and The Rain (Scandinavian series). Thus, notwithstanding that Hotstar (75 million users), Alt Balaji, Eros Now and Amazon Prime Video (11 million users) are ahead of it in terms of viewership, Netflix (5 million users), which charges the most for its content, still rakes in more revenue than others.

Over the next year, both giants plan to expand their originals initiatives for films as well as web series. Erik Barmack, vice-president (International Originals), Netflix, is quoted to have said that it aims to get eight to 12 made-for-Netflix films per year. The American giant is rumoured to have budgeted Rs 500 -600 crore per year to invest in original content in India. So far, it has signed deals with Shah Rukh Khan's Red Chillies Entertainment, Anurag Kashyap's Phantom Films and Anil Kapoor Film and Communication Network Pvt. Ltd. Expected soon on Netflix are: Selection Day, Bard of Blood, Mumbai Indians and Mighty Little Bheem. Netflix already has Love Per Square Foot, starring Vicky Kaushal and Angira Dhar and is advertising Ghoul, its first Indian original horror series featuring Radhika Apte and Manav Kaul to be launched on August 24. 

Amazon has committed $300 million for original Indian content and has grabbed some eminent Bollywood names as well. Richa Chadda and Vivek Oberoi starred in its first original series, Inside Edge. R Madhavan starred in the thriller, Breathe. Amazon Prime Video is set to launch 10 original shows this year for India which include Comicstan, Zoya Akhtar's Made in Heaven and a bold original reality series, Hear Me. Love Me., based on the concept of blind dating, hosted by Shilpa Shetty Kundra.

Opportunities unlimited 

It's not just the viewers who are spoilt for choice; filmmakers, serial-makers, documentary makers, technicians, stand-up comedy artists, actors and makers of shorts are rejoicing in the unlimited opportunities now available to showcase their work. Unlike tele-serials, where generations may take a leap but not the content, the streaming giants offer directors a medium where content is the king. Vikramaditya Motwane, for instance, feels that Phantom Films' Ghoul, its second collaboration with Netflix after Sacred Games, is an “example of commitment towards high-quality content.”

Sacred Games is being hailed as the desi Narcos Set in Mumbai, with its noir underworld genre, has set an almost ridiculously high standard for other films and serials. A few notches above even Kashyap's Gangs of Wasseypur, in terms of language, sex, violence and nudity, it explores the convoluted desires and motivations of the characters, all of whom operate between shades of grey and black. 

 A few weeks ago, Lust Stories made its debut on Netflix. The four shorts directed by leading directors, Anurag Kashyap, Zoya Akhtar, Dibakar Banerjee and Karan Johar, it uncovered the repressed sexuality of women in India. Stylishly done, it is encouraging conversations about female sexuality, usually shoved under the carpet by a patriarchal Indian society  . 

Alt Balaij's web series, Gandii Baat, billed as an ‘erotic thriller anthology,’  showcases ‘urban stories from rural India’. That it garnered miserable reviews does not belie the fact that erotica is out of the closet and in the drawing rooms of people who have subscribed to the streaming service. 

Local produce

While Netflix has firmly eschewed regional content, limiting itself to Hindi content but other streaming services have learnt from the TV and print experience. They are convinced that regional tastes have evolved and audiences are ready for non-formulaic, original content with local flavours. Realising that users want media experiences in their preferred languages, American streaming service Amazon Prime Video launched its first regional web series in India, a Telugu dark comedy called Gangstars in May.

Viu has been providing content to the Hindi and Telugu markets (comedy Pelli Gola and science fiction series PillA) and now plans to enter the Tamil market with six new original shows. ZEE5, the streaming service owned by Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd, will release one original show every month in Hindi, Marathi, Bengali, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam. Alt Balaji already has Tamil (Maya Thirrai) and Bengali (Dhimaner Dhinkaal)  series and is presently working on a Bhojpuri show.

Rising numbers

The number of subscriptions are evidence that there are plenty of takers for these services. As per estimates, the market is currently valued at $280 million with nearly 100 million subscribers, and it is poised to grow at 35 per cent every year. New strategies to innovate in the business of viewership are underway and collaboration with production houses, who can produce fresh content, is a part of a multi-pronged strategy, especially for the global players. 

This year India will have over 500 million smartphone users, with a massive youth demographic, who are looking for content that comes without ad breaks. Their tastes are eclectic and edgy and certainly not fulfiled by the interminable domestic dramas dished up by TV channels.

Thus in the battle among the giants, the audiences are the heroes — everyone is out to woo them. While some experiments may fail miserably, but at least the viewers will not have to go back to never-ending, regressive, weepy serials because of the lack of choice.


