Art & Entertainment

Netflix India VP Content Monika Shergill On 2024 Slate: Looking At Programming Stories On Very Wide Spectrum

Netflix India is broadening the aperture for audiences in 2024, says the platform's vice president, content, Monika Shergill, citing the period spectacle 'Heeramandi: The Diamond Bazaar' by Sanjay Leela Bhansali and the comedy show 'The Great Indian Kapil Sharma Show' as cases in point.

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Monika Shergill Photo: Instagram
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Netflix India is broadening the aperture for audiences in 2024, says the platform's vice president, content, Monika Shergill, citing the period spectacle 'Heeramandi: The Diamond Bazaar' by Sanjay Leela Bhansali and the comedy show 'The Great Indian Kapil Sharma Show' as cases in point.

The streamer has had “continued and consistent success” with Indian content, she said. In 2022, 42 India titles trended globally on Netflix and that number climbed to 62 last year.

But can the country produce a global sensation such as “Squid Game”, the award-winning Korean drama that became the streamer's most watched show in 2021?

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"No creator or service can plan that success. There is only one way to achieve that success and that's the audience's love," Shergill told PTI after the launch of Netflix India's 22 project line-up for 2024.

"As a creative executive, I would submit to the audience's love… Nobody can design it or predict it. All we have to do is to really work hard, take bold bets, make exciting content and it will spiral and keep becoming bigger…”

Discussing the varied India content, Shergill said audience tastes get shaped and reshaped as they watch and consume.

"In fact, audiences don’t know what’s the next thing that they might like or what’s behind the corner and suddenly many people start watching it and it becomes a hit… We are really broadening the aperture for the audience. We are looking at programming stories on a very wide spectrum," Shergill said.

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According to the senior executive, the pandemic, however unfortunate, gave people a lot of time to explore content from around the globe.

It was a learning period for the streamer and helped Netflix India witness a phenomenal rise in 2023. It was also the year the platform won an Oscar for 'The Elephant Whisperers', an International Emmy for the comedy special 'Vir Das: Landing', and an award for "Scoop" at a parallel event during the Busan International Film Festival, said Shergill.

"So on the back of last year, 2024 is going to be bigger and bolder… Look at some of the biggest titles that we are programming... ‘Heeramandi’ is never seen before (whether it is) the scale or the story from the greatest auteur of Indian cinema. With ‘The Great Indian Kapil Sharma Show’ our ambition is to touch every audience member out there who has loved Kapil's comedy," she added.

This year Netflix India subscribers will also have access to the series adaptation of the December 24, 1999 hijack of the Indian Airlines flight which went down in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

“ 'IC814: The Kandahar Hijack', directed by Anubhav Sinha, is an extremely thrilling, propulsive rendition of the longest hijacking in the history of aviation in the world.

"When we started out on this story, it took us a while to get down to actually making it in the right way. It was a journey for us, because it is such a journalistic sort of piece, but also such a large story of human interest and it had to be told in the most dramatic and thrilling fashion,” Shergill said.

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The executive said it takes anywhere between 18-24 months for an average film or series to come together but some stories, like the lavishly-mounted 'Heeramandi', take more time to shape.

Following last year’s 'The Railway Men', Netflix India and YRF Entertainment have come up with two films – 'Maharaj' and 'Vijay 69' and a series in 'Mandala Murders' as part of the 2024 showcase.

Shergill is looking forward to the 1860s-set period film 'Maharaj', which she said she has seen and loved. The film marks the debut of superstar Aamir Khan’s son Junaid. Imtiaz Ali's 'Amar Singh Chamkila', starring Diljit Dosanjh as the slain Punjabi singer, is a true-story of a musician told uniquely, she said.

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“‘Maharaj’ is a powerful and moving film. It’s going to be a defining movie in how it is going to capture a time in history. ‘Mandala Murders’ is a unique crime thriller, while ‘Vijay 69’ is going to be a heartwarming film…

“The stories that are coming from YRF this year... the documentary on Yo Yo Honey Singh (backed by Guneet Monga) and the film on Chamkila is going to be a movie that will leave a lasting impression. (It’s) a very electric film slate this year,” she added.

Asked why Netflix India is yet to produce a series like 'Squid Game' that became the runaway global hit in 2021, Shergill said that level of success “is like a unicorn”.

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“I feel very good about the question at one level because nobody's asking any other service that question. It's amazing to see that faith in Netflix stories, in Netflix service to give world-class content,” she added.

The Netflix India slate for 2024 also includes films such as 'Do Patti', 'Murder Mubarak', 'Phir Aayi Hasseen Dillruba', 'Sikandar Ka Muqaddar', 'Wild Wild Punjab' and series such as 'Dabba Cartel', 'Khakhee: The Bengal Chapter', 'Kota Factory 3', 'Mamla Legal Hai', 'Mismatched' season three and the second season of 'Yeh Kaali Kaali Aankhein'.

The unscripted format is populated with titles such as 'Fabulous Lives versus Bollywood Wives', documentary 'The Greatest Rivalry-India Vs Pakistan' and the Oscar-nominated documentary 'To Kill A Tiger'.

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