India has no TV, OTT content for its almost 50 crore GenZ. It’s still a millennial machine


Kknown for his ‘chopped’ boldness, political awareness and progressive ideas, Gen Z is more than frivolous TikToks and Instagram Reels. Born between the late 1990s and early 2000s, these digital natives have come to define modernity as we know it. Yet in India, there is simply a dearth of quality content that caters to them, whether on TV or OTT. And no, timid attempts like Heropanti 2, Liger, or even Student of year 2 does not count.

Isn’t it strange? India has a population of 47.2 crores Gen Zs, but not from the content boom that millennials had.

Whether it’s movies, TV shows, or even YouTube miniseries, millennials have been blessed to see entire industries cater to their entertainment needs.

Despite skewed portrayals, millennials have also had a choice of shows and range, whether through Filter Copy shorts or the (in)famous BAI roasts or even the cute encounter show, Dil Mil Gaye.

But there is a strange blindness to Gen Z issues in Indian pop culture. Even before Covid shut down everything, including the entertainment industry, shows about this generation’s aspirations, hopes and quirks were absent.

Korean dramas like Itaewon-class to quirky shows like Sex education, Covid has just made sure that India’s Gen Z is looking west and east. These young locals have ditched creators to create content that resonates with them.

Ironically, this is when Gen Z seems to have consumed more OTT content than their millennial counterparts. According to a 2020 Living mint reportat 4.45 hours of consumption per day, Gen Z beat out Millennials, who only managed to consume 3.66 hours of web content that year.

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No place for Generation Z

The discrepancy is glaring, but a few shows attempt to change the script. Romance Collegecreated by The Viral Fever (TVF) and streaming on Amazon Prime Video, is one of the popular few who have managed to look at college life and its many challenges through a light but nuanced lens.

“I did my masters by correspondence and for me, this show was like my college life,” says Apoorva Arora, who plays Naira in the show. Niya Solanki, 21, who is a final year student at the University of Delhi, said the show was a reality check: “I am from Lucknow and I spent two years of my university life in confinement . For me, the show was a preview of what to expect when and if college life finally resumes on campus.

As much as he tries, Romance College doesn’t quite cut it. To some extent, it addresses the existing starvation of Gen Z shows, but it needs to expand further. Gen Z are more aware and accepting of their differences, which doesn’t really show through in the show. A video of Deepika and Raavi, the sister of one of the Bagga protagonists, creates “lesbian” cries among the students. Such reactions reflect a millennial dated discourse on identity. The idea of ​​LGBTQIA representation has now moved forward, and “it’s cool as long as no one in my family is gay” isn’t exactly something Gen Z can make peace with. Gen Z know their pronouns and are pretty politically correct, at least in this area.

Despite a very likeable cast, Romance Collegea little like Dostana, is more oriented towards the stereotypical approach of millennials,

With a focus on love and relationships between young people, Netflix Mismatched tried to pull a Sex education in India. It didn’t quite land, but Rohit Saraf-Prajakta Koli’s starring was somewhat enough for those hungry for Gen Z-centric content. “I just wanted representation. Mismatched is flawed, but at least I felt partly seen,” says Chavi Sareen, an 18-year-old fashion student from Pearl Academy in Delhi.

The show tries to address issues of ambition, queer love, and even disability, but flounders in its writing — it tries to cover it all in one season. For example, the queer character (Namrata) becomes a crutch for the heterosexual protagonist’s (Rishi) growing moment. Similarly, the anguish of the disabled character (Anmol) is so tied to problematic behavior that one hesitates to identify with or sympathize with them.

TVF’s highest rated show, Kota Factory, regurgitates the same tropes. Centered on IIT aspirants at the training center in Kota, Rajasthan, the director of Raghav Subbu was meant to be a candid look at training center politics, mental health and young aspirations. But instead, the two-season Netflix web series only manages to scratch the surface while skimming through the important issues. “For some reason – perhaps because its title includes the word ‘factory’ – I expected this show to be more critical, or at least a little aware of the ridiculousness of this whole storyline”, writing Rohan Naahar in an article for The Hindustan Times.

