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Sex, drugs, rebellion: New tales are being told as web series go regional

Characters can curse if they need to, have sex or be promiscuous, as the internet opens new doors for Odiya, Tamil, Marathi, Gujarati and Punjabi storytellers.

tv Updated: Jul 31, 2017 15:45 IST
Lavina Mulchandani
Lavina Mulchandani
Hindustan Times
Web,Web series,Online
A still from BC Baal, a Bengali web series about a young detective. “The best part about making a web series is that we don’t have to please anyone,” says director Korok Murmu.

You probably won’t recognise the names, because these web series are in Odiya, Tamil, Marathi, Gujarati, Bengali and Punjabi. Their themes include rebellion, insomnia, substance abuse and forbidden love.

“The content is progressive and most of it deals with issues of the youth,” says Antara Mitra, programming head at Addatimes, an online platform for experimental Bengali web shows. “Storytellers are using this medium for tales that would likely be too bold for regional TV, but relate to local web audiences.”

The Punjabi series Sleepless Nights, for instance, follows a young man as he hooks up with multiple women, lies to his parents, experiments, gets caught, lies some more.

“The plot is relatable to every young Punjabi; the message is that family matters, but it would never have been possible to stream this on TV,” says director and writer Sahil Dev, 32.

YOLO, a Marathi web series, follows a young woman from a conservative family in Wai as she finds her feet, and begins to form her own opinions, as a college student in Pune.

“The treatment is humorous yet deep. The characters go through a series of dramatic events that change their perspectives on love, sex and relationships,” says director Sameer Vidwans.

The first-ever web series in Sindhi, meanwhile, is about a group of young graduates discovering each other’s secrets as they plan a trip to Goa.

Creator Dirven Hazari, 21, graduated just two months ago in Ulhasnagar, a town on the fringes of metropolitan Mumbai, and created the web series after seeing how popular his short comic videos in Sindhi were on Facebook and YouTube.

“Most Sindhis don’t even speak Sindhi, but when my videos did so well, I got motivated to create more content,” Hazari says.


Regional language web series creators say one big bonus of streaming content online is that there is no censorship or self-censorship. The characters can curse if they need to, have sex or be promiscuous.

The tone can also be more casual than TV content in the same language.

In BC Baal, a popular Bengali detective web series, “we employ abbreviations and words typically used by Kolkatans,” says creator Riddhi Barua, 30, who is also a songwriter and lyricist.

The best part about making a web series is that we don’t have to please anyone, adds director Korok Murmu.

Webisodes are also an easy way to take on TV, without trying to compete on the same platform.

“Tamilian TV shows have been telling the same stories for over 50 years,” says Hari Haran, director of the Tamil web series Ctrl Alt Del. “It is regressive and predictable. Ctrl Alt Del was our answer to that.”

This show is based on the lives of four software engineers in Chennai. “They have conflicts with their parents about getting married. They struggle to define what they want from life. It’s very relatable,” says Darshana Rajendran, 28, one of the lead actors in the series.

For the actors, regional web series are a stepping stone to TV and movies and a first step to being recognised. Sleepless Nights, for instance, has had nearly 616,000 hits since December. Two Nights Three Days has had four webisodes and over 70,000 views on YouTube in two months.

Ctrl Alt Del has had eight episodes since last June, with nearly 240,000 hits on YouTube.

Some regional web series are already finding takers among the big web content platforms. SonyLIV is airing YOLO.

“With the internet easily accessible in small towns, the demand for progressive regional content has increased. The content of these shows is culturally very close to the community and raises issues surrounding the youth,” says Uday Sodhi, executive vice-president and head of digital business at Sony Pictures Networks.

First Published: Jul 14, 2017 21:24 IST