Lesson for Bollywood

EducationWorld February 2021 | Postscript

With hundreds of millions of industry professionals and business people obliged to work from home and schools and higher education institutions shut down for months on end, OTT (defined “as a means of providing television and film content over the Internet at the request and to suit the requirements of the individual consumer”) content providers such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Videos have completely transformed the movies and television entertainment industries. For educated middle class Indians fed up with the tedious, ill-scripted blood and thunder, song-n-dance formula movies produced by the brain-dead badshahs of Bollywood and its regional clones, OTT content has come as huge compensation for the Covid-19 pandemic which has swept the world and India, and prompted the lockdown of industry, business and education institutions since last March.

The brilliant brain wave of Reed Hastings, promoter of Netflix, and Jeff Bezos of Amazon Prime is that they commissioned serious and intelligent movie directors in India (and other countries) to provide cinema which also informs and educates the public. For mysterious reasons, Bollywood movie moguls haven’t grasped the reality that India’s educated upper middle class audience is as numerous as the entire populations of Britain and France.

Despite your correspondent in previous avatars as editor of Business India and Businessworld having written pioneer features on Bollywood’s unnecessarily high-risk business model, the film industry’s moguls never grasped market segmentation. On the other hand, Netflix’s co-founders Reed Hastings and Marc Randolph, and later Jeff Bezos who hopped aboard the global Internet connectivity wagon in the late 1990s, have been quick to co-opt the cultivated middle class as subscribers by producing high quality, locally directed, realistic, low-cost feature films such as A Suitable Boy, White Tiger, the stories of Rabindranath Tagore, among others. Such slicing and dicing of audience markets is beyond the capabilities of Bollywood producers who are destined to ride into the sunset in the near future.

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