When Netflix launched in India in January 2016 amid a lot of fanfare, my friends made sure that I heard the noise loud and clear. However, as with anything that inspires so much hype, I was a bit wary about jumping on the bandwagon. Doubly so, as it concerned technology with American roots. I decided to give it at least a year to see how things panned out.
Expectedly, Netflix faced teething troubles, as complaints regarding lack of good content piled up. There were also rumblings about step-motherly treatment in content distribution for the Indian audience. I decided not to part with my money, at least for the time being.
However, by early 2017, it had become harder to maintain my allegiance to cable television. Almost all network operators began throwing tantrums. Good content kept vanishing one channel at a time, unless we were prepared to pay a premium.
And to top all this, an extremely juvenile, snip-happy Indian censor board was given a free run by the administration, leaving me with barely anything decent to watch.
So, I made a decision to take the plunge into the Netflix universe. Why not? After all, it did offer a month-long free trial period. In retrospect, what a glorious journey it has been. Netflix opened the doors to a plethora of quality content. In just 20 days, I binged my way through Marvel’s Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage. I continued the journey with House of Cards (huge Robin Wright fan), Orphan Black, with its dark sci-fi perspective, and Orange is The New Black. In May, the Netflix original 13 Reasons Why was aired. By the second day, I had finished all 13 episodes. As June came calling, Netflix started giving me out-of-the-box suggestions. To think that I would probably have never watched the much-awaited Angry Indian Goddesses if it weren't for the streaming giant! Keep aside the average Netflix recommendations, the content was mostly an interesting and eclectic mix—The Tudors, Madam Secretary, and Wet Hot American Summer.
The content apart, the most brilliant feature was the option to upgrade to a two-screen plan, which would simultaneously allow two different profiles to watch using the same subscription.
This gave my wife and I a chance to watch shows at our own convenience. The added advantage of this Netflix experience was a year’s worth of ‘in-house’ reviews, note-comparisons, fun debates and heated arguments about our favourite characters and plots. Having said that, the fact that we could watch different shows at the same time and talk about new content was quite a refreshing experience.
While my preferences of visual content aligned with the general consensus on most occasions, at times I found myself in extreme disagreement with the most popular reviews. Contrary to popular opinion, I found Iron Fist enjoyable in its slow-paced, yet well constructed first season.
By then, a huge chunk of local content had appeared. With quality stuff like the Kannada movie U-Turn to the stories by Rabindranath Tagore, I saw promising desi content finally freed from the shackles of established industry norms. Getting braver by the day, I explored new genres and shows, soon discovering another one of my favorite genres—the international stand-up scene. Till then, YouTube was my only option for such shows. Soon enough, I was laughing along with the crowds watching Aziz Ansari and Hasan Minhaj.
By August end, right after a brilliant season of Marvel's The Defenders, I tried my luck with Vikings and Narcos. In a span of five weeks, I ended up binge-watching three seasons each! September was wonderfully nordic and narcotic at the same time. As I finished Madam Secretary and caught up on Stranger Things and Black Mirror, a fresh season of Marvel's The Punisher dropped. If you think about it, this ability to flow from one genre to another as new season's break and mix things up, is quite an experience. As December broke, I discovered what I consider the most brilliant show on the platform right now—Peaky Blinders, a show which I am enjoying every bit.
As 2017 comes to a close, I look back at this drastic change that has happened in how my family and I now approach content and entertainment. So far, Netflix has been quite a fun ride, and I have to stress, paisa vasool! I honestly cannot wait to see what Netflix throws me in 2018. Perhaps, I will go back to discuss (and probably fight about) the moral compass of Frank Castle with my wife who is a big fan of the character (and an even bigger fan of Jon Bernthal).