ALT Balaji- Ekta Kapoor’s digital alternative to Naagin’s and Saas-Bahus

17 . Apr . 2017
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Ekta Kapoor has come a long way from her regressive Saas-Bahu dramas and beyond natural super-natural. Or has she? Justifying her over the top television sagas she says that India is a country beyond south Mumbai. Somewhere these stories connect. Otherwise her team wouldn’t be telling them. For her web series she promises, the format and content will be very different.

Alt Balaji CEO Manav Sethi assures that their shows for web are going to be very different and targeted at those in the age group of 18 to 45.

After the advent of Hotstar in 2015, Netfix India Chapter In January 2016, and Amazon Prime Video in December, Ekta wants to mark her late yet vigorous entry with the mobile platform  Alt Balaji. An enterprise of the Film and TV Production House Balaji Telefilms Ltd, the digital domain will cost its viewer Rs 60 per month, much lower than Rs 600 that Netflix charges in India.

Interestingly, ALT Balaji is not the first time Balaji Telefilms is going digital. A series called Bol Niti Bol was launched by the company in June 2010 which couldn’t make much hue and cry.

Following a format similar to Netfix Originals, Alt Balaji has released five original complete web series, all episodes at one go dealing with a multitude of subjects on April 16th. While the first few episodes of every show is free, to continue watching, the user has to subscribe to the app.

Ekta’s biggest source of relief and enjoyment is that she is getting to do only 20 episodes at a go for the first time.

She used to feel tired while creating 1,000 episodes for some of her shows said the producer who ironically has made daily soaps ranging innumerable episodes the way of the day for Indian Television.

Whether it is their take on Sarat Chandra’s Devdas or Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, whatever Balaji is trying with their ‘coming out of the closet’ type of series’ isn’t either new or entertaining. Piling episodes with a bunch of cuss words and packing it with contemporary issues in a lackadaisical fashion isn’t the equivalent of modern or web series.

Dev DD’s protagonist Aasheema Vardhan or the female Devdas is the supposed representative of the strong, modern day, outspoken woman who is uninhibited about casual sex, sanitary napkins buying a pack of ‘fruit salad’ condoms or being alcoholic. The senseless, dull and not the least bit interesting first episode perhaps has got the web series audience entirely wrong. Far from reflecting the current generation, its seems to be Ken Ghosh or worse, Ekta Kapoor’s idea of today’s young adults. The dialogues are a big turn off, not to leave aside actors who leave no stone unturned to crucify the rest of the product.

Mujhse Fraaandship Karoge and Bewakoofiyaan, Director Nupur Asthana has taken Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’, making a homosexual version of it called Romil and Jugal. The dialogues are verbose and spill out of the actor’s mouth in the beginning of the series like in a hurry to reach the finish line. Balaji, still lacking understanding of the new medium is pathetic in confusing annoying for quirky. There is no perspective of sound whatsoever which continues at the same decibel even with the camera pulling away from the characters chattering at the airport lounge.

A series on Gay lovers against the orthodox beliefs of the society, where Jugal is a closet homosexual and Romil is everyone’s affectionate, Romil and Jugal has every joke cracking like stale eggs dumped with aggression.

“aaj toh tu mard ban-ne wala hai bro” and “condom…flavoured waale hee liyo. Ladkiyon ko har jagah strawberry, strawberry, strawberry” is a sneak into the dialogues which will make you cringe and 19 minutes will be no less tormenting than the daily soap torture Ekta Kapoor otherwise puts you through.

 Karrle Tu Bhi Mohabbat is a story of two people who, despite coming from different backgrounds, fall in love. Ram Kapoor plays the character of an actor going through a dip at work while Sakshi plays a social activist. Just one question, which either the director or Ms Kapoor can feel free to answer. What about this serial, starting from the double ‘R’ in the title to the stock music (la la la lala la la la) or the storyline is fresh and cannot be created for television? Why venture into a fresh domain and make the same content all over again? Baffling right?

As usual the male lead is messed up and the female lead is all wise and epitomising maturity. In fact, I can vouch that the extras in the first episode are old loyalists of the Balaji camp through all their past misadventures.

Ram Kapoor and Sakshi Tanwar have always been lauded for their chemistry on the small screen. The same has continued here. If only the dialogues or treatment could bring a new dimension.

Boygiri, a series on bromance focuses on six central male characters. What can be painful though is the number of times the audience has to listen to the word “bro” while watching the series. From a school reunion, to a close friend’s funeral or a trip to see Mumbai Indians at Wankhede Stadium, each episode is built around an event featuring Pragnesh, Adwait, Manjot, Jatin, Ravi, and Bandah six grown men who refuse to let go of their Boygiri. The show makes efforts to create a new canvass for Balaji but ends up stuck in a maze of half baked juvenile characters.

Boygiri marks Marathi actor Amey Wagh’s entry into the Hindi entertainment industry via a fun filled character named Bajju.

Bewafaa Sii Wafa, the last on the list harps on an interesting concept. What if you meet your soul-mate after you meet your life partner? Sumer and Meghna are married to different people yet deeply in love with one another. While the Television audience can be considerably judgemental about celebrating an extra-marital affair, Ekta is smart to bring it for web series patrons. What perhaps doesn’t work is the age old motif of the good natured female lead running with an umbrella to shelter roadside children in rain which has by all means been done to death. Yet again Ekta Kapoor’s web series looks like a rip off of her own tele-serials. The first episode “An Unforgettable Encounter” doesn’t live up to its name and the fresh approach to the digital medium by Ekta and troupe seems like a smartly packaged rumour.

Ekta Kapoor clearly has a long long way to go in making original content. Here’s hoping Balaji doesn’t succeed in spreading the same epidemic it spread in the Television medium decades ago.

Conversely, there is just one thing to wonder. Ekta Kapoor is no ordinary woman. She consolidated the pan India audience by virtue of her own strategy. She understands the nerve and poison of the Indian audience better than most put together. If there happens a turn in the ideation and execution of AltBalaji, it could work wonders for Indian Web Entertainment.