Entertainment

The upward trajectory of Malayalam web series

A poster of Karikku’s Thera Para series

A poster of Karikku’s Thera Para series   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

With binge-watching online becoming the norm, we take a look at the evolution and popularity of web series in Malayalam

The post-television battle for eyeballs has divided home screens like never before. Thanks to ever-increasing OTP platforms, each person would have his/her personal list of favourites to watch. The last decade has witnessed the rise of web series around the world, and Kerala too has jumped on the bandwagon. With access to rapid Internet connection, netizens streaming, binge-watching or sharing ‘webisodes’ of their favourite series in the vernacular has become the zeitgeist.

“Until two years ago, there was a gap in regional content on the digital platform. Although, online traffic was growing, popular content was more on album songs, short films and clips of television shows. We felt we could utilise this space with short original content that would mainly cater to an Internet-savvy young audience,” says Nikhil Prasad, founder and creative head of YouTube viral hit Karikku, which brings out web series and short videos known for their quirky humour.

Nikhil Prasad, founder and creative head of Karikku

Nikhil Prasad, founder and creative head of Karikku   | Photo Credit: Thulasi Kakkat

Karikku’s Thera Para, which narrates the story of four friends in an urban backdrop, has become the most watched web series in terms of page views in Malayalam. Karikku, with over 3.8 million subscribers, recently came out with the first two episodes of its next, Plus Two Class.

Diversifying content and genres, Karikku Fliq, launched last year, hosts the women-centric series, Rock Paper Scissors. Adithyan Pradeep Chandrasekhar, scenarist-director of RPS, feels that in Malayalam, the trend of web series is only taking baby steps and that quality of content is key as the race for viewership and subscriber base hots up.

Archana Kavi

Archana Kavi   | Photo Credit: H Vibhu

Web series makers feel that apart from “the new gen”, some of the television audience are migrating towards online content. “The digital space now falls between cinema and television and it’s tailor-made for new gen creators who want to voice their opinion or talk about topics you may not find a mention on the telly. They are not inclined to creating weepy shows that go on endlessly, peppered with false cliffhangers. I find it interesting to tell a story in a short period of time and move on to another content,” opines actor and YouTuber Archana Kavi who scripted and acted in the web series Toofan Mail and Meenaviyal. Archana is turning director with a project she’s currently working on.

Perhaps, it’s more than just about content. With the modern life on the fast lane, “leisure time” comes at a premium for many. “Attention span and time investment have become catchwords today. Two hours at a stretch may come across as a long time to spend on entertainment. Also, with numerous distractions, patience is wearing thin. It’s here that web series fit the bill as an instant gratification, since episodes are much shorter and one can watch at their own convenience,” says director and web series maker Krishand RK. His comedy series Utsaha Ithihasam, which was bought by the OTT platform Zee5, went on to win accolades at the Seoul Webfest in South Korea last year.

Viral fever

Though comedy seems to garner the most attention, there’s been a diversification of content, ensuring something for everyone. “Comedy always sells and web series in Malayalam started falling mostly into the ‘quirky humour’ category. Though most of it is good, some of the latter ones turned out to be imitative. That’s why we felt there was a need for crowd-pulling genre-breakers,” says Parthan Mohan, producer of the “thriller” series Road Rash released via YouTube channel Team Jango Space.

A still from Road Rash

A still from Road Rash   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

It’s not just the consumption modes that have become handy and economical, but the supply too. With mobile phones and similar devices becoming ubiquitous, users are not “camera-shy” any more, feels Sooraj Jayaraman, aka Mr Sambavam, of the YouTube channel We are a Sambavam that brought out Singappooram and I’m a Muttan Malayali, both based on a fictional couple living in Singapore.

“Creating a video has become much easier, perhaps, one reason why more are venturing into indie web series. This cause has been helped by ‘Internet audience’, thanks mainly to a boom in smartphones. Also, online sharing methods have changed. Earlier, it was through e-mail, which had its limitations. Today, there are multiple options on social media, which helps interesting content go viral,” points out Sooraj.

Sooraj Jayaraman and Ann Sooraj of We Are a Sambavam

Sooraj Jayaraman and Ann Sooraj of We Are a Sambavam   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

With increasing traction for web series and big OTT players also throwing their hat in the ring, Mollywood stars too have stepped in to the game, albeit more in other regional languages that, statistically, enjoy a larger audience. Examples include Neeraj Madhav in the Hindi series The Family Man, Appani Sarath in the biographical Tamil series Auto Shankar, Ashwin Kumar in the crime thriller Menaka streamed on Manorama Max and, more recently, Indrajith Sukumaran in the Tamil political drama Queen directed by Gautham Vasudev Menon.

Actor Noby Marcose, who featured in the series Nallavanaaya Unni released recently in the nascent YouTube channel The Premier Padminii, feels the trend of web series in Malayalam is here to stay and that they are ideal “work” during breaks between shoots for cinema. “Depending on the scope, sometimes an episode can be shot in a day or so. This keeps me engaged and there won’t be any clash of schedules as well,” he says, adding that web series are also a good platform for newbie filmmakers to showcase and hone their skills.

Anoop Bahuleyan, a first-time director who is helming Nallavanaaya Unni, agrees. “Many aspiring filmmakers have good ideas but lack a platform and backing to execute them. For a film to happen, a lot of things should fall in place, which can take years to materialise. Through short film and web series, we get instant feedback from the audience, either as messages or comments. You can learn from your mistakes and improve in the next episode,” adds Anoop.

Time for another webisode!

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Printable version | Mar 31, 2020 7:49:25 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/the-upward-trajectory-of-malayalam-web-series/article30401706.ece

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