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What Bollywood Can Pick Up from the Digital Revolution #Digital #SuperCinema #ByInvitation

Note: This piece was written by Nikhil Taneja (@tanejamainhoonfor Super Cinema. An edited version of the piece can be found here: https://goo.gl/2AXwVJ 

If we had to look back at 2016 and talk about its highlight in terms of an international pop culture phenomenon, we wouldn’t be talking of a film but instead a Netflix show – Stranger Things. This is not an anomaly. In India too, from Permanent Roommates Season 2 to Ladies Room this year, content on digital platforms has broken out among the youth in a way films haven’t managed to.

The fact is that narrative on digital across the world caters to the same audience that buys movie tickets: the young 18-30 segment, who constitute not just the target demographic but also the protagonists in most films made today. But save a few inventive movies that side step the Bollywood formula (most hits this year, from Neerja to Pink to Airlift, have little to no ‘masala’ in them), movies in India are still predominantly star-first, content-second.

As attention spans of audiences decline, and smartphone usage and internet consumption continue growing at a rapid pace, we are today on the brink of a content revolution led by internet creators and creative talent on the web. Fortunately, it’s never going to come down to an either-or choice between film and any other medium, as audiences have proven that medium is temporary, storytelling is permanent. But there’s still a lot that Bollywood can learn from the internet content revolution to stay relevant to its core audience:

Focus on stories that *must* be told: If there’s one thing that web has proven as a fact today, it is that there are no substitutes to good stories. A myopic way of looking at the internet is only through its freedom from censorship, but creators and digital studios know that while sex and SRK can get you views, the kind of cultural impact that a Pitchers or Man’s World can have stems from just one basic truth: the audience wants good stories.

‘Actors’ are the real ‘stars’: The internet has also gone against the grain by diverging form the ‘star’ system and putting its faith and backing behind good actors who may not be names, or even traditionally chiselled and sculpted. The viralability factor of the internet today comes from not how big the star is but how able the actor is and how convincingly he/she can act. From Naveen Kasturia to Angira Dhar, the internet today creates the star.

The force is with the writers: On the internet, the writer is king. Whether or not the show has scale or stars, whether it caters to the urban elite or the rural cool, unless the writing is great on paper, the audience will see through it. The internet never forgives or forgets so it is imperative that the writers take lead to give the audience content that doesn’t take them for granted.

Risktaking is the key: Fortune favours the brave and there is no better case in point for this than the success of the digital narrative. From tackling issues like abortion to sex education, the internet has shown that the riskier the content and the more it pushes boundaries in terms of cast, producer and director, the more likely it will attract good filmmakers who thrive by doing content that is off-mainstream, in that, it tries to represent the under-represented or voiceless.

There is no formula! Ultimately, digital has convincingly proven, in more cases than one – there is no formula to what works. On this medium, a massy show about two crazy families is just as big as a seemingly niche show about conversations between women in loos. Until you follow up something that has worked, with something that you have no idea will, you will never truly achieve a cult following of loyal fans on the internet who will support your brand in any form, manner or genre!


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Note: This interview first appeared in Super Cinema Magazine in the October 2016 issue.
Link: http://www.supercinema.co.in/what-bollywood-can-pick-up-from-the-digital-revolution/
Picture courtesy: Google. None of the pictures are owned by the author all rights belong to the original owner(s) and photographer(s).
© Copyright belongs to the author, Nikhil Taneja. The article may not be reproduced without permission. A link to the URL, instead, would be appreciated.



Note: This piece was written by Nikhil Taneja (@tanejamainhoonfor Scholastic Yearbook 2015. The book can be bought here: https://goo.gl/JX06qa

At the fag end of September 2015, the top rated shows on Indian television were: Saath Nibhana Saathiya, Ye Hai Mohabbatein and Diya aur Baati (Star Plus), Sasural Simar Ka, Swaragini and Udaan (Colors TV), Kumkum Bhagya and Jamai Raja (Zee TV), and Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah (Sab TV). Sound familiar?

Yes, if 2014 shows like Abhinay Deo’s 24, Anurag Kashyap’s Yudh and Vipul Shah’s Pukaar were hinting towards exciting times ahead for Indian television, 2015 showed that the more things change, the more they remain the same. Indian television circled back to the same old formula of women-led soap operas, even as international television seemed to be at a watershed moment in its history.

Because September 2015 was also the month American TV honoured the very best in television at its flagship Primetime Emmy Awards. And for the first time in the history of its 67 years, the biggest winners were cable and streaming TV, instead of good old network television. Cable network HBO swept the awards with a grand total of 43 Emmys, whereas streaming networks like Netflix and Amazon also took home a few big ones.

To give some context: this would be like YouTube comedy groups AIB and TVF or the newly launched digital platform Hotstar.com taking home the biggest awards over Star Plus, Colors and Zee TV at an Indian Television Awards night!

