Home/ Industry / Media/  With a bouquet of originals, Netflix goes vocal for local

NEW DELHI : International shows such as Squid Game and Money Heist may have managed good traction in India this year, but American streaming service Netflix said it will make a big splash with local productions and stories to shore up eyeballs.

Beginning December, the platform will release a clutch of new original shows, such as Raveena Tandon-starrer Aranyak, R. Madhavan’s Decoupled and a Malayalam film Minnal Murali. These will be followed by a thriller called Ye Kaali Kaali Ankheinand an untitled project with Kapil Sharma, Madhuri Dixit-starrer Finding Anamika, and Anushka Sharma’s production Mai. The last four will stream next year.

The platform, whose founder Reed Hastings had promised 3,000 crore investment in India in 2019 and 2020, has also signed on big Bollywood directors. Slated for 2022 is Vishal Bhardwaj’s Khufiya, a live action musical adaptation of Archie Comics directed by Zoya Akhtar. Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Heeramandi, a pre-Independence tale of courtesans, will stream in 2023.

Netflix has also announced a new heartland heist comedy and the second seasons of hits such as She, Mismatched, Masaba Masaba, Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives, and Jamtara-Sabka Number Ayega.

“India is a heterogenous country and we have to programme to suit different tastes and socioeconomic backgrounds. While many of our titles are meant for co-viewing experiences, others, especially original series that require large time commitment, may be preferred to be watched in one’s own time," said Monika Shergill, vice-president, content, Netflix India.

The coming year will especially see a robust slate of large-scale, long-format series that are at the core of the platform’s original programming strategy, Shergill said, without disclosing the company’s investment plans for India.

The Netflix move seems in line with the broader trend of over-the-top platforms launching big-budget shows as they gain wider acceptance, with families congregating to watch web content, often on large television screens. Applause Entertainment is making Rudra-The Edge of Darkness for Disney+ Hotstar starring Ajay Devgn, while Amazon Prime Video has shows lined up with Akshay Kumar and Shahid Kapoor.

According to the Ficci EY report 2021, smart connected TV homes in India that currently number 5-7 million are expected to reach 14 million by 2023 and 40 million by 2025.

Shergill said Netflix has seen success for high-decibel original films such as Dhamaka,Haseen Dillruba and Jagame Thandiram in 2021 and foresees additions to its slate as theatres reopen and movies become available for post-theatrical rights, with Rajinikanth’s action film Annaatthe having started streaming recently. Earlier this year, Taapsee Pannu-starrer Haseen Dilruba was in the Top 10 row on Netflix across films in 22 countries, including India, Brazil, Argentina, Canada, the UAE, Malaysia, Australia, and the UK. In its first week alone, Dhanush starrer, Jagame Thandhiram drew an equal share of audience from outside India as it did within the country.

Entertainment industry experts, however, believe that Netflix remains an upmarket service with larger dependence on international shows. “Netflix is staying true to its premium, niche proposition, whereas rivals such as Amazon are trying hard to live up to pop culture trends," a media analyst said, asking not to be named.

Shergill disagrees. “The benefit of being a global service is that we can bring the best from everywhere in the world, giving content an outlet across countries and cultures," she said.

Lata Jha
Lata Jha covers media and entertainment for Mint. She focuses on the film, television, video and audio streaming businesses. She is a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism. She can be found at the movies, when not writing about them.
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Updated: 03 Dec 2021, 01:17 AM IST
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