Netflix has added five new original series to its India slate, which involve the likes of Shah Rukh Khan, Anushka Sharma, Alankrita Shrivastava, Ravi Patel, and Ashvini Yardi. The five new Netflix shows are horror zombie series Betaal, which will be produced by Khan's Red Chillies Entertainment; female-oriented drama Mai, produced by Sharma and her brother Karnesh Sharma's Clean Slate Films; urban female drama Bombay Begums written and directed by Shrivastava; comedy-drama Messy created by and starring Patel; and real-life inspired Masaba Masaba, created and produced by Yardi's Viniyard Films. No release dates were provided, but they are expected to release over the next year.
Set in a remote village during the British colonial era, Betaal is about a two-century old evil spirit, a British Indian army officer, and his battalion of zombie redcoats. Patrick Graham will serve as showrunner and writer-director, alongside Nikhil Mahajan (Baji) as director and Suhani Kanwar (Lipstick Under My Burkha) as writer. Graham previously created Ghoul for Netflix, and wrote episodes of Leila with Kanwar. Betaal will be executive produced by Jason Blum's Blumhouse Productions and Ivanhoe Pictures, which also supported Graham on Ghoul.
“Indian legend is filled with tales that thrill, chill and bring the audience to the edge of their seat,” Graham said in a statement. “It's a pleasure working with Netflix again on Betaal and to be able to tap the narrative goldmine of Indian stories for a series that brings to life universal conflicts in the engaging and immersive zombie horror genre.”
Mai follows Sheel, a docile 47-year-old wife and mother who is entangled with white collar crime and politics after a deep personal tragedy, which forever changes her and the world she inhabits. Atul Mongia, an acting workshop director who's worked on films such as Gully Boy and Gold, makes the jump as a writer on Mai, supported by Tamal Sen (Kaali) and Amita Vyas. Udta Punjab writer Sudip Sharma will serve as creative producer on Mai.
“This is my second collaboration with Netflix after Bulbul and we are again looking to disrupt the kind of content audiences are consuming,” Sharma said. “Mai is an exciting work of fiction that tells the story of a middle-class Indian woman who leads a double-life of a don.”
Bombay Begums is about “five women across generations who wrestle with desire, ethics, personal crises and vulnerabilities to own their ambition. As glass ceilings are shattered and hearts are broken, difficult choices have to be made. And as each woman strives to find her own truth, they find in each other an unexpected understanding and the sliver of a bond.” Chernin Entertainment and EndemolShine India will executive produce the Netflix series.
“Collaborating with Netflix has been extremely exciting and fulfilling because they see the urgency and value of women telling their own stories, through the female gaze,” Shrivastava said. She is best known for her 2017 film Lipstick Under My Burkha. “Bombay Begums is an attempt to tell a story about the lives of urban Indian women, as honestly as I can. I hope that women (and maybe some men!) can connect to this story, no matter what their background, because maybe we're all trying to find ourselves and our place in this world.”
Messy follows a rising female stand-up comic called Beanie, who “struggles to balance a career in comedy with pleasing a yuppie day-job boss, peculiar BFF, persistent parents, and proposal-popping boyfriend. Messy is her quest to find her own voice and get her life together in the midst of all the mayhem.” American-India Patel (Meet the Patels) is a co-writer with Neel Shah (The Bold Type). Messy will be co-produced by The District's David Bernad and Ruben Fleischer (Venom), and Mutant Films' Seher Aly Latif and Shivani Saran.
“This is a story about a girl finding herself and her place in the world while living in a big city, and we're hoping to create a relatable and authentic story that has a universal resonance,” Patel said. “The character is not unlike the average urban Indian woman, grappling with various social pressures while nurturing her sense of humour throughout.”
That leaves Masaba Masaba, which is based on fashion designer Masaba Gupta's life. Gupta and her actress mother Neena Gupta will star as themselves in the scripted series, which will be directed by Sonam Nair (Gippi). Masaba Masaba will follow Gupta's “unique background, the diverse worlds she straddles across fashion and family, and her foray back into the dating world. Masaba's life is a glorious mess, and she's not afraid to show that to the world.”
“When the makers approached me with the idea of a show inspired by my life, I was thrilled,” Gupta said. “It's been a rollercoaster, honestly, and I feel that the moments I've experienced are both unique to my journey and relatable to people the world over. This series will be an amalgamation of my experiences, personally and professionally.”
In most cases, Netflix is working with those it has a prior partnership with. Khan's Red Chillies already has two projects set up at the world's biggest streaming service, in spy thriller series Bard of Blood — out September 27 — and 80s' underworld film Class of ‘83. Sharma's Clean Slate Films is producing the film Bulbul, as she noted in her statement. And Yardi's Viniyard Films produced the film Chopsticks, which released in May.