Netflix Targets Indian Viewers with Tie-ups with Shah Rukh, Anurag Kashyap


Netflix has partnered with Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan’s production house Red Chillies Entertainment to produce a multilingual series based on the novel Bard of Blood by Bilal Siddiqi.

Netflix founder and CEO Reed Hastings expressed his excitement about the original productions in India. “We are thrilled to work with a brilliant, young writer like Bilal Siddiqi and take his gripping, inventive storytelling to Netflix members worldwide,” said Hastings.

The web-streaming global giant faces stiff competition in the Indian market, which according to a study conducted by them, loves watching television in the public. Star India’s HotStar already has 63 million subscribers but Netflix has only 4.2 million so far. Teaming up with one of the biggest star’s in India and one of the highest-paid actors globally is a move that aims to boost their business.

Also in the market is Viu, a fledgling compared to HotStar, and AltBalaji.

“We don’t have as much regional content as we would like to have. The ambition for us is to keep doubling (the amount) of our content. Since 2016, we have doubled our content library. And if you compare now to 12 months ago, there is a lot more Indian content,” Jessica Lee, the Vice President of Communications at Netflix, had said last month.

One of the other big budget shows with a Bollywood star is Sacred Games, a book written by novelist and screenwriter Vikram Chandra, in which Saif Ali Khan plays the lead. Sacred Games is produced in partnership with Anurag Kashyap’s Phantom Films. It is also a thriller, just like the Red Chillies series, involving the police in Mumbai. The shooting for the series is going on.

The multiple players in the web-streaming market is also good for the content creators. “What that is doing is everybody bidding for content, to have the most valuable content. So the prices now for creators now are increasing. And there are more shows and movies getting produced than ever before,” Hastings told CNBC-TV18 in an interview.

Bard of Blood, which gets its name from Shakespeare himself, will be made into an eight-episode political espionage thriller. Siddiqi claims that the book was “researched with the assistance of U.S. and Indian intelligence agents, war correspondents and the crime veteran S. Hussain Zaidi.” The Penguin-published book will “take you on a thrilling journey from the power corridors of RAW to the war-torn terrain of Balochistan.”

Khan said in a statement: “We have always tried to create world-class content and entertainment from India. Netflix has shown that Indian stories have a global audience and we would love to use this platform and its reach to tell more stories.”

Venky Mysore, CEO, Red Chillies, said: “We can’t wait to bring this thrilling nail-biter to screens around the world.”

The book is about an expelled spy and is set in the Indian subcontinent. The book seems nothing short of an action-packed Bollywood movie, where the hero has to go back to a violent past life to avenge injustices on him.

According to Red Chillies, the series will involve “intricate, highly stylized action sequences never before seen on screen in India.”

“There couldn’t have been a bigger moment in my life. My first book – TheBardOfBlood – is going to be a Netflix Original series soon,” said Siddiqi on his Facebook page. Siddiqi was 20 when his book hit the shelves in March 2015. He has written two more books besides Bard of Blood.

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