 Not-So-Sacred 

Anurag Kashyap has finally found his medium. In his eight-episode serial on Netflix, his characters are each more complex than the other and sex, language and violence is no bar. Multiple stories run parallel and intrigue flourishes. Based on Vikram Chandra's novel of the same name, it broadly follows the stories of the kingpin criminal Gaitonde (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) and Sartaj Singh (Saif Ali Khan), a righteous, though disturbed police officer, fighting his own demons. While the Gaitonde track is directed by Kashyap, the Sartaj Singh track is directed by Motwane. The background score is grinding, ominous and sometimes almost jarring, adding to the visceral, venal feel of the film. Almost every character is complex or dark or disturbed and by the end of it you don’t know whom you’re rooting for. 

Dark, disturbing and stupendous in its sheer scale, Season 1 of Sacred Games makes an announcement that it has arrived. With a bang!

 
Maximum City, maximum art

Maximum City, maximum art

15 Jul 2018 | 3:13 AM

The denizens of Mumbai have always been in the forefront of heritage conservation in their own myriad ways.

A garden hanging on in time

A garden hanging on in time

15 Jul 2018 | 3:13 AM

A casual drive on Delhi roads will make you catch a glimpse of the many tombs, serais, baolis and monuments that the Capital boasts of.

Playing it right

Playing it right

15 Jul 2018 | 3:13 AM

Among the many things on Shernaz Patel’s to-do list are finding exciting stories, thinking of interesting ways to tell them and scouting for unconventional venues to showcase the plays created out of the stories.

The dreams of a refugee woman

The dreams of a refugee woman

15 Jul 2018 | 3:13 AM

A Migration Blanket created by refugee women from India, Somalia, Yemen, Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Senegal — together with international artist and activist Salma Zulfiqar — shows the challenges they face with integration as well as their ambitions as part of the project Creative Expressions by Women on the Move.

An obituary for Amrita

An obituary for Amrita

15 Jul 2018 | 3:13 AM

Seventy seven years after her death, The New York Times has published an obituary of Amrita Sher-gil, a pioneer of modern Indian art.

Arts, last Sunday...
Remembrance of things past

Remembrance of things past

15 Jul 2018 | 3:13 AM

Certain books come with their own expectations and they never disappoint, especially the ones that flow from the magical pen of Dr B N Goswamy.

Ready reckoners on parenting

Ready reckoners on parenting

15 Jul 2018 | 3:13 AM

Teenage is a time of doubtfulness, identity crisis and swinging between overconfidence and a complete lack of it.

The curve of diversity

The curve of diversity

15 Jul 2018 | 3:13 AM

The Himalayan Arc is a collection of 29 miscellaneous fictional, personal, poetic, prosaic writings that veer around food, history, landscapes, geographies, persons and places in the Himalayan Arc.

Benazir could have resolved Kashmir issueBOOK EXCERPTS

Benazir could have resolved Kashmir issue

15 Jul 2018 | 3:13 AM

It was during her years of self-exile in London that my university friendship with Benazir Bhutto matured into a stronger and closer bond.

The monkey man who made sense

The monkey man who made sense

15 Jul 2018 | 3:13 AM

Rauf Ali was born in a family of privilege with proclivity for intellectual, natural history pursuits.

Books Reviews, last Sunday...
Manoj Bajpayee: The star actor

Manoj Bajpayee: The star actor

15 Jul 2018 | 3:13 AM

Twenty years have elapsed since Ram Gopal Verma’s cult Mumbai underworld thriller Satya catapulted him into the limelight, but Manoj Bajpayee continues to sustain his passion for his craft and his quest of fresh challenges.

A marriage of inconvenience

A marriage of inconvenience

15 Jul 2018 | 3:13 AM

Swedish director Bjorn Runge''s drama, The Wife, is based on best-selling novel of the same name by Meg Wolitzer.

Entertainment, last Sunday...
School that ran from a cave

School that ran from a cave

15 Jul 2018 | 3:13 AM

Seventy years after independence, people from Shaakti village in the Great Himalayan National Park in Kullu finally saw their homes lighted last month.

Down and out, online

Down and out, online

15 Jul 2018 | 3:13 AM

It is a truth universally acknowledged that break-ups are no picnic for dumper nor dumpee, but today, the politics of ending a relationship have never been more complex.

Schools responsible for obesity tooCONSUMERS BEWARE!

Schools responsible for obesity too

15 Jul 2018 | 3:13 AM

The canteen at my daughter’s school sells only junk food.

It’s the season for stemFOOD TALK

It’s the season for stem

15 Jul 2018 | 3:13 AM

Kamal kakadi aka bhain is enjoyed in a range of delicacies in Kashmir, Punjab and UP.

Society, last Sunday...
Roaming in Rio

Roaming in Rio

15 Jul 2018 | 3:13 AM

The certitude of getting mugged came back to me when, on a stormy night, I found myself alone at the Copacabana beach with the shadowy figure of a man running towards me.

Travel, last Sunday...