Taking a special interest in stories from the country, Netflix has announced two more original series from the homeland.
Netflix has realised that India is not just a strong user base to tap into, but also a resource for rich content. We look at what interests the video-on-demand service.
Till the last decade, one had to rush back home just in time to catch their favourite show on television. If, due to unforeseen circumstances, they missed it, a long excruciating wait of over 12 hours was imminent for a re-run.
Then, with the Internet making it to every home in the metropolis, audiences got more options to pick from — not just local, indigenous content but from any part in the world. Today, viewers are at the biggest advantage with not just one but multiple online streaming services offering a plethora of choice from every nook and cranny of the world to pick from.
Even amidst the sea of options, original Indian content was next to none. Until international online streaming service Netflix signed up comedians and gave them their own shows with a viewership worldwide. Soon, other online portals caught up, but Netflix still takes the cake, especially with their recent announcement.
Taking a special interest in stories from the country, Netflix has announced two more original series from the homeland. After giving Vir Das and Aditi Mittal an international platform for their comedy specials, the streaming service will be working on two series — Selection Day, based on the novel written by Man Booker Prize winner Aravind Adiga of The White Tiger fame and Again, a supernatural detective series that has a female at the helm of it, written by Marisha Mukherjee. It wasn’t even a month ago when the streaming service also announced Saif Ali Khan’s Sacred Games based on Vikram Chandra’s best-selling novel of the same name. Finally, Netflix has realised that India is not only a big market for them as a streaming service but also a space that they can source original content from.
Anand Neelakantan, author of the mythological book Asura, is surprised this didn’t happen earlier. “Our country has an extremely rich source of original stories and content. From mythology to modern popular genres like thriller and supernatural, India has a lot to offer,” he points out. The author also adds that the English language literature barely makes up to a five per cent of the literary content the country produces every year and that the real gold mine is in the regional literature. “Think about it — India is culturally affluent and every culture has great material to offer,” he says, excited.
Kiran Manral, author of The Reluctant Detective, agrees with Anand, adding that contemporary literature needs exploring as well. “India does have a repository of rather rich traditional content as well as contemporary urban stories that can be something that international audiences could find interesting,” she says.
Seemingly, India is actually about to have its moment (and not a stereotypical one) in the global space when it comes to web series. But an interesting question still stands — why do we need an international platform to source our stories? Can a homegrown network not participate? Anand says that lack of funds plays a huge role here. “We have great stories to tell, but we face serious monetary issues when it comes to translating these stories from print to the screen,” he says, adding that as a result of poor production quality, audiences prefer an international service provider coming into picture.
Another contributing factor Anand brings to the fore are the audiences. Not only have the consuming habits evolved, the standard of broadcast content they expect to be screened has also matured. “The audience has migrated screens over the last two decades. Television in the ’80s and early ’90s had a decent connect to literature. In fact, it was literature that the audiences were interested to watch — take Malgudi Days, for instance. But soon, there was a massive disconnect as soap operas entered the market and disrupted the flow,” he recalls.
Soon, these shows began catering to the lowest common denominator of audiences and the “elite,” as Anand points out. People with the power to choose their content, moved to better screens and streaming services.
Aditi Mathur Kumar, author of Soldier & Spice: An Army Wife’s Life, points out another advantage that will not just benefit the content viewers but also the content producers. Calling it a big step for Indian literature, she says, “Apart from Chetan Bhagat, very few Indian authors have seen their work being produced at such a big level. This will make these authors and their content household names.”
Anand believes the same. Even as he says that literature has specific audiences and is not for everyone, “Screen adaptations and productions can be for everyone — audiences different and alike.”