Content war between streaming giants gives rise to budget boom, writes SHUBARNA MUKERJI SHU
The content war for web series is getting fierce. The money being spent on besting the competition is astounding. With Amazon producing more than 20 original series in India, Netflix too has announced seven big names into the game, the battle is going full throttle. If you think it is only the international imports converting entertainment audience, think Balaji. Alt Balaji for one has cracked the success code with their original series too.
Amazon’s Breathe starring Madhavan, cannot be missed. The promotions have plastered all metropolitans around india with posters. Produced by Abundantia Entertainment (producers of movies Baby, Airlift) and directed by Mayank Sharma, the show sees Madhavan, a devout Catholic who knows ‘Gita’ verses by heart, evolving into a murderer in order to save his son ‘Josh’, who is battling cystic fibrosis and is in dire need of an immediate lung transplant. On the other hand, Amit Sadh battles haunting memories of his daughter’s (Shreya) death.
The imagery on screen and the marketing initiatives make it clear that Amazon Studios is taking India very seriously. The outdoor campaigns were run in Mumbai and Bangalore; radio was also used in these two markets along with Delhi, Hyderabad and Chennai. “We added Hyderabad and Chennai because of Madhavan’s popularity in those markets,” informs Vijay Subramaniam, director, Content, Amazon Prime. He adds, “The marketing plans were fine-tuned for both efficiency and impact.”
What Subramaniam didn’t mention was the hordes of monies that was spent securing hoarding, prime time ads and more. it is said that Breathe’s marketing efforts were at par with that of KBC and Bigg Boss. Phew! Talk about elevating Madhavan straight to the bigwigs.
Bose Dead/Alive is the most popular by ALT Balaji. It was their most ambitious project and it certainly is giving them the returns too. They pegged it, like they love doing it at Balaji, with oodles of scandal and totally touched the hearts of the people. They called it the story of India’s biggest cover-up: Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and the mystery of his alleged death. Starring Rajkummar Rao – the midas of independent entertainment alongside Naveen Kasturia, Edward Sonnenblick amongst others.
Manav Sethi proudly exclaims that 70% of the budget was spent in the promotions alone. With crores in line for this one, the success it brought with it helped give Alt Balaji a new lease of life, given both their previous ventures (Karrle Tu Bhi Mohabbat, Dev DD) despite the big budgets didn’t hold up.
When Amazon bet 40Crs on Inside Edge, no one knew if it India was ready for these Web series. Thankfully, it had been one of the better successes in the market. Inside Edge is the story of the Mumbai Mavericks, a T20 cricket franchise playing in the Powerplay League. Set in a landscape of conflicting interests, where selfishness is almost a virtue, where sex, money, and power are mere means to an end, Inside Edge is a story that pulls no punches, minces no words, and takes no prisoners.
Starring Vivek Oberoi, Richa Chadha, Tanuj Virwani, Angad Bedi and a screeching crowd to make up for the adrenaline of a cricket match, the series is said to be “perfectly cast and technically first-rate”! Created by Karan Anshuman, this series has been going strong since a year,
Netflix announced a new original titled Lust Stories, a combination of four short stories directed by Zoya Akhtar, Karan Johar, Anurag Kashyap and Dibaker Banerjee. Can you imagine the budgets they are working with? It is evident, that Netflix is making up for the fact that it entered the market few months after Amazon. The giant has brought together the gang from Bombay Talkies at a cost, that would have most reeling making sure they have the most coveted names associated with them. Releasing in June in 190 countries under Netflix, Lust Stories will show stories on love and lust, read a statement. The project is the second collaboration between Netflix and Ronnie Screwvala’s production house RSVP after Love Per Square Foot. Lust Stories will be co-produced by Ashi Dua of Flying Unicorn Entertainment. The short stories will feature actors including Radhika Apte, Manisha Koirala, Vicky Kaushal, Bhumi Pednekar and Kiara Advani
Speaking about his experience as a director, Karan Johar exclaimed in his typical tongue-in-cheek manner, “A theme of lust, a new age and dynamic platform and the company of prolific filmmakers, the vision of Ashi Dua and Ronnie Screwvala made this experience immensely sexy and satisfying! (no pun intended). ‘Lust Stories’ breaks ground and even tears the envelope at times. This one is worth the price of a subscription.”
Sacred Games is yet another Netflix’s Indian Original series and they are leaving no stone unturned to make sure they are opening the doors wide when it comes to budgets. Though no one is speaking about the figures, let’s just say the budgets are better than Phantom Films usual.
The series revolves around a contemptuous Mumbai city cop Sartaj Singh (Saif Ali Khan) who is tipped off on the location of crime lord Ganesh Gaitonde (Nawazuddin Siddiqui). As the lives of these two men collide, it exposes the trappings of a bigger game than the both of them. This Netflix’s Indian Originals based on Vikram Chandra’s 2006 thriller novel Sacred Games. The series will be produced in partnership with Phantom Films and stars Radhika Apte and Rajshri Deshpande. All eight hour-long episodes are to be directed by Anurag Kashyap and Vikramaditya Motwane.
Meanwhile, Netflix has also announced two more Netflix original shows from India. The first one titled “Selection Day” is based on the book by author Aravind Adiga and will deal with cricket and corruption. And the second one is Again, a supernatural, female-led detective series set in New Delhi and written by Marisha Mukerjee, who also wrote Quantico.
Bard of Blood
It wasn’t easy for Netflix to get their hands on Shah Rukh Khan. While it is true that they were vying for his attention since the moment they came into the Indian shores, Khan was not keen till every last moment. Apparently, Netflix had to acquire the solo rights for streaming all Shah Rukh Khan movies, as Amazon does with Salman Khan. With the persistent effort and a lot of financial convincing, albeit late, Shah Rukh has made that transition finally.
Although Shah Rukh Khan won’t star in the web series for Netflix he has confirmed that he will be involved with the all the important production decisions. Red Chillies Entertainment owned by him will produce the show exclusively for Netflix. The show will be called Bard of Blood and will be a political thriller based on the works of author Bilal Siddiqi. Shah Rukh Khan Bard of Blood will revolve around the life of a spy who now is a Shakespeare Professor in a hill station but must return to the ways of his past life to save his loved ones. The Netflix series will have a total of eight episodes and will be a multilingual adaptation. Urdu, Hindi and English will be the three languages that the series will consist of
Shah Rukh Khan, who was present at the announcement, said, “We have always tried to create world-class content and entertainment from India. Netflix has shown that Indian stories have a global audience and we would love to use this platform and its reach to tell more stories.”