Hey Netflix, You’re Doing It Wrong


Hey Netflix, You’re Doing It Wrong

Illustration: Namaah/ Arré

When Netflix made its debut in India, we knew it didn’t stand a chance. The numbers on Narcos or Jessica Jones aren’t out yet, but we’re betting the cow in our office that they’re not within shouting distance of Naagin or Sasural Simar Ka, the wet dream of Indian TV advertisers.

Around the time the global streaming service launched, our highest-rated TV drama, the hallowed Naagin, was in the process of airing Episode 19. With an impressive TRP of 4.5, Naagin is the story of an extremely rich family’s encounter with two revenge-seeking, shape-shifting snakes. Classic heroes. They never fail.

While Netflix tried to enthral the rest of the world with the story of Pablo Escobar figuring out how to become a cocaine billionaire (yawn), India was hooked on to the narrative of a dude in Rajasthan dealing with his two potential lovers/snakes: One is very aggressive, and the other a shy, housewifey kind, obviously. Now that’s plot.

Naagin does not shy away from seamlessly inserting snakes into scenes that would otherwise feature no snakes. It’s a subtle strategy. Like the director made a completely different show, smoked a few, and said, “Hey, what if we put snakes in this shit?”

Which is why people who have started paying for Netflix to watch Narcos are feeling a little short-snaked. Only fair, we think. Why couldn’t Narcos have any shots of Escobar wrestling snakes in their storyline? Aren’t there any snakes in Latin America? If not, why not do what Naagin did? Get a three-year-old to Photoshop them into the frame.

So here’s the thing, Narcos. Indians are not enthralled by your charming cocaine story. There’s too much mention of drugs, and other such deviant profanities.

This venerable Naagin – not to be confused with Naginn, which released a whole two years ago – doesn’t just interrupt plot with random snakes, it goes the extra mile. There are gratuitous shots of babas, whole minutes of bhajan rap, and awkward moments where extras steal centre stage. It may seem a little confusing at first glance, but if you go deeper, you’ll notice that Naagin is actually making an effort to bolster the plot line with compelling abstracts. Narcos, we’re disappointed to report, seems determined to stick to plot.

We think that in the end, it all comes down to sensible financial decisions. The resources that Narcos could have spent augmenting their plot with abstracts, seem to have been squandered in the most criminal manner.

Sets, for instance. Narcos is shot in some of the most scenic spots of Miami, Chile, and Colombia, to give it this whole badass ’70s “war-on-drugs” vibe, which is a waste of time and money. We have two words for the producers of Narcos – papier mâché. And this is where Naagin really steals the show. Especially in the one scene where aforementioned Rajasthani dude pulls off a superhuman act of mountaineering, while somehow managing to find time to romance a snake on the edge of a fake cliff.

Narcos tries too hard to perfectly build suspense through well-thought-out characters. Honestly, what’s the point? Naagin builds suspense with a nasty bassline, and a chorus of “Jai Shankar!” repeated a few thousand times. And that really drives home the point.

Yes, we know what you’re thinking – Narcos failed because it’s not in Hindi. It’s bilingual: 50 percent English and 50 percent Spanish. But so is Naagin. It’s 50 percent Hindi and 50 percent gibberish, although it’s frequently hard to tell the two apart. The bits in Hindi are exceptional. I mean, nothing comes close to, “Network dhoondne ke chakkar main, iska network off ho jayega (all laugh).”


If you ask us, Netflix was not really serious about its India debut. If it were, it would’ve taken the advice of Naagin’s director, who told the Times of India: “You can’t always stick to fiction shows close to reality. Viewers get bored.”

So here’s the thing, Narcos. Indians are not enthralled by your charming cocaine story. There’s too much mention of drugs, and other such deviant profanities. Like sex. Why must you bother with dirty sex scenes when you can just slyly imply sex by showing a naagin enter a hole? Not only is it sanskari, it saves money; money that can then be pumped into seriously questionable, logic-defying CGI.

If only the good people at Netflix would care to watch Indian TV they’d learn about what works with our viewers and maybe then they’d have a shot at making some money.

So what if it makes Pablo Escobar turn in his grave?