Scams, cons, and crime stories based on true events are finding large audiences on OTT (over-the-top) streaming platforms that see overall traction for shows based on real life and people. While SonyLIV’s Scam 1992- The Harshad Mehta Story was a hit, it is now turning into a franchise with a second instalment Scam 2003 based on the stamp paper scam that year.
discovery+ has just launched Money Mafia, a series on white-collar crime, while Netflix has premiered Delhi Crime and Bad Boy Billionaires and has two more crime series coming up this year. Streaming platform executives said these shows require significant research and investigation, often remaining in development for up to two years.
“More than just notoriety, audiences are drawn to true life stories. When told well, with attention to accurate detail, period context, great production values and excellent performances, stories like these become both exciting to watch as a series, as well as cautionary tales,” said Sameer Nair, CEO, Applause Entertainment that backed Scam 1992. Nair added that the company is drawn to true-life stories in crime, finance, business, homeland security, armed forces, and so on.
Scam stories make for a very appealing genre, said Gautam Talwar, chief content officer at MX Player that has produced Ashram, based on a Godman who conned his devoted followers. “People are curious to know the ‘how’ behind the crime and the modus operandi of the other side of the world. While Bollywood may have attempted the generic crime genre, it hasn’t cracked a true con artist drama,” said Talwar whose platform is now coming up with Matsya Kaand, a series based on real-life cons carried out in the 1980s. Simply reading up on these stories doesn’t really tell you how it all happened, Talwar added, the research that involves talking to multiple people and even drawing up your own hypothesis is a time-taking one.
Nair agreed acquiring the rights of published material, usually books, is the ideal way forward but telling stories of this kind requires extensive research and validation, even though the incident in question may be in public domain. “Usually, such stories are set in a different time period. The recreation of that period requires attention to detail, and consequent production and post-production expenses. So, such series do become more expensive than the normal present day drama series,” he added.
The appeal for crime stories, especially when done for the non-fiction category, stems from hearing it all from the horse’s mouth making for great intrigue value, said Sai Abishek, original content head, South Asia, Discovery Inc that will bring out two more crime stories apart from Money Mafia this year. “Research is of paramount importance on a factual network because there are legalities involved in what you can show on screen. Our research involves speaking to people with investigative journalistic experience who have access to such places and people,” Abhishek said.
A Netflix spokesperson said good stories are genre-agnostic and with true crime stories, the platform is diving into the psychology of crime, criminals and society across the Indian landscape. While international titles like Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes, Operation Varsity Blues, The Ripper and The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel have been popular, the service is now bringing out Crime Stories: India Detectives which follows major criminal investigations by Bangalore City Police and House of Secrets: The Burari Deaths which is based on the incident that involved the death of 11 members of a family in Delhi in 2018. Live Mint