How many stars is too many? Anupama Chopra on A-listers and streaming platforms - Hindustan Times
close_game
close_game

How many stars is too many? Anupama Chopra on A-listers and streaming platforms

Apr 13, 2024 01:00 PM IST

As stars flood the series and films on India’s streaming platforms, I worry that the promise of fresh voices, innovative tales could be eclipsed, Chopra says.

On May 1, Sanjay Leela Bhansali will go small. Hindi cinema’s most visually opulent auteur will unveil his latest, Heeramandi: The Diamond Bazaar, on Netflix. The eight-episode series, about an elite house of courtesans in British India, is likely to be the streaming show of the year.

A poster for The Night Manager, a Disney+ Hotstar series featuring Aditya Roy Kapur, Sobhita Dhulipala, Anil Kapoor that leaned heavily on its stunning locales and elaborate action sequences. PREMIUM
A poster for The Night Manager, a Disney+ Hotstar series featuring Aditya Roy Kapur, Sobhita Dhulipala, Anil Kapoor that leaned heavily on its stunning locales and elaborate action sequences.

Teasers and songs (also composed by Sanjay) reveal that the size of the screen hasn’t impacted his storytelling. The director of landmark films such as Bajirao Mastani (2015), Padmaavat (2018) and Gangubai Kathiawadi (2022) is luxuriating, as he usually does, in sumptuous sets, exquisite production design and beauteous faces and costumes. Watch the video of the song Sakal Ban to observe how the movement of fabric adds to the rhythm of the music.

There is nothing modest about Heeramandi. No evidence that Sanjay is thinking about the fact that it will unfold on laptops and phone screens.

The show exemplifies director Alfonso Cuarón’s sentiment from a 2020 interview with IndieWire: “I consider it a mistake… to say… adapt to smaller screens. I think it’s the opposite. Smaller screens have to adapt to cinematic visions.”

Heeramandi is also a prime example of an emerging trend in Indian entertainment: the event series. This is typically a show that has stars, scale, a sizeable budget, and eclipses everything else in the weeks after its release. It is basically designed to be impossible to resist.

Sacred Games, the first Netflix show made in India, was an event series, toplined by Saif Ali Khan and Nawazuddin Siddiqui and co-directed by Anurag Kashyap and Vikramaditya Motwane.

Since then, event series have become more frequent here. Think of last year’s Amazon Original Farzi, which marked the streaming debut of Shahid Kapoor. Directed by Raj & DK, it was the most-watched Hindi streaming show in India, according to Ormax Media’s annual report for 2023. The second spot on that list was occupied by The Night Manager, a Disney+ Hotstar event series featuring Anil Kapoor, Aditya Roy Kapur, Sobhita Dhulipala, stunning locales and elaborate action sequences.

There’s plenty of action in this year’s Amazon Original, Indian Police Force, the streaming debut of one of Hindi cinema’s most successful directors, Rohit Shetty, and of actor Sidharth Malhotra. Shows coming up this year include Citadel: Honey Bunny (Amazon Prime), also directed by Raj & DK, co-produced by the Russo brothers (who created the original), and starring Varun Dhawan and Samantha Ruth Prabhu. Call Me Bae, starring Ananya Panday, is due soon on Amazon Prime.

Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Heeramandi premieres on May 1. ‘There is no downside to more hours of Sanjay. I can’t wait to lose myself in his flamboyant diamond bazaar. But I’m always rooting for new voices. May those also shine,’ Chopra says.
Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Heeramandi premieres on May 1. ‘There is no downside to more hours of Sanjay. I can’t wait to lose myself in his flamboyant diamond bazaar. But I’m always rooting for new voices. May those also shine,’ Chopra says.

It’s a bonanza for viewers. But my fear is that the heavyweights of Hindi cinema might eventually stunt streaming. When they first debuted, OTT platforms were entertainment’s brave new world. Some event series still reflect this. Think of this year’s Malayalam series Poacher, featuring Nimisha Sajayan, directed by Richie Mehta, executive-produced by Alia Bhatt — with artful storytelling and a talent-first approach intact.

Will we still have inventive storytelling and brilliant new actors emerging if platforms increasingly rely on stars to break through the clutter?

A producer who didn’t want to be named said that too many gatekeepers are working on “borrowed conviction” rather than original thought, and on the premise that stars will lead to subscribers.

Vikram Malhotra, CEO of Abundantia Entertainment, which was among the earliest producers to bring stars to streaming with the series Breathe on Amazon (Season 1 starred R Madhavan and S2, Abhishek Bachchan) says that he endorsed this trend for the early days of streaming, to enable market penetration. But now, as the audience shows more confidence in accepting non-star faces in series, he adds, some amount of risk-taking, some amount of backing your gut and instinct and taking a chance on younger, newer actors could go a long way.

The truth is there is no downside to more hours of Sanjay Leela Bhansali. I can’t wait to lose myself in his flamboyant diamond bazaar. But I’m always rooting for new voices. May those also shine.

(To reach Anupama Chopra with feedback, email feedbackforanu@gmail.com)

Catch every big hit, every wicket with Crick-it, a one stop destination for Live Scores, Match Stats, Quizzes, Polls & much more. Explore now!.

Catch your daily dose of Fashion, Taylor Swift, Health, Festivals, Travel, Relationship, Recipe and all the other Latest Lifestyle News on Hindustan Times Website and APPs.
SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Share this article
SHARE
Story Saved
Live Score
OPEN APP
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Monday, May 20, 2024
Start 14 Days Free Trial Subscribe Now
Follow Us On