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From A Suitable Boy to The Empire: Will period dramas be the next big thing on web?

Period dramas are a non rarity in the Hindi film industry and while the web space is trying to catch up, the momentum is still now; experts share their opinions on the challenges and the road forward
From A Suitable Boy to The Empire: Will period dramas be the next big thing on web?
Many believe that the Empire will set a precedent for filmmakers to try their hands on period dramas as long format storytelling
  • Titas Chowdhury

  • Hindustan Times

Last Updated: 09.19 PM, Oct 26, 2021

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While Hindi cinema has belted out a bevy of period dramas over the years, the genre is relatively new to its counterpart, the OTT space. The recently released web series, The Empire, which traces the rise and fall of the Mughal Empire, may have received mixed reviews, but many believe that it will set a precedent for filmmakers to try their hands on period dramas as a long format storytelling.

However, The Empire isn’t the first period drama piece in the web space. Rajkummar Rao’s Bose: Dead or Alive, Tabu and Ishaan Khatter starrer A Suitable Boy, Kunal Kohli directed Ramyug, and Chhatrasal based on the life of Maharaja Chhatrasal are a few instances where filmmakers have explored this genre.

One of the producers of The Empire, Monisha Advani, believes “it was really a matter of time” before Indian filmmakers decided to tap into them. She says, ““Internationally, the trend to commission period dramas based on pre-medieval, medieval and renaissance has been fairly aggressive. Many of these series have been seeded in global markets, India included, where the response and adoption has been encouraging. Taking cue from this, the rich history of India also deserves to be chronicled for consumption.” But writing a period piece for a long format, she feels, is the biggest challenge: “Episodic build-ups and cliff-hangers require a fair bit of intuitive skill.”

While he’s hopeful that the audience will be treated to more period dramas in the near future, Kohli asserts that budget is also an issue. “It’s a huge speed breaker and hurdle. The moment you get into making period drama, the budgets multiply. Sometimes, OTT platforms feel they might as well make two to three web-series of other genres rather than a period drama because of the costs involved,” he elaborates.

For Mansi Shrivastav, SVP and Head – Content Acquisitions & Alliances, MX Player, creating a period drama may take a longer period of time but she’s confident that “OTT would want to do more of this”. She says, “Period drama web series are heavy on VFX. One needs to look beyond costumes. They require high production quality and good research. They’ve a longer gestation period but they’re interesting and clutter-breaking.”

“An elevated scale, sharper story narrative, in depth characters and an increased visual treat, which requires a heavy investment on resources and time” are the reasons why Ridhima Lulla, Chief Content Officer, Eros Group, thinks that the genre has not been explored much. But looking at the silver lining, she adds, “These shows are extremely rewarding when successful, having a long-lasting impact on viewers. The excitement is in transporting your audience into a different world altogether, making it a truly immersive experience for them. The audience has seen successful historical period dramas on television and films, so we know it’s a genre that audiences identify with.”

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