Streaming is driving a ‘golden age’ for Indian drama

Award-winning actor, Rasika Dugal, has never had more work, or been recognised more often.

The Indian actor’s star is rising – she will soon be seen in the second season of drama, Delhi Crime on Netflix and in the film, Lord Curzon Ki Haveli. She is also currently working on a unnamed TV series.
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But it hasn’t always been this way. Like many actors, her early years in the industry were tough and frustrating. Ms Dugal worked on films that were never released and those that did reach the box office, did not attract much of an audience.

“While working on those films was a very fulfilling experience as a performer, the films didn’t reach the audience I felt they deserved,” she says.

When it came to distribution, the small films she worked on just did not have the marketing budgets to compete with the big blockbuster movies, so struggled to find an audience.

“All the popular and convenient screens and show timings [at cinemas] would already be taken by the bigger film,” Ms Dugal explains.

But everything changed for her in 2018, when she starred in Mirzapur, a crime thriller series from Amazon Prime Video. Her role as the manipulative character Beena Tripathi, won her awards and work flooded in.

“The coming of steaming platforms has transformed my career. Not only in terms of the quantity of work but also in terms of quality and variety of work,” she explains.

It’s been a similar story for actors around the world. Money from Netflix, Amazon, Apple and others has been pouring into original drama.

Last year the streaming industry globally spent a whopping $220bn (£168bn) on content, according to figures from Ampere Analysis, up 14% on the previous year.

In India, Netflix alone spent $405m (£310m) to develop original and licensed Indian content during 2019 and 2020.

This sudden influx of money means India currently has around 30 streaming services, also know as Over-the-Top (OTT) platforms.

And in a nation where hundreds of languages and dialects are spoken, all that investment means many more viewers can be catered for in their first language.

“Last year, Netflix’s 28 Indian original titles were across seven languages, eight formats and 11 genres across films, series, comedy, reality and documentaries,” says Monika Shergill, vice-president content, Netflix India.

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