Does Sex really sell in streaming?

29 . Jun . 2017
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Pahlaj Nihalani slammed big names for their streaming ventures. He says they are playing out their deepest fantasies via their web series. His ire is somewhat justified. Read the synopsis of an Indian webseries and you’ll agree that Indian cinema is having it’s second coming.

Vikram Bhatt, known for his bold concepts in horror films launched Maaya – Slave of Her Desires, a webseries that dealt with BDSM. His other webseries, Spotlight, deals with the life and times of an actress.

Maaya had one of the biggest launches in the streaming world of India. The first few episodes were even reviewed by the media outlets. However, a couple months down and nobody’s speaking about it.  Compare that to the American streaming series that we see. That is buzz is perpetual.

Ram Gopal Varma is threatening to come up with ‘Guns & Thighs’. That series deals with his pet project, crime and sleaze in Mumbai. That he has used an ‘ampersand’ in place of ‘and’ is not the only thing that’s criminally wrong.

The show suffers from such a non-existence of film-making that people will think the film banks heavily on the frontal nudity and sexual scenes that are littered in the 6 minute trailer. RGV and Vikram Bhatt are known for their bold projects. Surprisngly, the doyen of middle-class-Indian entertainment, Ekta Kapoor has taken the digital plunge by launching an app and a website with exclusive digital content – ALTBalaji.

She went bold too. A gay love story, the feminine counterpart of the iconic Devdas – who’s as much of a drunkard as the original one – and other such concepts litter her series.

Ekta used her business acumen to release a glut of sexually laden series. She topped it up with a good, women oriented series with a current name and there was something for everyone. However, a month later and you will find it difficult to find any media buzz about these.

We have seen several webseries, and looking at the trailers, our media-weary eyes cannot help but think that the more and more film-makers are like children at a candy shop. Putting up cuss words in the trailers, adding drinking sequences just for the sake of it is becoming par for the course.

Sex was the centre point in the Vikram Bhatt and Ekta Kapoor series, it wasn’t portrayed as bluntly as RGV did in his work. The trailer of his upcoming web series, ‘Guns & Thighs’ opened to severe criticism because of the crass dialogues and forced nudity scenes. His other short film. ‘Meri Beti Sunny Leone Banna Chahti Hain’ has dialogues that’d make the most veteran of film journalists cringe.

RGV’s series have taught us something. The Indian audience – at least those who consume digital content – are not going gaga over the nudity and the cuss word and the sexual scenes shown in a web series. After the initial generated buzz, there’s no talk about the bold scenes in the show.

It’s not that only Varma is trying sex to capture the streaming screens. Many TV actresses have shed their inhibitions and clothes for web series. None of them gained mainstream commentary, other than the stray article on the ‘new media’ websites.

If sex isn’t selling in the world of web series, there is a good reason for that. Sexual content,  content with high production values is available for free – if you know how to get it. Smut content literally hits the mobile screens if people know how to search for it.

In all this,  we should consider that sex in cinema is not a demon that needs to be vanquished. It is only in India that sex in cinema is frowned up. Hollywood literally celebrates pornography with the AVN awards. You guessed it right, that’s an awards ceremony for pornographic films.

Not just that, Hollywood had a soft-form franchise titled ‘Emmanuelle’ that was compared to the James Bond franchise. For Hollywood, they have entire websites that make a living out of taking screengrabs of intimate scenes in mainstream films.

All this has saturated an average Indian digital content viewer. They do not need to wait for ‘that scene’ in a particular web series or short film. Until Indian digital film-makers don’t understand that – their content is going nowhere great.