Female’s the way on OTT: Women-fronted stories rule the web
While the necessity and scope for strong female representation on screen and behind the camera is a conversation that has been on for a while, many feel web is opening up space for female-fronted performers and creators. A number of OTTs have been churning women-oriented shows, series, films in the Indian content space— be it already released or upcoming titles such as Aarya, Four More Shots Please!, Hundred, She, Flesh, Bhaag Beanie Bhaag, Madhuri Dixit Nene’s untitled next, Bombay Begums, Raat Akeli Hai, Choked and Penguin.
“Women are half the population, yet stories about women from the women point of view have been few and far between. With the coming of OTT platforms, this ‘wrong’ seems to be getting ‘right’-ed!,” says Ruchi Narain, one of the creator-director –showrunner of Hundred, adding there are takers for such narratives, especially among the women.
“OTTs offer a view at home experience which allows women to throw their numbers behind the audience profile, as opposed to the cinema going audience. Therefore, OTTs have to cater to them by offering narratives they can relate to and emulate, as it is a market demand now. Women are tired of being portrayed as selfless and sacrificing. They also want it to be okay for them to be ambitious, fun and have memorable life experiences… all things which till now were the sole bastions of men,” she adds.
Trade expert Atul Mohan shares in attempting to tap all kind of viewers, OTT understood the requirement of good women-oriented content. “Most of these shows are doing well, the reaction from the audience in general [and not just women] on social media validates the same,” he adds. Some of these shows and films also have female minds and hands working behind it.
Swara Bhasker feels there should be more such content to the point that one stops describing content as ‘women-centric’ and having women protagonists becomes normal.
“Women-centric content should be the norm… There’s no such thing as any limit to content. The more good content goes out, the merrier it is for the audience. The key word here is ‘good content’. We need to tell stories driven by a strong narrative which give a good platform to the very talented female actors. But stories should not be put out for the heck of it,” she adds.
Along with shows and series, platform specific women-oriented films are also doing well. Srishti Arya, Director, Original Film, Netflix India, shares Masaba Masaba, Lust Stories and Dolly Kitty aur Woh Chamakte Sitare etc “have done tremendously well”.
“Our Top 10 row is one way that showcases how well these series and films have done - with titles like Ruchi Narain’s Guilty, and Anvita Dutt’s Bulbbul being #1 for weeks after launch. The time has opened up opportunities and inspired more women storytellers to come forward and more storytellers to tell more women-centric stories,” she says adding there upcoming line-up include Tribhanga - Tedhi Meri Crazy and Mai. The platforms latest show The Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives is also doing well.
The effort is also made toward having strong female characters even in narratives not driven by women shares Aparna Purohit, Head of India Originals, Amazon Prime Video.
“We ensure our female characters are well-etched out, they’ve their own story arcs – you’ll find this in common in all our shows from Mirzapur, Paatal Lok to Bandish Bandits… With more female creative helms – be it writers, directors, producers – comes more female characters, with more agency, better representation and more engaging plots and themes - something that has never been portrayed before,” says Purohit.
While contemplating her comeback, Sushmita Sen shares that she loved how Aarya’s journey is being captured in series format.
“The different layers to her character get explored in various phases of her life, it makes her real. Such kind of characterisation having a back story giving enough time for the character to grow is possible only in a series format on OTT,” she says adding a note of hope that she’s looking forward to more amazing female characters on the web.
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Author tweets @Shreya_MJ