Wild Wild India

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‘Jeff Bezos wants Amazon Studios to find its own Game of Thrones,’ was the headlines a few months ago in The Fortune. Clearly the cash cow for the group, Amazon Prime was trying to find its feet in a game dominated by Netflix for quite some time globally.

The situation in India doesn’t differ much. As the purists say there are a maximum of 3 apps a normal person downloads in any category. Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hotstar seems to have cracked the spots. While Hotstar was present before the others, a focus on sports, IPL and GOT got them the eyeballs and relevance in a cricket crazy nation. Though Netflix entered the scene a year before Amazon, series like ‘Breaking Bad’ and ‘Orange is the New Black’ could only cut ice with a few of the globe trotters. Moreover, Amazon’s strategy of low pricing and bundling with e-commerce would have been an easy bait for a country that rates shopping as one of the top 3 reasons even while choosing vacation destinations.

But Indian audience has a mind of its own and rightly so, as they are on top when it comes to contributing to the least percentage of revenue share of Hollywood movies as compared to indigenous ones. Thus emerged a scramble for indigenization and Indian originals for all the foreign OTT platforms.

Amazon’s ‘Inside Edge’ on cricket wasn’t edgy enough while the star studded ‘Breathe’ couldn’t give the channel a high. Netflix has announced a few series like ‘Selection Day’ and ‘Sacred Games’—yet to be released on the platform this year.

But what seems to have tilted the game in Netflix’s favor is a series which was launched quietly without much fanfare, probably because of the controversial nature of the subject. ‘Wild Wild Country’—a series about the controversial godman—‘Osho’ Rajneesh, his secretary Ma Anand Sheela and the ‘forgotten’ chaos that—Rajneeshpuram—a small town in Oregon created.

5 reasons why it is doing well, especially in India:

Relevance: Rajneesh was controversial in the ‘80s and ‘90s – an era where most of the current adult population were growing up and had heard of him, without knowing much about him.

Controversy: He was all about free sex and hedonism—an idea that appeals to most youth even today. The main narrator—Ma Anand Sheela—herself was controversial and scheming. Other women who fought for Osho’s attention are also featured, almost a hen fight at some point!
Hedonism—a highly aspirational topic with millennials, was even peddled by Hugh Heffner whose biography on Amazon—American Playboy—was marred by poor story telling.

Story telling: The series has been scripted excellently with a lot of exclusive footage and interviews of key people who were instrumental in the making and breaking of Rajneeshpuram and Osho.

Religion and Politics: It depicts a conflict between the state and the church—a favorite subject for most, especially at a time when religion seems to be diving the world. Moreover, the involvement of American authorities at the highest level is an icing on the cake.

Violence: From guns to bombs to chemical warfare, this series has conspiracies which even the best of the Hollywood films don’t.

Moreover, involvement of famous people like the founder of Nike, Producer of ‘Godfather’ makes it a complete package. Now that Netflix has fired its first salvo, it would be interesting to observe the strategy of Amazon. They seem to have got one thing right though – hiring industry veteran and ex-Voot head Gaurav Gandhi to be the India head—a position that had been vacant for over half a year.

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