Hindi-language “Maja Ma,” starring Bollywood icon Madhuri Dixit Nene, is the first of many Indian original films from Amazon Prime Video, Aparna Purohit, the head of India originals for the streamer, has revealed.
The film is a Prime Video commission, as opposed to an acquisition. “We have been acquiring films, we have been putting films straight on our service and over the last two years, we put almost 60 films out and we also bought into co-productions. Producing our own films was the next logical step,” Purohit told Variety.
Next up are films in the Telugu and Tamil languages, with films in Malayalam and Kannada being explored. “We want to tell stories that are truly rooted in our soil, stories that are compelling, that are differentiated, in the hands of very passionate creators – story being the starting point for every decision. That’s the strategy,” said Purohit. “And we want to really delight our audiences spread across the length and breadth of the country.”
The executive also said that Amazon is open to releasing films the films it has produced in theaters in India.
Amazon, Netflix and Disney+ Hotstar are amongst several streamers operating out of India who have signed up to a self-regulation code. The Indian government is content to let the streamers self-regulate, rather being subject to the censor board clearance that theatrically released films have to obtain, as long as they remain “responsible,” the country’s Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur told Variety earlier this year. The streamers are expected to adhere to a digital media ethics code.
Amazon has faced some heat in this respect over the last year.
“We are responsible towards our audiences, towards the law and very, very compliant with the law of the land – fully compliant with the new content guidelines and regulations. But other than that, the audiences are evolving, their tastes and preferences are evolving,” Purohit said. “We continue to put our customers first. We will continue to put our content creators first and we continue to tell all our stories. Look at the stories that we’ve told in the last one and a half years ever since these content guidelines came out – are we more responsible? Certainly.”
Meanwhile, the service zeroed in on “Maja Ma,” produced by Leo Media Collective and Amritpal Singh Bindra, directed by Anand Tiwari and written by Sumit Batheja, as its first film production because the subject resonated with them.
“It’s the story of this quintessential Indian family – on the surface, everything is beautiful, but often enough, the way it happens in any Indian family, when there is a big festival or there is a marriage, and everyone comes together, that’s the time that all the issues that you shoved under the carpet, all the skeletons from the closet come out,” Purohit said. “And a really strong, resilient woman [Dixit Nene] with strong agency at the centre of it, truly ticked all boxes for us.”
The ensemble cast also includes Gajraj Rao, Ritwik Bhowmik, Barkha Singh, Srishti Shrivastava, Rajit Kapur, Sheeba Chaddha, Simone Singh, Malhar Thakar, and Ninad Kamat.
Bindra said: “There are lots of advantages of taking a movie like this to a service like Prime Video. Firstly, the ability for it to reach as far as 240 countries and territories is a very exciting part for us because generally, a Hindi film doesn’t get that kind of mileage. It cannot reach so many people via the traditional box office. Another advantage, we think, is that this film is as Indian as it gets, and definitely something that the Indian diaspora will enjoy: by virtue of it being a very family-oriented, true-blue Bollywood movie.”
Tiwari added: “We figured ‘Maja Ma’ is the right mix of entertainment, laughter, drama, sorrow, understanding, and misunderstanding. The thing is, all of these ingredients are equally necessary to capture the essence of a family. Moreover, you can see some amazing stories around dysfunctional families which quickly become people’s favorite. Well, there is no denying that some Indian artists are doing amazing stuff around that genre as well. But, there’s a long road to cover for this specific niche of films when it comes to an Indian audience. We are excited to share this story with viewers, worldwide.”
“Maja Ma” streams from Oct. 6.