Indian filmmakers are taking to the web world like a fish takes to water. Almost every filmmaker, and production house worth their salt, has got into the business of producing web series for the starved Indian viewer. From production house biggies like Karan Johar’s Dharma Productions, and Shah Rukh Khan’s Red Chillies Entertainment, to upcoming production houses like Anushka Sharma’s Clean Slate Films; from well known directors like Ram Madhvani to Neeraj Pandey and E Niwas, to newbies like Mayank Sharma and Avinash Arun, the OTT space is attracting filmmakers like bees to honey.
While this certainly is good news for Indian content, there’s a common and quite irritating issue with our web content — the excessively long-drawn-out and self-indulgent style of filmmaking. It seems as if the freedom to tell their stories in five, six or more hours, instead of the usual crisp 2 to 2 & 1/2 hrs, has made our filmmakers go crazy with their storytelling — like a kid given free rein in a candy store.
Thus, stories that should ideally wind up in six or so crisp episodes go on and on for eight, ten or — horror of horrors — twelve episodes. With each episode upwards of 45 minutes! And all that the story does for all those hours is roam and ramble, wind and wander, maunder and meander — stumbling tortuously towards the end. The only thing that such long-winded storytelling does is kill the gripping and intrigue of the show, and along with it, the interest of the viewer. The slow, languid, indulgent pace is another irritant. It’s almost as if the creator has forgotten that it is not a self-absorbed whimsical home video they are making, but a series that has to cut the ice with thousands of finicky viewers out there — viewers with an abundance of content to watch, on tens of platforms.
Consider the recently released Amazon Prime Video marquee show, Breathe Into The Shadows. It is a whopper of a series with 12 episodes, each 45 – 55 minutes long. The series clocks in at a humongous 9 hours of runtime. Funny thing is, the ‘big reveal’, aka the big twist, of the kidnapping and murder thriller, happens at the end of the fifth episode. After that, it’s a torturous, tedious look at the whys and wherefores of the antagonist’s life – flashbacks take up more of the plot in the later episodes than what’s happening in the present.
Sushmita Sen’s Aarya, another recently released show, suffers likewise – its initial episodes drag beyond belief, getting you bored and worked up about the slobbering pace of the series. Thankfully it recovers in the later episodes, before one tunes out for good.
Same is the case with shows like Kaafir, Special Ops, Bard Of Blood, and so many others, in the Indian milieu. You just cannot watch these shows without hitting the fast forward button several times in the long winding proceedings. The plot just seems to stretch like chewing gum, moving us to disinterested boredom by the end. Despite weaving a unique story, they lose the plot with their leisurely style of self-indulgent filmmaking.
On the opposite side of the spectrum are shows like The Family Man, Hundred, Paatal Lok, Mirzapur, Sacred Games 1, etc. These series zip through the storyline at scorching speed, taking us along in their helter-skelter, bumpy but fun ride. We end up loving the show, and recommending it to all and sundry.
To put it honestly and bluntly, in this day of more content available on OTT than there’s time to watch it, viewers lose interest quickly, and more often than not, move on to watching other, faster-paced series. Granted that streaming platforms have paid huge monies to get an A-lister to star in their series, and seek to get the most bang out of their buck. But making long winded series to compensate and utilise their star’s time is not the best way to go about it.
Instead, why not expend energy in creating content that is gripping, absorbing, fast-paced and stands the test of time? Slow tedious shows will likely disappear into the shadows of time, appearing dated and boring were someone to watch them several years hence.
Today’s is the age of too much — of everything — too much content, too much quality, too many streaming platforms. But amidst all the ‘too much’, there’s a whole lot of too little — too little time, too little patience, too little attention span.
It’ll do our filmmakers good if they find their own middle ground between the too much and too little — too much in the content quality; and too little in the dragging slow pace. It is then that they will hit the sweet spot of great content creation.
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