‘Bullish’ Netflix looks forward to its biggest year in India: VP Content Monika Shergill

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This will be Netflix’s biggest year yet in the country with its slate of 40 plus titles a testament to how “bullish” the network is about telling great stories and entertaining India, says Monika Shergill, vice president, content, Netflix India.

The government recently brought in a new set of guidelines for online news and OTT platforms, which were self-regulating earlier but Shergill doesn’t seem too worried and is focused instead on putting out “high impact” content and a list that is more than double Netflix’s 2020 offering.

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“Where the new guidelines are concerned, we are still analysing and going through those guidelines it but I believe that the goal of the government and the industry is to come together and do the best for the consumers and creators. That is the journey any entertainment service will be on and our slate should be a testament to how bullish we are on just telling great stories and entertaining India,” Shergill said.

The tough situation the world faced in 2020 prompted the platform to not only experiment with different kinds of shows from diverse cultures but also realise that it was “more of an emotional part” of people’s lives, she said.

On Wednesday, the streamer unveiled more than 40 titles, including original movies, series, documentaries and comedy shows, a slate she said took them more than a year to plan and execute.

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The offering includes 13 films, 15 long-format dramas, non-fiction and comedy shows, covering different spectrums in entertainment.

“It’s our biggest year yet. It has been several months of hard work on the part of creators, on the part of the content team at Netflix… It’s 40-plus titles and it goes right across from big films to big series to returning seasons of series. Then there is a huge unscripted slate, we have some documentaries and comedy formats and comedy specials,” Shergill said in a Zoom interview.

“The aim is to discover the best kind of stories and entertainment in India, which is a very important country and audience for the streamer.”

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— Netflix

The list includes award-winning films “The Disciple” and “Milestone” as well as Bollywood potboilers in Kartik Aaryan’s “Dhamaka” and Abbas Mustan’s crime thriller “Penthouse”. Madhuri Dixit-starrer “Finding Anamika” and Raveena Tandon-headlined cop drama “Aranyak” are among the new shows.

“Jamtara”, “Delhi Crime”, “Mismatched” and “She” have been handed a second season.

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The Netflix executive said the aim is to discover the best kind of stories and entertainment in India, which is a very important country and audience for the streamer.

The year 2020, defined by the coronavirus pandemic, brought several learnings in its wake.

“The primary learning, which we’ve always known, is that stories are at the heart of the connection that you build with people who are experiencing them. We felt we were more of an emotional part of everyone’s life because of the tough situation that the world faced.

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“There was a lot of experimentation that happened and we realised that the audiences are looking to travel across cultures, to really experience the K-dramas, the Spanish shows and the Hollywood nonfiction much more or documentaries much more,” she said.

Hollywood drama “Extraction”, which was dubbed in Hindi, for instance, was a big winner.

Though 2021’s offerings are more than double that of 2020, it is not about volume but more about “high impact, high-quality storytelling, and many many choices”, she said.

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“We want to bring the maximum choice to our audiences and what we’re doing in the India slate in 2021, is to really tell as many high-quality stories in as many genres, flavors and formats as we can… Globally, we have always tried to be the home of new talent and seasoned voices and that’s the mix that always brings the best and most innovative stories,” Shergill added.

She said Netflix wants to be the service of choice for viewers across India and the team and its creators are working very hard to accomplish it.

“I hope it ticks the boxes for our audiences in terms of quality, in terms of choice and in terms of the entertainment bar that we want to set for ourselves in India and, hopefully, for the market.”

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Netflix has been operational in India for five years but started creating original content in the last three years. The demand for stories is more than they are able to offer but Shergill said she is happy they have managed to strike a balance.

“Ultimately, it is about finding those great stories wherever they come from. We are able to give opportunities to new talent to break through whether it is on-screen or off-screen.”

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