As Netflix turned 25 last week, its Indian wing chose to roll out a celebration of cinema by previewing some of their highly anticipated original films, in addition to setting the stage for creators to share their process. “We have always been invested in the cinema of the country. We have programmed 51 original films to date. We started with small movies initially but gradually scaled up,” says Monika Shergill, VP of Content, Netflix India.
Taking advantage of the recent success of Darlings, with Alia Bhatt and Shefali Shah, Netflix presented its list of 10 new films. Leading the pack is Jogi, which will be released on September 16. Directed by Ali Abbas Zafar and starring Diljit Dosanjh as the protagonist, this film is about “brotherhood and courage”. “Jogi is a story of love, hope and friendship. It’s very cinematic too. Every project we choose is unique in its own way,” says Shergill.
Among Netflix’s upcoming films are Jhulan Goswami’s biography Chakda’ Xpress with Anushka Sharma trying out the role of the fast bowler; Spy thriller directed by Vishal Bharadwaj Khufiya starring Tabu; and Sujoy Ghosh’s adaptation of The Devotion of Suspect X starring Kareena Kapoor Khan in the cast. After making her directorial debut with Bulbul, Anvita Dutt returns with Qala, the story of a complex mother-daughter relationship.
The streamer will also be home for the first ever feature film based on the popular Archie Comics – The Archies directed by Zoya Akhtar. Other new titles include thriller thriller Monica O My Darling (directed by Vasan Bala), romantic comedy Plan A Plan B (directed by Shashanka Ghosh), heist thriller directed by Ajay Singh Chor Nikal Ke Bhaga and comedy satirical Kathal (directed by Yashowardhan Mishra).
Netflix’s model is such that it selects licensed films, such as this year’s hits RRR, Gangubai Kathiawadi and Bhool Bhulaiya 2, as well as originals. “Streaming allows us to respond to different sensitivities. It’s a medium where every title doesn’t have to appeal to everyone,” says Shergill. “If you look at all the movies we’ve released and are going to release, you can see a successful approach to movie programming through old movies and new releases. The idea is to attract a large audience of mass,” adds Shergill.
Although there were reports that Netflix lost some of its subscribers in India earlier this year, Shergill says it doesn’t bother the company as it has a large service base around the world. . “We are a juggernaut with 221 million subscribers. India is one of the best performing countries. Our growth curve is robust,” she says. Citing data from App Annie, the head of Netflix India said that after recalibrating its basic plan in December – the mobile plan is now at Rs 149, any device plan at Rs 199 – Netflix has seen an increase 150% of app installs in India. Apart from this, there are many partnerships in place with Jio, Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Tata Sky to attract audiences.
In the world of streaming, “newness” plays a crucial role in attracting viewers. “The formula is not having a formula. If you do a copy history, it will fail. It’s important to innovate and tell a new story in a new way, says Shergill. The mantra for successful content, she says, is to opt for “authentic storytelling”, find stories that “reflect many realities” and “stay ahead of the curve of audience tastes”.
Five years after Netflix entered the Indian market, Netflix has noticed a major shift in audience tastes. “They have become language agnostic. While Hollywood movies have always been popular, people are now enjoying Korean, Spanish, Japanese, and other language content. Now they are exposed to different kinds of stories and global themes,” says Shergill and adds that audiences are “open to experimentation.”