THE ADVENT OF OTT (OVER-THE-TOP) choice-based cinema and television series from around the world has given a new lease of life to India’s floundering film industry, Bollywood in particular. With well-scripted and intelligent movies produced by cinema and entertainment corporations such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hotstar among others accessible to a new generation of Indian film producers and directors, the stranglehold of old-style Bollywood moguls churning out musicals typecasting outsize heroes and implausibly pasty-white heroines has been broken. Suddenly expensive big-budget movies featuring supermen, helpless heroines, and fantastic special effects — Samrat Prithviraj, Lal Singh Chaddha, Liger and Dhaakad — have started failing at the box office. On the other hand, one can stumble across some well-conceived movies with intelligent plot lines which often capture the gritty reality, crime, corruption and grim lives that the overwhelming majority of citizens are obliged to endure in this sham socialist society.
Recently, your editor who neither had the time nor inclination to endure Bollywood melodrama has been pleasantly surprised and engaged by Netflix and Amazon Prime-commissioned movies such as 83, Thar, Khakee, notable for their realism and rootedness in the prevailing socio-economic milieu. Simultaneously despite some notable flops, conventional Indian cinema has also become technically better and continues to draw huge crowds in the rural hinterland and in countries of the Middle East. This combination of new age and traditional cinema opens up the prospect of breaking the soft power monopoly of Hollywood.
The entrepreneurial drive and risk-taking capabilities of OTT producers who have grasped that India’s educated middle class is a huge market in terms of numbers, even if not as a percentage of the population, has inadvertently generated prospects of our socio-economically laggard republic emerging as a global soft power nation. That’s one advantage we have over China, if our indigenous morality police doesn’t throw a spanner in the works.