Web series: Bollywood’s new destination

The web-series space is only set to grow bigger, writes Shubarna Mukerji Shu

Netflix’s ‘Sacred Games’ might sound like a spin-off on ‘Secret Games’, but Anurag Kashyap and Vikramaditya Motwane have insisted on not playing the same game. Based on the acclaimed book by Vikram Chandra, Sacred Games tells the story of Sartaj Singh, a cop and his chase to find his place and his identity away from the shadows of his father, a chase that turns into a mind game more tangible between the law and the criminal.

With Saif Ali Khan playing the cop and Nawazuddin Siddiqui his adversary, this Netflix original has been the talk of the town since inception. But that doesn’t mean Amazon has not secured its foothold in the Bollywood hub. The web series war is real, and it is getting more potent by the minute, but what’s surprising is seeing erstwhile Bollywood denizens picking up their stack of arsenal and joining the war.

An attractive platform

Web series: Bollywood’s new destination

might be as simple as getting new blood into their jaded lives, but the way the entire Bollywood clan is flocking towards the Netflix/Amazon offices pitching stories, it is obvious that they don’t want to miss this bandwagon. Admittedly, the initial names didn’t really raise brows; people like Vivek Oberoi, Richa Chaddha, Radhika Apte were getting hustled in the commercial arena and needed the web to rescue them. But then we heard a whole lot of others including Bhumi Pednekar, and the aforementioned Khan and Siddiqui tell you the new wave of original series and films are the way forward even for Bollywood.

“How many of us reach home and try to see television these days? Not many want to step into a theatre even. I for one watch a lot of stuff online, it is obvious that the web is taking over!” exclaimed Kalki Koechlin, who will be playing a Goan-Portuguese DJ in a 12-episode series on the Goan mafia. The series comes after Y-Films’ Man’s World where Kalki made a special appearance.

According to Kalki, with social media, news channels and more, there is a lot of content out there. Everyone is trying to make some space, some noise, and it is upon us to either join the brouhaha or be silent and make a point. What works for her in this form of technology is that it is a platform where we get to see the content we want to see, for as long as we want to see it. The Bollywood enthusiasm, according to the Death In The Gunj star, is hardly surprising, “We have to embrace it and evolve with it. I certainly, love it,” stated Kalki.

Content calling

Web series: Bollywood’s new destination

Bhumi Pednekar, on the other hand, believes it is not so much the technology, but the content that is driving the Bollywood flock right into the WWW. The actress is currently basking in the glory of all the applause she has garnered for her almost silent portrayal of a housemaid in the ‘Lust Stories’ anthology. With Zoya Akhtar heralding her segment, Bhumi Pednekar has managed to win hearts with her 30-minute short.

“The kind of content the audience has got to see has gone up drastically and because of this the quality of work will go up too. You can now not show audience any cheap, thoughtless content any more. They are not going to appreciate it. Just see the kind of content that is being churned on that platform, brilliant minds are coming together with brilliant talent being a part of it. As an actor, it challenges us to do better work. I think this is a wake-up call for filmmakers; they need to up their game because better content is available on other platforms,” she declares.

A crowd-puller

Web series: Bollywood’s new destination

Nawazuddin Siddiqui believes that the lack of censorship will be the initial pull for the audience, but, he too, like Pednekar, is busy applauding the filmmakers for not going overboard with the freedom they have been given.

“For someone who plays Ganesh Gaitonde, I needed to have a certain way of speaking. When I say that, I mean a colourful way of speaking. The way the makers have incorporated that, is beautiful. Anyone can see that the characters are not abusing for the heck of it. they are doing so because the situation needed it, at that time. The same with the violence etc. It is when you take the freedom that you have been given and misuse it, that the content suffers.”

Web series: Bollywood’s new destination

Agreeing wholeheartedly with Nawaz, his co-star, Saif adds, “I think for an actor who has already had a certain standing in the industry, the biggest draw is the fact that we have a platform today that showcases your content across 190 countries simultaneously. The content has an international tone, so while there is freedom of expression there is a conscientious effort to ensure that what you are putting out there is worthy of being a premium show for an international audience.”

Web-series and original shows are soon going to be many of Bollywood filmmakers’ playground especially those who, like Anurag Kashyap, felt, “Till we don’t figure out a way to make movies for the internet, Phantom Films will not be making a profit!” Amazon and Netflix have provided them their much-awaited moment in the sun. So clearly, top up your accounts, put your feet up and enjoy!

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