In its century long existence, the Indian content market has been accepting of all kinds of global influences, narratives and technique. Why has this influence not been a two way street?
Indian entertainment has always been inspired by stories from other cultures and markets. In its century long existence, the Indian content market has been accepting of all kinds of global influences, narratives and technique. Why have there been few instances of Indian stories traveling to other territories over the years? Why has this influence not been a two way street?
Strength Of Diverse Content Landscapes
A nation with as much culture, history, and diversity as ours should be a veritable storyteller's dream come true. We have not one but several content and entertainment industries which make up Indian cinema. However, there has been an erroneous characterisation of Indian cinema as purely Bollywood. We have shied away from or held back from harnessing the strength of diversity of the Indian content industry and storytelling in the past.
Today the tides have changed. Take for example, the exceptional documentary The Elephant Whisperers, that became the first ever Indian production to win the world's biggest cinematic accolade, the Oscars. In the past, we may have held back from narrating a story like this to a mainstream audience foreseeing the challenge of not finding an audience. But today that isn't the case.
When the Oscar-winning song ‘Natu Natu’ from India was mistaken for a Bollywood song, we were in the position of educating the international audience about the presence of the South Indian film industry and other industries present alongside the Hindi industry. This indicates that it is time for the narrative to shift and for India to create stories that can travel across the world by harnessing the collective strength of the Indian film industry.
Local Market Push For Global Content Creation
The Indian viewer has become more accepting and the credit rightly goes to an exposure to a gamut of genres and superior content from any and every corner of the world. While formulaic content still resonates and is not going anywhere anytime soon, stories that are unique and are brave, are definitely gaining popularity among the masses. A maker who has a new voice and the courage to swim oblique to the tide is more likely to be heard and lauded.
The OTT and digital landscape have changed the content game. With ‘star value’ and ‘big releases’ not being the only parameters of success and the viewer turning more confident about their content choices, content creators have become braver. They are ready to tell stories they would otherwise shy away from due to ‘commercial’ or 'popular' benchmarks. The stage has been set by the average Indian viewer who is also now a global content consumer. The characteristic shift in local demand has paved the way to create stories that are global and local in nature.
Learning From Successful Content Providers
India has a lot to learn from the success of markets like Israel, Korea, and Turkey, who over the past decade have successfully paved the way for local stories to go global in a significant way. The storylines of these cinemas no matter how local in nature, had plots which could take place anywhere in the world. With the right kind of storytelling and characters that strike a chord, these content industries found global markets for their TV, OTT and Cinema content. The universality of emotionally driven stories and the quality of production added to the success of these content from these territories. India has a tremendous opportunity to expand its success in producing high-quality and abundant content and walk the same path. And guess what, we have scale on our side.
Today, stories that are fundamentally Indian in origin are finding a proud place on the global mantle, specifically those that come from the heartlands, folklore, or even mythology. The world is ready to see what India is all about, what makes it unique and how we stand out from the rest of the world.
Betting Big On India
Due to the availability of Indian material on OTT, audiences from other countries are now discovering and sampling more Indian content. International players like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video are investing efforts in creating Indian projects given the evolved audiences they are catering to. With great storytellers ready to tell stories of India and global players ready to invest in distributing it, what is stopping India to be a global content provider?
(Vaibhav Modi is founder-director of Victor Tango Entertainment.)