Evolution. One of the textbook definitions of that word is “the gradual or constant development of something”. If Charles Darwin was still around, he wouldn’t have stopped at the man just standing erect. The extension of that diagram would have also given man clothes, books, a gun and a mobile phone. Just like species, the world of entertainment too has been constantly evolving. Silent films, coloured, 3D to Netflix. Online content is the new game in the field of entertainment. Web series, short films, independent movies. This new medium has been a boon to both the makers and its viewers. The independence of content creation without fearing what’s going to be censored has relieved a lot of filmmakers in India. And perhaps, in other parts of the world too. Platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime, etc. have been a great escape for a lot of people who don’t watch television and want to ditch the heavy priced tickets and snacks at the movie theaters. And the number is only growing.
The biggest controversy at the 70th Cannes Film Festival this year was Netflix and its expanding foothold in the world of entertainment. The fact that member of jury at Cannes, Will Smith, supported the platform and seasoned filmmakers like Bong Joon-ho collaborating with Netflix to make movies is, according to experts, only the tip of the iceberg. Many leading studios and production houses in India are in the queue to make original content for Netflix and Amazon Prime as well.
With the download and watch-it-offline option on Netflix, one can watch movies, series and documentaries on the go. Which brings me to the main part of this article where I would review and recommend a series, film or documentary on Netflix for the readers. And this week I feature Netflix original series, “13 Reasons Why,” an adaptation of the 2007 hit novel by Jay Asher.
Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford) a 17-year-old girl who has just moved in with her family to a new town joins Liberty High school. Why is this American teenage series my recommendation? Let me give you the gist of the plot: Hannah Baker, the female protagonist of the show, records 13 tapes of how she was bullied at her high school, which eventually led to her suicide. Although set in America, the series finds relevance with situations around the world, and very much in India. Kids being bullied, slut shamed, ignored and suffering peer pressure is a very serious and alarming issue in our country. Every year, 30–40 people per 100,000 Indians commit suicide between the age of 15 to 29. India records one of the highest number of youth suicides in the world. The reasons of these suicides vary from social reputation, family pressure, failure in examination, illegitimate pregnancy, alcoholism, etc.
The first few episodes didn’t excite me enough, as it felt like a story of a desperate teenager seeking attention and who commits suicide for some more attention. I thought, forget 13 give me one reason why I should continue watching this oh-so-American-teenage-series. But the genius of the creators Diana Son and Brian Yorkey was exactly that, to make the audience feel how Hannah’s friends felt for Hannah. It was only once I completed watching fourth episode and got onto the fifth that I started feeling sympathetic to Hannah Baker.
The 13 episode series is the journey of Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette) a friend of Hannah, who also had a crush on her, who receives the 13 tapes recorded by Hannah, in a box at his porch, anonymously dropped a week after Hannah dies. These tapes were recorded just before she committed suicide. His discovery of each tape and the person each tape is dedicated to takes the audience through Clay’s memories in a dual narrative form showing from both Clay and Hannah’s point of view of how the particular incidence from that tape took place. Clay’s confusion of how he ends up in the tapes, being Hannah’s friend, keeps the audience glued to the series. Although the ensemble cast is mostly teenagers, the series is an important one for parents, teachers, students and society in general. This 2017 Netflix original series is my this week’s recommendation for the readers.
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(Shweta Basu Prasad is a National Award-winning actress, famed for Makdee, Iqbal and TV show Chandra Nandini. She is a graduate in mass media and journalism.)