Love Hostel, Paatal Lok, Gullak: Local goes global on OTT

Updated on Mar 18, 2022 12:15 AM IST

Makers and actors on OTT explain why stories from our hinterland are travelling globally and also breaking the clutter

A still from Love Hostel starring Vikrant Massey and Sanya Malhotra
A still from Love Hostel starring Vikrant Massey and Sanya Malhotra
ByTitas Chowdhury

Stories set against the heartland of India isn’t a new trend for Bollywood. And now, OTT platforms have also taken to this template, which has given rise to a bevy of shows and films like Jamtara, Mirzapur, Gullak, Paatal Lok, Haseen Dillruba (2021), Panchayat and the recently released Love Hostel, among others. And more often than not, the audience, both Indian and international, is lapping them up.

“Some of the best filmmakers will tell you that the more local you go, the more universal you will get,” says Hardik Mehta, the writer of Paatal Lok, the first series shot in Chitrakoot, a small district in Uttar Pradesh. He adds, “We noticed Medellin (Colombia) in Narcos, Albuquerque (USA) in Breaking Bad or a fictional town called Hawkins in Stranger Things. Similarly, if we make a great series that breaks the clutter, our stories from our hinterland will also travel globally.”

Actor Rajesh Tailang, who received praises across borders for his projects Mirzapur and Bandish Bandits, believes that since a major chunk of the Indian audience lives in tier two and three cities, stories will also have to be made on them. Agreeing with Mehta, he says, “I’m an arts student and I’ve been taught that the more specific you’re, the more universal you will be. It applies here too. We’re exposed to Iranian films set against the back of rural towns, but we connect with the human emotion. It’s the same reason why the global audience is identifying with our stories.”

A spokesperson from Netflix notes that there’s “an inherent curiosity about understanding the inner dynamics” of small towns. Talking about the international exposure that stories based in hinterlands receive, the spokesperson explains, “Our noir thriller Aranyak, set in a small quaint hill town, presented us with the opportunity to delve into folklores that are a rich part of our culture. Yeh Kaali Kaali Ankhein (YKKA), set in Uttar Pradesh opened up a possibility of exploring a quirky idea of subverting the gender dynamic in a romance. And our superhero film Minnal Murali (2021) set in Kerala, took not just the country but the world by storm when it trended in the top 10 across 30 countries.”

Writer and director of YKKA, Sidharth Sengupta, feels that the common bond between different cultures across the world is basic human emotions, and the magic comes from “rooted form of storytelling”. “YKKA has featured in the top 10 row in countries like Mauritius, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain and Pakistan. Global players are present in over 190 nations, making it possible for storytellers like us to reach out to wider audiences. And this is just the beginning,” he ends.

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