Netflix India’s swerve to YouTube has been an ongoing project. In early 2019 they put out a kind and warm Valentine’s Day video, with a sweet plug for Netflix, drenched in primary colours and old school romance. Soon, they had separate properties — Behensplaining, Grandma Reacts, Tanmay Reacts, and Menu Please. The Menu Please episodes with Dhee and Santosh Narayanan, as well as the episode with Kannan Gill and Kenny Sebastian have over 1.4 million views each. The 8th season of comedian Abish Mathew’s talk show Son Of Abish premiered on Netflix India’s YouTube Channel.
They were using popular comedians and well-known figures to stack up their subscriber count. These properties served as “content” unto themselves, while also being explicit, unabashed plugs for Netflix. You could argue they were extended, well produced, well received advertisements, though whether the YouTube subscriber count translated into a Netflix subscriber count is uncertain.
Aryan & Meera seems to be the next iteration of this swerve, because it is an entire show. In the trademark low-stakes, feel-good, urban storytelling of a Dice Media production (which went off the rails with Firsts, their 1-minute episodes on Instagram), this show has 4 episodes, 15-20 minutes each, propelled by neither drama nor insight. Just a spindly, vapour-like love.
Directed by Tapasvi Mehta (Khwabon Ke Parindey), written by Kishan Savjani, the show revolves around Aryan Khanna (Taaruk Raina) and Meera Rao (Zayn Marie Khan) as they move in with each other. They tell their broker they are second cousins, but their neighbours — an old couple, very much in love, the Television Program to their Netflix — sniff their love immediately but promise they won’t disclose it. While circling around the circumstances around which they met, and the flash forward to setting up the house, the episode strings along to the soft music score by Archit & Smit, an Ankur Tewari-lite in texture and theme. References to Tamasha, streaming on Netflix, and Netflix’s automatic recommendation algorithm keep popping up, as a reminder that this isn’t a show as much as it is an advertisement, the distinction between them blurring. When Netflix made the option for speeding through content at 1.25x and 1.5x, there was understandable alarm. But what was perhaps not focused on, was that they were also looking for and making content that was possible to watch at 1.25x and 1.5x. I submit the first episode of Aryan & Meera as evidence. The remaining 3 episodes drop weekly, with the second episode dropping on 1st September.