It’s the year 2020, and it won’t be an exaggeration to say we find ourselves amidst a full-blown streaming war. Some parts of the world have been witnessing it for years, but now the local players and branches of international platforms have begun developing their arsenal, hoping to knock out opponents, capture countries and come out triumphant in the war. If content really is king, then it’s Amazon’s Video-streaming platform Prime Video, that has the best claim to the throne in India based on recent web series releases.
However, it would be unfair to discard what other platforms brought to the table. Worldwide leader of the streaming battle, the child of prophecy Netflix, has been dominating on the global front, with two of its gems, The Irishman and Marriage Story, sweeping up the 2020 Academy Award nominations. But translating that success in India has been anything but smooth, despite CEO Reed Hastings explicitly mentioning the intention of targeting users in the country with increased investment.
Netflix India did unearth a gem in Shefali Shah starrer Delhi Crime, a retelling of 2012’s Nirbhaya rape case which took place in Delhi, but much of its other content seemed lacklustre. Its high-profile release Sacred Games season 2 and Leila divided opinion, while original films such as Chopsticks, Upstarts and House Arrest, despite having interesting concepts, just could not gain enough traction. There’s no point in even talking about the disaster that Dharma Productions’ Drive was.
Local players also had a decent year. The Viral Fever a.k.a TVF delivered two massive hits in Kota Factory and Tripling, while also subtly keeping the ball rolling with Cheesecake and Cubicles. ZEE5 surprised the viewers with Kaafir, a stunning portrayal of the quest to prove a Pakistani woman’s innocence and ALTBalaji won the ‘romance’ genre with Broken But Beautiful 2. Hotstar has the biggest user base in the country, but its insistence in remaking western shows, Criminal Justice, The Office and Out of Love for example, held it back.
Prime Video, on the other hand, maintained its consistency throughout. Its first masterstroke coming in the form of Made in Heaven, where Zoya Akhtar’s prowess as a director was on full display. It’s beyond belief how many themes she manages to fit in this web series that follows a wedding planning agency, which also ends up exposing the superficial garb of certain Indian marriages. Not to mention the talent that it brings forth; Sobhita Dhulipala, Arjun Mathur and Sashank Arora to name a few who transcend their previously showcased levels.
Speaking of talent, is there anybody who ranks above Manoj Bajpayee? The versatile actor once again gave a performance encapsulating his seemingly limitless potential in The Family Man. He makes it hard to imagine anybody else as an intelligence officer trying, and struggling, to balance his work life and family. The whole concept of the show seemed so fresh and welcome break from the spy titles which have way too much brawn and too little brain behind them.
Its collaboration with TVF to create Hostel Daze also bore fruit as the web series won approval for both viewers and critics. Other titles such as Laakhon Mein Ek 2 and Inside Edge 2, though failing to create the waves that Made in Heaven and The Family Man manage, did find their own audience. While it did have its own misfires in the form of Mind the Malhotras and One Mic Stand, the overall quality more than compensates for it.
With so many feathers in its cap, it’s fair to say the Prime Video out-fought its competitors in 2019. And there are no signs of slowing down. Its first release of 2020, The Forgotten Army- Azaadi Ke Liye, is already winning hearts of viewers as well as garnering critical acclaim. Furthermore, with 13 other Original web series and seasons lined up for the year and increased investment in Indian content, the platform has loaded its armoury already. It’s time for retaliation, can any platform strike back?
Also Read: Top 5 International web series of 2019