Look for India-centric Gen Z content from the West, and there isn’t much. Mindy Kaling and Lang Fisher I have never is too sadly NRI to be relatable. Despite good writing and characters, it’s not the epitome ‘desire.Can small town Indians connect to it like they connect to Filter Copy shorts?

Euphorialoosely based on an Israeli show of the same name, and Derry Girls, set in 1990s Ireland, did well in terms of representation, examining often starkly contrasting yet eerily similar worlds. Whether Derry Girls celebrate female friendship, Euphoria look at those who break the sanctity of friendship. The spectrum of teenage emotion comes to life in these shows that take place in different time periods.

Perhaps modern filmmakers and content creators in India need lessons from their millennial past.

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The glory era of the millennium

Farhan Akhtar’s first film in 2001 Dil Chahta Hai is a unanimous choice when it comes to showing the pangs of becoming adults. Three college friends, love, a conflict and a trip to Goa sums up the aspirations of millennials perfectly. His songs, too, remain iconic to this day. Akhtar also created Lakshya in 2004, which beautifully portrays a “confused” man trying to prove himself by joining the Indian Army. His journey from an unruly, privileged boy to a decorated army officer has resonated with those struggling to find a path in life. Principal Aisa Kyun Hu personified the dilemmas of an entire generation.

“Take me for example, I didn’t do anything for two years after college, I had no purpose. It has become a serious bone of contention at home,” Akhtar said. Told Filmfare in a 2001 interview celebrating the success of Dil Chahta Hai.

Rakeysh Om Prakash Mehra Rank Of Basanti (2006) makes a political statement while creating a revolution. He taught a whole generation not to be “apolitical” and to be proud and aware of India’s past and present. The film has become a battle cry against rampant corruption.

In 2009, three idiots has stormed its way to examine the issue of India’s finest job engineering. At a time when student suicides made headlines and Chetan Bhagat was almost a required reading choice among teenagers and adults, the film again underscored the millennial pangs of bowing to industry pressures. of education and the expectations of Indian parents. give me sunshine has been hummed almost involuntarily by all Indian students, especially those who are about to sit for board exams.

It’s not just movies that personify millennial angst. There were also many TV shows. StarOne Remix (2004) was a show that focused on everything from wanting to form music groups, to wanting girlfriends/boyfriends, to bullying and even teenage pregnancy.

Then there were romances like Dil Moulin Gayye (2007). This show, centered on a group of doctors and their tangled love lives were inspired by its equally popular prequel, Sanjivani (2002) and hits the right spot for most teenage lovers of that era. Sony Sab Left Right Left, about a group of misfits joining the military, was a smash hit the moment it premiered. With an IMDB rating of 8.1 and featuring some of the biggest names in the Indian TV industry – from Rajeev Khandelwal to newcomers Harshad Chopra, Arjun Bijlani and Priyanka Bassi – its title track was wildly popular.

When interest in television began to wane, there was TVF and YouTube. Of Cooked at Permanent roommates, TVF brought forward the confusion and heartburn of the “old school caught in the internet revolution” dilemma of millennials. And from startup culture to dating issues, he’s created content on everything in between.

But in writing about acting, India hasn’t shown a major interest in honest portrayals of Gen Z. Even the basics like gender pronouns seem like a foreign concept to most Indian filmmakers. The entertainment industry is doing itself and an entire generation a huge disservice by refusing to get to know it better. The challenges are many, especially because there’s a generation gap every five years now, even within the broad Gen Z category. But if anything, this should serve as inspiration for a new content that does them justice. There’s a goldmine of content out there if only the heads of the world’s biggest entertainment industry will stop sticking their heads in the sand.

This article is part of a series called Beyond the Reel. You can read all the articles here.

(Editing by Zoya Bhatti)


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