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Monday, November 30, 2020

Sunday Long Reads: Of Rashtrapati Bhavan, OTT platforms, being hopeful, Anurag Basu’s Ludo and more

Here is your Sunday reading list

New Delhi | Updated: November 15, 2020 6:31:29 pm
OTT platforms have changed how we consume stories. (Source: getty images)

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Stories have always been about our inherent quest to define and understand the world around us. The Mahabharata, one of the oldest religious texts, tells the tale of two families fighting each other for the throne of Hastinapur. But it is also much more than that. In the best traditions of oral storytelling in India, grandmothers sat grandchildren down and narrated the stories of the long-drawn battle between the Kauravas and the Pandavas.

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‘Indians have a strong appetite for local shows’

Aparna Purohit, Head, India Originals, Amazon Prime Video

How would you describe your progress since your launch in India in 2016?

Prime Video’s viewing hours in India has grown by six times over the past two years. The country also boasts one of the highest engagement rates in the world. We have tirelessly worked toward creating the best entertainment experience for our audiences. Instead of churning out volumes, we curated stories that are best suited to the preferences of the Indian audience, locally relevant and have a high-quality cinematic value. With this in mind, we focused on long-form, immersive storytelling through our originals, early window (and now direct-to-streaming) movies across nine local languages, giving a stage to the very best of stand-up comedy from India; bringing in the best of global entertainment, and relentlessly amplifying our reach and access. It is heartening to note that one in five viewers of Indian Amazon Original Series is from outside the country.

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Let there be light

Together we stand : Diwali reminds us that the light within each of us has one form

Diwali is called “the festival of lights” because it is literally a celebration of light and illumination. Diwali is a Hindi word, but it comes from the Sanskrit “deepavali”, which means “a row of lights.” The holiday symbolises for us the vanquishing of the ignorance that overwhelms human life and spirit, and the driving away of darkness with the light of knowledge and hope. We celebrate Diwali in order to embrace the positive values of this life, and to leave behind those thoughts and memories that cloud us in darkness. It is celebrated with great pageantry across the world today, and it is a festival that always leaves me in deep thought.

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Float like a Butterfly

Amazing grace: Watching birds in flight is to marvel at their symmetry. (Photo: Ranjit Lal)

It’s a quality I’ve always admired and envied, and it’s found right across the species spectrum in the animal kingdom: the natural ease and grace with which creatures move in their ordinary lives. It doesn’t matter if they live in the darkest depths of the oceans, or inhabit the highest and most frigid mountain ridges and peaks. Not all animals possess this quality, but many do and are worth looking at closely.
Most creatures living in water are graceful. Ethereal jellyfish, trailing their silvery, deadly tendrils, float languidly in the depths, spreading their diaphanous skirts. Fish have a natural grace, as they swirl and dart, their fins blurring; whales and sharks move with a lazy ease that belies speed and lethal intent. Yes, they lose their composure when they pounce on and shred a seal, thrashing about in an unbecoming way.

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Talking heads: Lady Mountbatten with C Rajagopalachari (left) and Sardar Patel (far right) in the Mughal Gardens on February 15, 1949. (Photo: Rashtrapati Bhavan)

Written by Ajay Singh and Ankit Jain

The decision to shift the seat of the imperial power to Delhi had evoked extreme reactions from the British settled in Calcutta. English-language newspapers of the time, led by the redoubtable.The Statesman, launched a campaign against the move. The noise from the media was a persistent “nagging nuisance” for the establishment.
That was when a gentleman named EM Hughman stepped forward. “I can control practically the whole of Calcutta press, and make them dance to any tune I like to play,” he wrote to JH Duboulay, private secretary to the viceroy, Lord Hardinge, on December 25, 1911. The Viceroy rejected his offer.

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The industry is a fair place: Anurag Basu

Anurag Basu (centre) with actor Abhishek Bachchan on the sets of Ludo, which released on Netflix on November 12.

Your movies often have a fairly large canvas. In Ludo, you seem to have expanded it further.

There was no conscious decision to make it big. When I am writing the script and visualising the characters, it becomes easier for me if I have a face to the characters. I imagined Abhishek (Bachchan) playing Bittu and Pankaj (Tripathi) as Sattu. Fortunately, they said yes.

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Worlds Away

It resonate with the times we are living in.

I’m a fan of Phillip Pullman’s trilogy His Dark Materials, consisting of Northern Lights (or The Golden Compass), The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass, which came out between 1995 and 2000. It is crafted as an old-fashioned quest, which pushes its two young protagonists, Lyra and Will, to explore alternate universes — featuring talking animals, flying witches, and other marvels — while examining deep philosophical viewpoints: what happens when organised religion becomes a place of command and control, and freedom of thought and expression goes out of the window? And doesn’t it resonate with the times we are living in?

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‘Many more possibilities to tell diverse stories’

Srishti Arya, Director, International Original Film, Netflix India

What were your expectations when you launched Netflix in India?

We launched Netflix in India in January 2016 and we’ve been delighted to see how quickly creators and consumers have embraced everything our service has to offer. Netflix wants to be the home for the most diverse and entertaining stories in India. In 2019 and 2020, Netflix will invest INR 3000 crore in India. So far, we have announced more than 60 productions and have released more than 40 films and series, in addition to stand up specials like Ladies Up, documentaries like Cricket Fever: Mumbai Indians, and kids content like Mighty Little Bheem.

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