As 90’s Bollywood movies started the trend of Romantic movies, 2010’s should be marked as the starting of thriller genre in India. Specifically from 2017 or 2018, the crime-thriller genre started to take the centre stage in Indian OTT platforms. As the time passes, the frequency of this genre is rapidly increasing. We can assume the trend started with the huge success of Sacred Gamesin 2018, although Gangs of Wasseypurmight put the stepping stone (as we will discuss later). Let’s try to look at it more objectively and analyse the current situation of this problem. But is it really a problem?
Well, the short answer is No, it is not a problem. As far as the content is pretty great, we should (and could) consume any genre. Most importantly, most people are not really even interested in the term ‘genre’ and they watch the content which matches their taste. But, there is something called saturation level and as we are stepping into the latter half of 2020, it feels like the saturation limit has been reached for crime-thriller shows. Almost each week there is a new show coming on new OTT platforms which is based on crime. As we Indians love a bit of drama, the specific sub-genre which works the best here is crime-drama-thriller. If you inspect most of the famous web series (barring the contents of TVF, which we will talk about later) in the last 3 years, you will see almost all of them are falling in this genre. Sacred games, Mirzapur, Breath, Delhi Crime, Asur, Criminal Justice, Apaharan, Patal lok, Arya – you name it and it is a crime-drama-thriller. This list does not include all but most of them are falling in this genre. Even though this does not create a problem as per, but it creates a pattern pretty easily. You can watch 10 of them and you can find a pattern in those stories. There are many series apart from the above mentioned ones, and you can see they are trying hard to go by this pattern and eventually end up making a whole mess out of it. It feels like it is a back calculation and showrunners are trying to tick all the checkboxes. They include underworld gangs, underbelly of a big city, criminals with a backstory and add some slang with explicit scenes – and you have your own web series. The formula is a very dangerous thing when it comes to any art form and there is no exception here.
But why internet is suddenly flooded with crime-thrillers? Well, today’s generation are the people who go to sleep with Breaking Bad and wake up by the tune of Bella ciao. These shows started to grow in India when we did not really have any Indian shows like those and we used to crave for thrillers. Although we occasionally had thrillers in Bollywood before but they are often jumbled with unnecessary romantic subplots and very predictable plot twists. After 2010, we are slowly started to move towards thrillers and the wave of watching thrillers started to flow after the successes of thrillers like KahaniorDrishyam. However, the recent trend of exploring underworld and creating a believable human gangster started in the hand of Mr. Anurag Kashyap with Gangs of Wasseypur. It was a gangster epic with a runtime of more than 5 hours. It was an eye opener for everyone as we realize thrillers get more impact if there is a chance to strengthen the plot, develop a character and web shows give that time. And the floodgates finally got open with the success of Sacred Games and we got our 1stown crime thriller series. The sections of Ganes Gaitonde was again directed by Kashyap and people started to like the bittersweet taste of it. Shows started to put much more emphasis on character arc and their backstory. We started to make our very own Scorsese style gangster thriller with our very own characters. They are made of human flesh and they are faulty. They became hero and villain at the same time by removing the thick line drawn by Bollywood. These things provided us wonderful shows like Patal lok, Delhi Crime orA Family man.
However, as it happens with every trend, we started to get formula based end products as well. Makers started to realize underworld crime thrillers will sell like hotcakes and started to make web series with the triquetra of sex-violence-crime. Within 2 years we have got so many crime thrillers that sometime it gets difficult to differentiate between the characters. Moreover, this trend also blocks the path of something innovative and makers start to focus more and more on selling crime with a pinch of violence. There was a brilliant and unique show called Afsosin Amazon prime but many people didn’t even know the name due to the lack of publicity and overlapping with some sketchy crime-thrillers.
Although, there are still some shows which stands away from the tide and proves that it is all about the content in the end. TVF is the pioneer in this way as they were in this league much before the league even started. Permanent Roommates, Pitchers, Tripling, Gullak, Kota factory and many other shows are already in their bag and these shows speak of very simple yet relatable conflicts. They do not have huge names or so called sellable content but they’re loved by people unconditionally due to the simplicity of the narrative. Currently TVF Pitchers is within Top 40 shows all over the world in IMDBand that pretty much speaks for them. They have reached a huge popularity with 2020 series Panchayetwhich again bears all the trademarks of TVF and feels so fresh. The reason why simple stories strike a unique chord nowadays is the huge amount of crime thrillers we have around us. There are other shows like Made in heaven, Typewritteror aforementioned afsoswhich should get more attention in the forest of crime dramas.
As we are getting saturated in this genre, there are also a lot to explore as well. Crime thriller is a huge genre where we have unexplored areas like why-done-it thrillers, sci-fi thrillers, detective thrillersetc. India is blessed with a colourful and eventful mythology and we can have a 10 season Mahabharator Ramayan (Not crimes based on mythology). We used to have very funny comedies like Khichdi, Sarabhai vs Sarabhai, Dekh bhai Dekhand we would love to see anything like that again on screen. There are so many books that can be made into series nowadays. Although we are flooded with Romcoms in Bollywood I strongly feel we are missing good Romantic TV shows badly. We can have biographies of eminent personalities, we can show our freedom fight (not a love story at the time of freedom fight), we can have a series on cricket world cup win and so on. The list of topics and genres are countless but somehow we are stuck in the trap of Crime-thrillers. Let’s just think it this way, ‘The genres we explore is a drop, the genres we don’t explore is ocean’.