US streaming service Netflix has announced five new Hindi-language original series for India, in an aggressive push for the domestic market.
The five series, to be developed in collaboration with companies such as Shah Rukh Khan’s Red Chillies Entertainment and Anushka Sharma’s Clean Slate Films, will span genres such as young adult, drama, thriller, horror, and comedy.
Khan is backing Betaal, a horror series based in a remote village that serves as the battleground between British Indian Army officer Betaal, his battalion of zombie redcoats, and the Indian police. Betaal is Red Chillies Entertainment’s second Netflix series after espionage thriller Bard of Blood that stars Emraan Hashmi and will be out on 27 September. Betaal will be directed by Patrick Graham— who earlier helmed Netflix’s horror series Ghoul—along with Nikhil Mahajan.
Sharma’s firm will be executive producers on Mai, a story about a 47-year-old wife-and-mother who is accidentally sucked into a world of white-collar crime and politics. Mai has been written by casting director Atul Mongia, Tamal Sen and Amita Vyas. Sudip Sharma is creative producer.
Mother-daughter duo Neena and Masaba Gupta will feature in Masaba Masaba, a scripted series based on moments from the latter’s life, where she straddles diverse worlds across fashion and family. The series is created and produced by Ashvini Yardi’s Viniyard Films and will be directed by Sonam Nair.
Then there is Bombay Begums about five women across generations wrestling with desire, ethics, personal crises and vulnerabilities in contemporary urban India. It is created, written, and directed by Alankrita Shrivastava of Lipstick Under My Burkha fame with Chernin Entertainment and Endemolshine India as executive producers.
Messy is about a female stand-up comic in Mumbai, struggling to balance her unconventional career along with a mayhem-filled personal life. American actor and director Ravi Patel stars in the series that he has created and co-written with Neel Shah. The series is co-produced by The District’s David Bernad and Ruben Fleischer and Mutant Films’ Seher Aly Latif and Shivani Saran.
“India is home to some of the world’s greatest stories. It’s been thrilling to watch these amazing storytellers embrace the artistic freedom possible at Netflix to create entertaining stories. Audiences everywhere will love these five inventive series set in stories of horror, drama and comedy," said Bela Bajaria, vice-president, international originals, Netflix. Long proclaimed as the most elite streaming service in India, Netflix has been pushing aggressively for local stories and vernacular language content, besides testing a mobile-only subscription plan starting at ₹250 a month.
The original basic Netflix plan is priced at ₹500 a month, in contrast to Amazon’s ₹129 a month or ₹999 a year and Hotstar’s (premium) ₹299 a month and ₹999 a year.
A 4 June Wall Street Journal report estimated Netflix’s India subscribers at 1.2 million, in contrast to Amazon Prime Video’s 2.5 million and Hotstar’s 3 million. The differentiation for video steaming platforms in India’s cluttered market will come from original content, industry experts said.
“We are working very seriously in India, which has always been the land of stories. Moreover, 4G is growing, connectivity is getting better, people are open to a lot of stuff, so it’s a huge opportunity," Srishti Arya, director of international original film for India at Netflix, said in an earlier interview.