And for all you know, in the next couple of years, that may just happen. Because if there was one major development in Indian television in 2015, it was the prospect of internet being the new TV. With the rise of internet collectives like The Viral Fever, whose original fiction series Pitchers, has over 1.5 million views on each of its six episodes, and the launch of streaming mobile and digital platforms like hotstar, which has both announced huge plans for original content, ‘television’ viewing may be all set to change. In fact, HotStar’s first series is a best of both worlds, with comedy group All India Bakchod teaming up with them for a news-based series.

Both TV and film studios are also joining the race to be the next ‘Netflix’ – and there are plans for the original Netflix to come to India too – so we’re up for some fun times ahead. ErosNow, the streaming platform from Eros International, has announced three big-budget TV series, with filmmakers like Rohan Sippy and actors like Bipasha Basu associated with them.  Yash Raj Films, on the other hand, has already launched its first original series, Man’s World, through its youth division, Y Films, while Balaji Telefilms, not to be left behind, has promised ‘edgy’ content too, to exploit the fact that there’s no censorship on the internet.

By next year, it is all too likely that television may want to change its programming to keep up with all the exciting things happening on the digital front, but at the moment, just like the audiences, television network heads prefer to wait and watch.

Five Indian Television Highlights:

One more English channel – There has never been a better to time to be a fan of English-language entertainment in India. There are already about 10 channels providing the same in India, Star World being the biggest, but Viacom18 has extended its Colors’ brand to start yet another GEC, Colors Infinity. With Karan Johar and Alia Bhatt curating the programming, and original English-language shows lined up, it remains to be seen whether it or not it will be a gamechanger.

Two Food Channels – If the popularity of Masterchef India, Junior Masterchef India, Farah Ki Dawat, Sanjeev Kapoor, and food in general, it was only time before more channels dedicated to food popped up. Food Food has already been doing well, and now, with Living Foodz entering the segment with English and Hindi language shows, it looks like too many cooks aren’t spoiling any broths at the moment.

Three Sports Leagues – The Indian Premiere League may be guilty on many counts, like Lalit Modi and reducing the ‘gentleman’s game’ to Wham, Bam, Thank you Ma’am entertainment, but it’s certainly done great wonders for other sports in the country. The idea of ‘Sports Leagues’ has caught on and how, proven by the smashing, celebrity-driven seasons of The Pro Kabaddi League, The Indian Super League, and the Indian Badminton League.

Four New and Improved Reality Shows – Dance, Music, Comedy and Adventure based reality shows are proven hits in India. This year too, a new entrant in each genre – Dance Plus in Dance, The Voice in Music, Comedy Nights Bachao in Comedy and the upcoming ‘I Can Do That in Adventure – has upped the excitement about each.

Five Fresh Ideas That Made An Impact – The official remake of Everybody Loves Raymond, Sumit Sambhal Lega, was appreciated for re-versioning Indian sitcoms; Chakravartin Ashoka Samrat’s fresh treatment of the show made it a big success, Reporters, was a novel idea that got a lot of love, Stories by Rabindranath Tagore was a stimulating piece of work by Anurag Basu, and TVF’s Pitchers was the first big internet series that proved that the audiences are ready for many more fresh ideas.

Five International Television Highlights:

One Indian star on an American TV show: At the time of publishing, Priyanka Chopra-starrer American TV show Quantico had just opened – to glowing reviews – but it was left to be seen how it would do ratings-wise. But if there’s anything that months of outstanding promotions with Chopra’s face plastered across billboards in New York and LA proved, it’s that American TV probably has its first big Bollywood star.

Two super hit network shows:  Empire and How to Get Away with Murder, as two shows that wore their diversity (behind the scenes and in front of the camera) on their sleeves, proved to critics that network TV isn’t going to go away anytime soon, but the trick is fresh voices, diverse faces, and dramatic content.

Three ends of eras – David Letterman retired from The Late Show after 22 years, Jon Stewart moved on from The Daily Show after 19 years and Mad Men ended after 8 years. American pop culture as a whole will never be the same again after 2015.

Four superheroes on the small screen – The big war between Marvel and DC comics spilled from the big screen to the small, with both DC Entertainment and Marvel Studios making a push to take over the television landscape. While DC’s big wins came through The Flash and Gotham, Marvel’s Daredevil and Agent Carter proved that the TV crown is still up for the taking.

Five shows to prove Netflix is here to stay – With the debut seasons of three big-budget and big-casted shows with big ambitions, Narcos, Sense8 and Bloodline, and two ace follow up seasons of House of Cards and Orange is the New Black, Netflix has proved this year that it wasn’t only on HBO’s trail… it may just have surpassed it.

