Netflix India has expanded its existing partnerships and established new ones with many of the country’s leading production houses.
They include T-Series, Red Chillies Entertainment, Pooja Entertainment, Viacom 18 Studios, Luv Films, Reliance Entertainment, RSVP Movies, Benaras Media Works, Maddock Films, Junglee Pictures, Balaji Telefilms, and Matchbox Shots.
Monika Shergill, Vice President of Content, Netflix India says: “With some studios we have a partnership to bring more of their films to the service, like the T series – we’ve done many films with them – Pooja Entertainment, RSVP, Red Chillies, they’ve been longtime partners. But across the board, we work with many.”
Shergil spoke with diverse On Monday, a day when Netflix in India celebrated Film Day, with a show of previously announced titles. “Where we come from, is to continue to expand the service, to continue to increase the reach, and to continue to reach newer and newer audiences. And that is where we, very carefully and very passionately, have curated our film slate, whether it be through originals, post-board Theatrical, which we connected with our partners,” Schergill says.
Movie Day celebrated with a mix of already released, previously announced and new titles, all in Hindi. Among them is Darlings, a domestic violence thriller co-produced and starring Bollywood A-lister Alia Bhatt, which debuted as the largest non-English original opening film for worldwide service.
Among the other titles shown on the film day was ‘Chakda Express’, a film based on the life of cricketer Golan Goswami starring Anushka Sharma. Thrilling robbery movie “Chor Nikal Ke Bhaga” starring Yami Gautam; ‘Joji’, set during the 1984 Delhi riots, starring Diljit Dosanjh and directed by Ali Abbas Zafar (“Sultan”), spelt ‘Kathal’, starring Sania Malhotra; The espionage film Vishal Bhardwaj “Khofiya” starring Tabu, Ali Fadl and Azmri Haq Badoun; and Vasan Bala whodunnit “Monica O My Darling” with Rajkummar Rao, Huma S. Qureshi and Radhika Apte.
Other titles appearing on that day included Shachanka Ghosh’s romantic comedy Plan A, Plan B starring Riteish Deshmukh and Tamana Bhatia. Intense drama “Castle” directed by Anvita Dutt. Adapted from Zoya Akhtar’s comic book “The Archies”; and the Hindi adaptation of “The Devotion of Suspect X”, written by Kareena Kapoor Khan and directed by Sujoy Ghosh (“Kahani”).
Shergil points out that Hindi films have appeared in non-English Netflix charts for 31 of the last 34 weeks, five Hindi titles have appeared in Netflix’s top 10 global charts this year and that the viewership of Hindi films on the service has increased by 50% since last year. The service’s top songs also include “Gangubai Kathiawadi”, “RRR” and “Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2”.
“It all points to not only the passion of Indian audiences for cinema in India, but also that we are doing something right, the kind of stories we choose, that we present to the audience, what we learn from them, the cues we get from them, and what they like, actually makes us give Best services,” Shergill says.
The CEO is optimistic about the growth of the broadcast device in the highly competitive Indian broadcast market. Besides increasing content in Hindi, the strategy in the next five years is to expand further on the steps it has taken in the South Indian languages Telugu, Tamil and Malayalam, both in post-theatrical acquisitions and in the release of the originals. The three languages are “a very big area of focus” and Netflix “is looking at a very strong group,” Schergill says, adding that as broadcast efforts have increased in dubbing and subtitling, audiences are becoming “more language-neutral.”
Shergil says India also has a strong portfolio of streaming companies that specifically cater to individual languages, but that Netflix has no plans in its roadmap to target these small languages, instead focusing on “large and diverse entertainment.” “I can tell you with confidence that at Netflix we are perhaps the only service, if you look into the future, to program the most diverse content across formats,” Shergill says. “When I say big, I mean big in size and ambition and we have a selection between local and global, catering to a wide range of audiences.”
Meanwhile, Shergil says that the Netflix roster is on the way to maturation, pointing to the success of the second season of the Delhi Crime series, which has proven to be a huge hit and an audience favourite.
“Broadcasting is a way where you can’t escape from what is at the heart of your story telling, and that’s great writing. Because the moment you open your app, you have so many options in front of you, and no one can force you to sit back and watch and spend your time on something,” he says. Shergil says. “What we’re looking for are great scripts.”