Netflix just released a breakdown of India’s binge-watching habits across the first two years of the streaming service’s presence in India. The country’s love for entertainment on the big and small screens fueled excitement for Netflix’s Indian expansion, and with hundreds of hours of quality content now readily available, we have unprecedented opportunity to indulge this enthusiasm.
At a glance, the films Indians choose to watch first bear few surprises; the list is dominated by big-name Bollywood flicks that Netflix has managed to pick up. Dangal, Bahubaali 2, and Raees were all box-office monsters, and it is reasonable that people have either wanted to re-watch these movies, or catch up on what they missed out on following the hype. The first surprise on the list is B.A. Pass at fourth place. The film features no big stars and grossed only six crores on a two crore budget, but still manages to beat out heavy-hitters such as Piku and Udta Punjab. The film was, however, met with significant critical acclaim and award show recognition, which would have bolstered its reputation in the five years since its release. B.A Pass was also noted for its explicit portrayal of extra-marital affairs, which may have contributed to a predilection to choose it for solo, late-night viewing. The three English movies on the list are genuinely bizarre; No Strings Attached, Now You See Me 2, and Friends With Benefits find themselves at ninth, tenth, and twelfth places respectively. No Strings Attached and Friends With Benefits are both best remembered for being almost the same film independently released by different studios in the same year. Only speculation could explain India’s fondness for these two movies portraying casual relationships turned gradually serious, as both received middling critical and commercial response. Now You See Me 2 is also a confusing entry, as it opened to generally negative reviews which labelled it a lukewarm, ill-conceived sequel. However, the film does boast a robust cast and was recently released, so it is conceivable that curiosity convinced enough viewers to give it a try.
Netflix defines a binge as finishing a full-length season within one week of starting a show. The most popular show to binge first was Narcos, the dramatic retelling of the true story of the infamous Cali Cartel. It is not surprising that the show tops the list; it is superbly well-written and entertaining, and the audience is left wanting more after each episode. It is difficult to start Narcos and not burn through the first season in a week. The list is marked by the heavy presence of Netflix original series, with the top four shows on the list all produced in-house by the company. These shows get the most promotion on the site, and with our lower name recognition for foreign content than local audiences, it is understandable why we are not motivated to experiment. The Crown, a series based on the life of a young Queen Elizabeth, finds itself at seventh place on the list, a mark of our continued fascination with the British. Rounding out the list is Riverdale, a murder-mystery adaptation of the beloved Archie comics, which still enjoy shelf-space at any Indian bookstore.
As Netflix grows in the country and moves toward creating locally produced content specifically made for Indian audiences, it will be interesting to see if domestic television content has the ability to compete with foreign shows in the same way the film industry does. The move could mark a new era in Indian television, with the potential to revolutionize the industry in terms of content quality and scope.
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