Sushant Sreeram Interview: Modern Love Chennai will show the city in new light
...says the Country Director, Prime Video, India, who talks about the upcoming anthology, the kind of stories they want to tell, plans for the thriving south Indian market and more
Following the success of Modern Love: Mumbai and Modern Love: Hyderabad, Prime Video is all set to release its third Indian adaptation of the internationally acclaimed anthology series, Modern Love: Chennai on May 18. With these three adaptations, it is clear that the streaming service is working diligently to better explore its inroads into the regional markets. "We believe that being loved is not a one-time achievement, but we need to make them fall in love with our platform all over again and again. And I am glad that we could do it by serving the audiences with some incredible creations like Modern Love Chennai and it's that kind of love that empowers us," says Sushant Sreeram, Country Director, Prime Video, India, who joins us in a conversation to discuss the anthology, the thriving south Indian market, and plans for the future.
A new city and a new set of stories of love... how was it to encapsulate the vibes of Chennai?
While the anthology's theme--love in modern times--is universal, the series is deeply rooted in this city of deliciously diverse culture. Having lived in Chennai for four years, I count this as my second home. In Modern Love Chennai, the filmmakers have portrayed Chennai in a way we have never seen before. That apart, the music composed by Ilaiyaraaja, GV Prakash, Yuvan Shankar Raja and Sean Roldan will surely be a treat for the audiences.
Be it Vadhandhi or Suzhal or even Paatal Lok and Dahaad, a common element in these series is the rooted setting. When did you realise this could be your USP?
Our data suggest that almost 50 per cent of our audiences watch content in 4 or more languages. It indicates that great stories travel across borders. And India, a culturally diverse melting pot, has an appetite to consume great stories. So we don't think of language or territory but stories. We keenly listen to our audiences' preferences, tastes, and feedback on the other content. That way, we learnt that the more authentically local the stories are, the more global they go. There are storytellers like Pushkar, Gayathri, and Thiagarajan Kumaraja who are passionate about telling deeply rooted stories, and we love that. It is the sheer conviction of the creators to tell such stories from corners of the world that motivate us to take them to global audiences.
Analysing the heterogeneity of language, accessibility, and affordability, how promising is the South Indian market?
The beauty within the four South Indian languages — Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada — is that there is a vibrant storytelling ecosystem and culture. The quality of technical and storytelling craftsmanship is great and we are happy to showcase it to the world. As far as Tamil is considered, Modern Love: Chennai will mark the 7th Tamil original content. As we speak, 20 more Tamil originals are under various stages of development, which are part of the larger slate of 100 original stories from India. For Prime Video, India has the second biggest slate of shows and movies after the US. It tells how bullish we are.
Modern Love: Chennai features many newcomers both on-screen and off-screen. How does Prime Video ensure inclusivity and position itself in enabling all kinds of creators?
We continue to provide a global stage to new and established talent in front of and behind the camera. And 50 per cent of launched and upcoming originals feature new talent. If you take Modern Love: Chennai, every director is basically making their OTT debut. Above all, we have been able to build a deep relationship with creators, and they see us as a partner who can take their labour of love to the global stage. We are happy to enable them and make them feel that this world is their oyster.
We also believe that the female perspective is critical to inclusive storytelling, and hence, more than half the originals in production have women in HOD positions and feature women in writers’ rooms.
Do you have a set preference for visual language for series and films?
The visual language and the texture for each content predominantly come from the creators and we go by it. However, one consistent factor I observed over the years is that the filmmakers are keen on world-building and creating a potential, say for a series, to have many episodes and seasons. In the recently released Jubilee, the success was primarily because of creating an immersive set-up that took the audiences to the golden era of Hindi cinema. Likewise, folklore and cultural set-up playing a parallel track in Suzhal made it an intriguing experience.
The streamer is not only producing original content but is also acquiring content from external banners...
We aim to be the one-stop destination for all kinds of entertainment. There are stories we can enable creators to tell, and then there are some stories that we can get from the right people. We want to bring all of them to our platform. The factor that determines it is the audience's needs and our desire to collaborate with promising creators.
What's your take on the OTT Vs theatre debate?
I don't subscribe to the idea of a debate on this topic. Going to the theatre with family is a ritual we still fondly follow. And at the same time, many of us like to sit in the comfort of our homes and enjoy a film or binge-watch a series. In Prime, we firmly believe India is not about OR but about And. So we will do fine as long as we are valued and loved by our audiences. And both mediums will co-exist as long as the creative economy continues to flourish.