Follow the blog on your left and like The Tanejamainhoon Page on FB: /tanejamainhoonpage
Follow Nikhil Taneja on FB: /tanejamainhoonon Twitter:
@tanejamainhoonon Instagram:@tanejamainhoon,

on Youtube: /tanejamainhoon

Liked/disliked the piece? Leave your comments below!
Note: This piece first appeared in The Scholastic Yearbook 2015.
Link: http://www.amazon.in/Scholastic-Yearbook-2015-No/dp/9351036588?ie=UTF8&keywords=scholastic%20yearbook%202015&qid=1477772519&ref_=sr_1_1&sr=8-1
Picture courtesy: Google. None of the pictures are owned by the author all rights belong to the original owner(s) and photographer(s).
© Copyright belongs to the author, Nikhil Taneja. The article may not be reproduced without permission. A link to the URL, instead, would be appreciated.


Note: This piece was written by Nikhil Taneja (@tanejamainhoon) in November 2015 for The Juice. An edited version of the piece can be found here: http://goo.gl/VnU3Xk

The story of the birth of The Viral Fever (TVF), one of India’s only two independently owned YouTube channels with over a million subscribers, is stuff of legend amongst content creators today. When TVF’s founder and CEO, Arunabh Kumar’s, original TV series pitch to MTV India went south, Kumar put out a spoof on YouTube, called ‘Rowdies’, a piss take on MTV’s biggest show, Roadies, that went on to amass 3.5 million views (and counting).

That was three years ago, and YouTube in India was used primarily by broadcast and film studios to put out trailers, songs and the odd TV content. When ‘Rowdies’ went viral, it gave birth to a whole new medium of pop culture in India –  YouTube. As the video content-streaming site celebrates its 10th year anniversary, it’s amassed 60 million unique subscribers in India (as per comScore), and is today, arguably, the prime source of entertainment consumption amongst the youth in India.

In an Interview with Forbes Magazine in March, Head of Content & Operations of YouTube India, Satyanarayan Raghavan said that within the last two years, India’s climbed up to be in the top five content countries for YouTube globally. And a whole lot of it has to do with original content creators like TVF and All India Bakchod (AIB), as much as it has to do with youth channels like MTV India and Channel [V] struggling to stay relevant with tried-and-tested, ‘safe’ content.

Where the internet wins over TV, and even movies, is that there is no fear of censorship on it. Content creators can write biting satire and push boundaries in terms of genres, ideas, formats and even lingo (All India ‘Bakchod’ and Bollywood ‘Gandu’ are two of the most popular YouTube channels). So it’s not a surprise that the list of the top 10 videos on YouTube India in 2014 included ‘Bollywood Aam Aadmi Party’, a TVF satire on politics, ‘Ali Bhatt – Genius of the Year’, an AIB satire on Bollywood. These are themes that you’d be surprised to see being made fun of by archaic broadcast networks.

What has also certainly helped is the rise of content-sharing websites like Buzzfeed and Scoopwhoop, that make discoverability of good and ‘viral’ content much easier. Today, brands are grappling to be associated with AIB, TVF and other comedy groups like SnG Comedy and EIC, as well as individual talent like Kanan Gill and Aditi Mittal. eCommerce portal SnapDeal tied up with AIB for an undisclosed amount, while rumour has it that online real estate site CommonFloor paid almost a Crore to TVF for its original fiction series, Permanent Roommates, which has amassed around 7.5 million views over 5 episodes.

If the sold-out YouTube fan fest this year that saw thousands of screaming teenage fans go nuts over YouTube stars like Gill and Indo-Canadian Superwoman, is anything to go by, edgy comedy has broken the Indian internet and it may just be too late for youth TV to play catch up.

Five Must-Watch YouTube Series in India so far (Click to watch)
1. Baked (ScoopWhoop)
2. Bang Bajaa Baaraat (Y-Films)
3. Man’s World (Y-Films)
4. Permanent Roommates (TVF)
5. Pitchers (TVF)

Disclaimer: I’m the Associate Producer of the Y-Films series, Man’s World and Bang Baaja Baaraat and hence, they are not mentioned in the piece (conflict of interest!)

Follow the blog on your left and like The Tanejamainhoon Page on FB: /tanejamainhoonpage
Follow Nikhil Taneja on FB: /tanejamainhoonon Twitter:
@tanejamainhoonon Instagram:@tanejamainhoon,
on Youtube: /tanejamainhoon

Liked/disliked the piece? Think I’m awesome or really, really not? Leave your comments below 🙂
Note: This piece first appeared in The Juice in the November 2015 issue. An edited version of the story can be found here: http://www.jabong.com/juicestyle/magazine/web-series/
Picture courtesy: Google. None of the pictures are owned by the author all rights belong to the original owner(s) and photographer(s).
© Copyright belongs to the author, Nikhil Taneja. The article may not be reproduced without permission. A link to the URL, instead, would be appreciated.