American streaming service Netflix has intensified its push for local content in India with a partnership with actor Ajay Devgn’s company Ajay Devgn Ffilms. The first collaboration of the two will be a feature film titled Tribhanga that will mark the digital debut of Devgn’s actor wife Kajol.
Directed by actor Renuka Shahane, Tribhanga is the story of a dysfunctional family of three women played by Mithila Palkar, Tanvi Azmi, and Kajol. It will be set in Mumbai and will chronicle the tale of three generations from the 1980s to present day.
The film, which is Devgn’s first digital venture, will be co-produced by Deepak Dhar-led Banijay Asia and filmmaker Siddharth P. Malhotra’s Alchemy Productions.
“OTT platforms are growing every day, garnering richer content for audiences, and are deemed to be the future of entertainment. With a digital platform, there is freedom to tell stories in the most authentic way possible and the ability to take those stories to an audience that may not necessarily be just in India," Devgn said. The digital medium truly represents endless possibilities, which Ajay Devgn Ffilms is excited about exploring with Netflix, he said.
Ajay Devgn Ffilms recognizes that streaming services have enormous storytelling capabilities and is open to working with different services as long as together they make the right team, Devgn said.
“There is no defined long-term partnership yet but we are in talks for other films, some of which of course we would want Ajay himself to star in, too, though that is obviously a long way off," said Aashish Singh, director, original films, Netflix.
American streaming services such as Netflix and arch rival Amazon Prime Video seem to have realised that original content, including films and serials featuring popular mainstream faces, in multiple local languages, is key to capturing the Indian market. Netflix’s last two big-ticket shows—crime drama Sacred Games 2 and spy thriller Bard of Blood—were co-produced with major movie companies Phantom Films and Red Chillies Entertainment, respectively starring names such as Saif Ali Khan and Emraan Hashmi.
Netflix has also announced a partnership with Dharmatic Entertainment, the digital content arm of Bollywood filmmaker Karan Johar’s company Dharma Productions, for a range of original films and shows. Amazon Prime, on its part, has long-term deals for feature films produced by Johar and actor Salman Khan. Further, when streaming platform Hotstar starts to route Disney+ content to India in the months ahead, it will be localized by dubbing or by adding subtitles in Indian languages, including Hindi, Tamil, and Telugu.
Together, OTT services are slated to invest about ₹2,500 crore in original content in India this year, according to a Mint report published in July.
“There is no strategy as such. We just want to work with the best talent in this country and some of them could be big stars who have their own production houses," Singh said. “However, that doesn’t mean we will ignore the small, independent filmmakers who come to us. We want to balance both and stand for good cinema," he said.