“You may have given up but we still have some films left in us,” a prominent male director told Aparna Purohit, who was just hired by Amazon Prime Video in early 2016 to head the streaming platform’s creative development team and was talking to filmmakers to make original shows for them. Purohit, an eloquent, clearheaded veteran who had spent years in the industry assembling projects, let it pass but the comment gave her pause. Holed up in her small, single room BKC office with barely a team to speak of, she knew one thing: in an industry where stars enjoy a higher premium over stories, her job was going to be tough.
From December 2016, when it launched in India, till now, Amazon has had perhaps the most diverse catalogue of shows, as compared to its peers who’ve struggled to exploit the long-form format to the hilt. As per this NDTV report, it has 4.4 million paid subscribers. But it isn’t clear how many of those use the service exclusively for video.
Under Purohit’s creative tutelage, the streaming giant ticked off, among others, shows that pretty much encapsulate the idea of modern India: cricket (Inside Edge), wedding (Made in Heaven), crime and politics (Mirzapur, Paatal Lok), illustrating the fact that the decisions taken by suits in glass offices aren’t just intuitive or random, but much more strategically planned. Not all their shows have generated the same kind of critical reception, for example the recent Breathe Into The Shadows was panned by many critics, although Amazon maintains it has recorded solid viewership.
To understand how the Indian video vertical of the Jeff Bezos-led shopping juggernaut managed to create a lucrative roster that boasts of shows that can comfortably sit alongside international, prestige TV titles, one has to contextualise Purohit’s own career graph. Industry insiders who HuffPost India spoke to mention how Purohit has earned a stellar reputation of naturally gravitating towards concept-driven stories. She...