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Why are homegrown shows on Netflix such a letdown?

If big, famous directors want me to binge watch, then offer something less predictable.

March 14, 2021 / 09:00 AM IST

While the rest of the world is making American Vandal, Criminal, Stranger Things, Lupin, Kingdom and even shows that showcase the bare bottom of the Duke of Hastings, Netflix India seems to uphold cliche-ridden carcasses for the world to see.

We have wonderful actors and we have the ability to create fabulous shows like Delhi Crime and even the fun Lust Stories. But the rest? Why are so many India-based series so groan inducing?

I belong to a tribe that binge watches everything (so that you don’t have to). We also bitch about them endlessly on social media. But not one ‘India original’ show on Netflix makes me want to say, ‘This is better than Schitt's Creek.’

So here are red flags for the powers to be on Netflix. If the shows you’re commissioning has one or more of these, do us all a favour, just say no.

  1. Weddings: Matchmakers, planners, wannabe grooms and brides and their stories, destination weddings, unusual Indian weddings.

  2. Small town gangster stories. If they tell you, ‘This is how Anurag Kashyap, Tarantino or Scorsese would do it’, please spare us, we’d rather see the originals.

  3. ‘Bollywood’ lifestyle stories. These are as interesting as a block of six-day-old paneer even though you put it on Shah Rukh Khan’s table.

  4. Nostalgia tales about college hostels /boarding schools. Don’t want to see men peeing or getting drunk outside the girl’s hostel. Amitabh Bachchan did that in 1984.

  5. Faux Feminist: The successful single woman who curses like a sailor. Or have casual sex. Or get plastered with other women friends.

  6. Good gareeb middle class people living happy, funny lives in chawls. Don’t forget that lone plant hanging from a Dalda tin.

  7. Prostitutes with a golden heart who speak Bambaiya Hindi. Movies like Mandi (1983) showed more sensitivity that the predictable ‘Apun ko bhi ijjat mangtai’ or trash sex talk.

  8. Stories about political families that try to emulate Gulzar’s Aandhi but end up being social media troll bait.

  9. Bad rich people who live sad, lonely lives in fancy homes. Then their son marries outside the circle.

  10. Men in corporate roles who want to undermine female bosses. Younger women in the same scenario using their sex to climb up the corporate ladder.

  11. People having sex in bathrooms. Please no, I’m trying to have popcorn when I’m watching Netflix.

  12. Women taking off their shirts/blouses instantly in a sex situation. And you may call it a ‘gaze issue’ but the land of Kama Sutra is yet to show intimate scenes where you wish you were there in the scene. Please stick to Shah Rukh extending his arms and singing, ‘Main yahaan hoon, yahaan hoon, yahaan hoon, yahaan’.

  13. Teenage Angst. Why are we copying American teen shows for this? Most of it ends up as a voiceover, speaking of life experiences they haven’t a clue about. Most of the time you want to say, ‘Stop with the Insta scrolling. Did you learn your 17 times table?’ or ‘Drink your Horlicks!’ to these kids. It’s not ‘layered’ writing. It’s an easy way out.

  14. The entitled Journalist: From ‘I’m a journalist, you must tell me!’; super confident Journalists who are cocky and tell the editor, ‘You must publish this!’

  15. Policemen standing and staring at an empty fridge (showing how empty their personal lives are). If my neighbours know there’s half a shelf empty in my fridge, they’ll bring their dabbas in and occupy the space. Plus at work, the policeman has to deal with some drunk in a lockup who’s being rude to a woman (cop/complainant).

  16. Domestic help always ends up being Marathi. Why do they speak in that ‘kyaa maidam’ sing song tone? Why? And if they are, why is their colour sense so bizarre? Most domestic help is quite well dressed and neat, thank you. And no, they do not all have drunk husbands they cannot kick out of their homes.

  17. Poor people looking up at skyscrapers (lit up by fireworks) and saying, ‘I too will live there someday.’

  18. Talking to dead people. Whether they’re now stars in the sky or just in pictures in their wallet. Enough. In the same vein, elderly folk are shown as conniving or completely cuckoo.

  19. Lawyers as mean conniving machines, godlike doctors but admissions staff have to be nasty. This predictability of professions needs to be broken.

  20. Extreme closeups of sweaty, hairy faces hiding from impending threat from man or beast. We don’t expect people and settings to be as beautiful as in Made In Heaven, but do we need to see nose hair?

I am sure some stereotypes will be used again to make a point in the story. But the audience wants more. If big, famous directors want me to binge watch, then offer something less predictable. If young and upcoming names want the attention of this audience bring something that drags them away from Friends. The audience no longer respects you just because women need empowerment, or small town lads need that break. Earn it. Or there are other tales from other realms...
Manisha Lakhe is a poet, film critic, traveller, founder of Caferati — an online writer’s forum, hosts Mumbai’s oldest open mic, and teaches advertising, films and communication.
first published: Mar 13, 2021 09:43 am

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