In a year dominated by Covid-19 realities all around us, one absolute truth that emerged is that viewing patterns of audiences all over the world were in for a change this year. With cinema halls facing closure owing to lockdown, OTT platforms became the primary source of entertainment. While the big screen will not go away, streaming services have sure come of age and redefined for good how we perceive entertainment from now on.
The pandemic-induced lockdown ushered generic trends, too, and these are expected to be big in future. In India, especially, many subjects and trends that were traditionally not so popular are suddenly evincing popular interest, now that access to variety is just a click away.
“The pandemic induced lockdown has only accelerated the demand of multi platform content. OTT is not restricted by the pressure of finite airtime and hence the variety of content, at scale, is greater than broadcast,” Ajit Andhare, COO, Viacom18 Studios, told IANS while talking about the booming OTT space in India.
“Secondly, unlike theatrical productions, the content isn’t bound by time and scale constraints either. Therefore the platform offers versatility to content creators. It is this flexibility from mainstream production values that have enabled us to create shows like Jamtara, Taj Mahal and She. Audience exploring new narratives & genres augurs well for us creators and will further develop the creative ecosystem,” he added.
Let us take a look at top trends that created ripples in the OTT space:
The year started with the spooky anthology Ghost Stories, and the trend of stringing several stories together continued all through the year. Some of the noteworthy anthologies include, Ludo, Unpaused and Paava Kadhaigal.
Direct to service releases
With the cinemas shutting down due to the coronavirus pandemic, movies ditched the traditional release route for the digital world. the Amitabh Bachchan and Ayushmann Khurrana-starrer Gulabo Sitabo started the trend, which continues to gain steam.
Aarya, Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl, Bulbbul, Bhaag Beanie Bhaag, Guilty, Four More Shots Please!, Hundred, Choked”, Raat Akeli Hai — the list only keeps growing. Female-led narrative are the trend all over in the world of entertainment, and the OTT space has been particularly suseptible to the trend.
There was a dose of reality in the diverse fiction world of the streaming services, thanks to documentary films and series. The topics were varied — from kabaddi to sneak peek into the lives of Bollywood wives.
Regional films and shows
Amid lockdown, regional content found a new and wide audience on the OTT platforms in India, from Telugu, Tamil, Kannada to Malayalam. Regional cinema from the South, especially saw good response in the digital space.
While on stories, here are the top shows and movies that grabbed attention for being a little out of the league, in terms of idea and themes:
Scam 1992: The Harshad Mehta Story
Filmmaker Hansal Mehta captured the story of one of the biggest financial scams in the Indian stock market. The financial thriller emerged as a winner, making Gujarati actor Pratik Gandhi, who essayed the role of Harshad Mehta, an overnight star.
The hilarious satire series emerged as one of the sleeper hits while providing much-needed comic relief to the audience. It is about a young secretary of a Panchayat office in a village, and his journey of coping up with rural life. The series stars Jitendra Kumar, Neena Gupta, Raghubir Yadav and Chandan Sanyal.
Arshad Warsi made his digital debut with the show on a successful note. The crime thriller brings forward two opposing worlds against each other — the less explored world of forensic science and the world of ancient Indian mythology. Available on Voot Select, it also stars Barun Sobti, Riddhi Dogra and Anupriya Goenka.
Fabulous Lives Of Bollywood Wives
The web series chronicles the lives of popular star wives such as Maheep Kapoor, Neelam Kothari, Seema Khan and Bhavana Pandey. It is backed by Johar’s Dharmatic Entertainment, the digital arm of Dharma Production.
Bad Boy Billionaires: India
The docuseries explores the greed, fraud and corruption that built, and ultimately brought down, the most infamous tycoons in India. It is available on Netflix.
The eight-episode Hotstar Special spy action thriller series is based on the role of Indian intelligence in a series of real terror attacks that India has faced over the last 19 years, including the 26/11. Filmmaker Neeraj Pandey has directed the series along with Shivam Nair. It stars Kay Kay Menon, Karan Tacker, Saiyami Kher, and Vinay Pathak.
The musical show, which launched Ritwik Bhowmik and Shreya Chaudhry, was a hit. It follows the story of two lovers from different musical backgrounds. The show, streaming on Amazon Prime Video, also features Naseeruddin Shah, Atul Kulkarni, Sheeba Chaddha, Rajesh Tailang and Kunaal Roy Kapur.
Sushant Singh Rajput’s last film premiered on the Disney+ Hotstar in July, and got a lot of attention. It was the official remake of 2014 Hollywood romantic drama “The Fault in our Stars”. Earlier this year, according to a report by TV viewership monitoring agency BARC (Broadcast Audience Research Council) and data measurement firm Nielsen, Dil Bechara emerged as the top movie in the first week of release on an OTT platform, when it comes to the content viewed on smartphones.
With cinema halls shut owing to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, Khuda Haafiz went for a direct-to-OTT release. It stars Vidyut Jammwal and Shivaleeka Oberoi. After the success of the first part, the makers have announced the second chapter of the story, and are planning to release it on the big screen.
The film may have drawn plenty of criticism as an entertainer, but it was truly a lavish crossover effort, between talents of Hollywood and Bollywood. Chris Hemsworth had a blockbuster digital debut as an actor with “Extraction”. He was seen as a fearless, black market mercenary Tyler Rake, who embarks on the most deadly extraction of his career when he is enlisted to rescue the kidnapped son of an imprisoned international crime lord. The film was majorly shot in India.
Never Have I Ever
Mindy Kaling’s quirky show traced her relationship with Indian culture and used her “relationship with being Hindu” to narrate the story of 15-year-old Devi, a first-generation Indian American, and her desperation to feel that she belongs in society in the delightful “Never Have I Ever”. The Netflix show was a big hit, and has been renewed for a second season.
Sushmita Sen’s comeback show Aarya delved into how organised crime and betrayal runs deep in a family. It revolves around the protagonist Aarya Sareen, who is dragged into her husband’s narcotics business when her family is threatened after his death. The show will be back with a second season soon.
Actress Anushka Sharma’s debut web production Paatal Lok opened to rave reviews. The show is about a police officer Hathiram who is on the lookout for four criminals — serial killer Vishal “Hathoda” Tyagi (Abhishek Banerjee), Tope “Chaaku” Singh (Jagjeet Sandhu), Kabir M. (Aasif Khan), and Mary “Cheeni” Lyngdoh (Mairembam Ronaldo Singh).
Nawazuddin Siddiqui was universally applauded for his role in the Sudhir Mishra directorial, Serious Men. The Netflix movie was an adaptation of Manu Joseph’s book of the same name. It narrates the tale of an underachiever who tries to make it big in Mumbai after discovering that his child could be a boy genius.
Four More Shots Please!
The show follows four unapologetically flawed women as they discover life while balancing friendship in Mumbai. The second season showed how they coped with their fears and insecurities. The show will be back with the third season soon.
The period horror drama narrated the journey of a young girl named Bulbbul from innocence to strength, with the looming shadow of the legend of a ‘chudail’. The story gives a positive spin to the term ‘chudail’. –ians/sug/vnc