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Abi Varghese, the man behind the Malayalam “Akkara Kazhchagal” takes us overseas with "Brown Nation".
Omi Vaidya in a scene from the show 'Brown Nation'

In the years since Bengaluru got verbed as “Bangalored”, there’s been a slowly growing interest in American content tinged with an Indian flavour. "Brown Nation", the latest in that list, is a new Indian-American show releasing on Netflix, the popular content streaming platform, on November 15. 

This slice-of-life series set in New York features the acting talents of Rajeev Varma, Omi Vaidya, Shenaz Treasurywala and Melanie Chandra. It is being directed by Abi Varghese – the man behind "Akkara Kazhchagal", a Malayalam sitcom that aired on Kairali TV for three years.

The series, created and written by Matt Grubb, George Kanatt and Abi Varghese, will follow the life and times of a small IT company in NYC. The News Minute spoke to Prakash Bare, one of the producers of the show, about what we can expect from "Brown Nation" and the nature of internet platforms like Netflix. Excerpts from the email interview below:

"Brown Nation" appears to be a comedy but will it also deal with issues like racism or identity for brown folks in the US?

It is basically a sitcom taking a satirical look at the life of Indians and other brown-skinned communities in the backdrop of NYC. It's not a very serious or preachy depiction of the issues. The comedy really comes from the everyday activities of the characters who are into the rat race typical of city life. The cultural differences of the Indian, Middle Eastern, Chinese, Caucasian and African-American characters also helps.

Shows like "Outsourced" generally have Indian characters who are caricatures. The White people talk normally while the Indian characters take on exaggerated mannerisms and accents. Will "Brown Nation" break out of this?

It was widely felt that "Outsourced" had a local perspective of the things which didn't help in capturing the Indian situation that truthfully. We have a more balanced scripting department with talents from American as well as Indian backgrounds. That we believe has resulted in a programme which will be palatable to both the audiences. Indians are generally more expressive than their Western counterparts, but in "Brown Nation", I believe the performances are very subtle compared to typical Indian content.

How have Netflix and other internet platforms influenced entertainment production?

The internet platforms (Netflix is one of them) are going to be the major support for the content creators around the world including India. They allow one to create content without bothering too much about the constraints of today's industry – stardom, censorship, TRP and the formulae put forth by the distributors, channels and other industry forces etc. 

The US has seen tremendous growth of OTT platforms at the cost of films and cable TVs. It is going to happen in India also in coming years. The main reason is the transparency the new platform offers between the creators and the audience. To a great extent, it liberates the audience from the so-called "majority taste" which you are forced to watch in films and TV shows these days.

Are there South Indian characters in "Brown Nation"? 

As expected, there are a lot of Indian characters in "Brown Nation". The central character, Hasmukh and family, are Gujaratis. Omi Vaidya does a Tamilian character called Balan. There are a couple of Malayali characters as well.

Who are the audiences you're hoping to attract?

The growing number of netizens and English-speaking audience in India and the Indian expats around the world are surely our audience for this programme. Above and beyond that, there is now significant demand internationally for English content with Indian flavour. That is an area which is going to see a lot growth in the near future. "Brown Nation" could be a major milestone in that evolution. Netflix's subscribers around the world could find our program refreshingly different and interesting.

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