The Reed Hastings-owned video-on-demand platform will collaborate with British comic-book writer and screenwriter Warren Ellis on an animated series titled Heaven’s Forest, with a storyline and characters inspired by the Ramayana.
The eight-episode animated action drama series will be set in an Indo-futuristic world. Originally produced in English, it will be dubbed in Hindi and other languages.
Ellis, best known for co-creating several original comics, including horror series Hellblazer, Marvel series such as Astonishing X-Men, Thunderbolts and Moon Knight, and the Extremis story arc of Iron Man, the basis for Marvel’s 2013 superhero film Iron Man 3, will serve as creator, writer and executive producer on the show.
Indian-American film producer Adi Shankar, known for movies such as Dredd and Gangs Of Wasseypur, and producer-actor Kevin Kolde will be executive producers. American animation company Powerhouse Animation Studios will serve as the project’s animation studio.
Ellis, Kolde and Shankar have also worked on an animated version of action adventure horror video game Castlevania for Netflix.
“I am delighted to be partnering again with Netflix, my Castlevania comrades, and the Indian creative community, to create this surreal, mythic narrative filled with life and heart," Ellis said.
“My whole life, I’ve dreamed of seeing Hindu mythology represented in international media. My culture’s stories are spectacle-filled fantasy epics in lavish aesthetic and we’re going to bring it to the global stage," Shankar said.
Netflix’s latest move stems from two trends.
The first is the success that it has seen for its first animated series from India, Mighty Little Bheem (MLB), the fourth spin-off of the Chhota Bheem series, that was launched in April this year.
The series produced by Green Gold Animation is now globally the most-watched preschool show on Netflix. It is also the second most-watched children’s original series (across all categories and age groups among children) after Boss Baby: Back in Business. A major chunk of MLB’s viewing has happened outside India, across Netflix regions, including Colombia, Argentina, Chile and the US.
MLB is not the only animated series to have travelled across Netflix markets.
Two Korean shows, YooHoo To The Rescue, and Larva Island, have also found similar spread-across-the-globe viewership.
The second is the broader trend of content, including that from India, being able to transcend geographical boundaries. Indian originals, such as Lust Stories, Chopsticks and Sacred Games, have travelled abroad while British comedy-drama Sex Education, South Korean zombie tale Kingdom and psychological thriller Black Mirror: Bandersnatch have grabbed eyeballs in India.
Netflix has often said it aims to make a conscious effort to find stories that resonate with audiences globally with an inherent authentic local voice. The majority of the company’s 150 million-plus members are from outside the US, a ratio that is going to get bigger in the years to come, it said.
“You see that shift in the kind of original programming that we are doing," Greg Peters, chief product officer (CPO), Netflix, had said at the Netflix Labs Day 2019, a global media outreach event in Los Angeles, earlier this year.
“We believe that people have always wanted authentic storytelling that is rooted in local culture and that locality actually illuminates the universal themes of the story. It doesn’t really matter where you live or what language you speak. If we do that well, it’s the stuff great storytelling is made of, and always has been," said Peters.