OTT platforms taste success in adapted content

A third of all films ever made have been adapted from novels.


MUMBAI: The enthusiasm around Hotstar Special Criminal Justice was noticeable on social media platforms since it started streaming on the platform from 5 April. From well-known faces in Bollywood fraternity to mass audience, the Indian adaptation of the British TV series has been appreciated by different clusters of audience. With the success of the Applause Entertainment-produced web series, it is evident that adapted content works well across mediums.

Starting from movies, the adaptation format has travelled a long way through television to reach the youngest medium of entertainment, over-the-top (OTT) platforms. The text-to-screen phenomenon grew on the back of films as experts say a third of all films ever made have been adapted from novels. Later, novels and other literary forms found a place on satellite television during the early 90s. Sherlock, Game of Thrones, American Gods and Sex and the City are a few examples of popular adapted TV series.

While audience enthusiasm for adaptations has always been high, streaming platforms weren’t far behind in latching on to the demand. House of Cards, the series which turned around Netflix’s fortune, is an adaptation of a BBC miniseries of the same title which is based on the political thriller novel by Michael Dobbs. Over time, the leading OTT platform released many adaptations such as A Series of Unfortunate Events and 13 Reasons Why. Very recently, Netflix has acquired the rights to adapt Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude as a new series, the first filmed adaptation of the masterwork.

Both international and local OTT platforms in India are also laying their hand on this genre. Netflix started out its journey of originals in India with Sacred Games based on Vikram Chandra’s novel of the same name. Later, it launched cricket drama series Selection Day based on a novel by Aravind Adiga. However, the latter could not create a buzz like the former. The platform is also adapting Salman Rushdie’s acclaimed novel Midnight’s Children, a very relevant literary work in the Indian context, into a series.

ZEEL’s digital venture ZEE5 also contains adapted content but rather than adapting a novel, the platform has chosen short stories. During ZEE5 Film festival last year, an adaptation of writer Saadat Hasan Manto’s Toba Tek Singh directed by Ketan Mehta was released on the platform. At the beginning of this year, it launched a web-series titled PARCHAYEE – ghost stories by Ruskin Bond based on handpicked stories written by the renowned author. Although the platform is inclined towards short story format, it has adapted a novel too. The Final Call is a web series adapted from author Priya Kumar’s popular novel I Will Go With You.

Hotstar seems to have a different type of adapted content compared to other platforms. Under its partnership with Applause Entertainment, the platform is bringing two more Indian adaptations of renowned international TV shows such as The Office and Hostages followed by recently launched Criminal Justice. Rather than taking the traditional route of text-to-screen format, the platform is experimenting with two different narrative structures of video. But according to traditional definitions, a film, TV series or play that has been adapted directly from the written work comes under the umbrella of adaptation. Hence, there might be different approaches while terming The Office, Hostages and Criminal Justice as adapted content when instead they may be termed as remakes.

The success of adaptations has made it clear why the format is popular. By creating hype around adapted content before its launch the promotional campaign is easy. On the other hand, the failure to meet audience expectation also makes the gamble difficult.

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