Of Abhay Deol and Disruptive Entertainment, Desi Style

By on August 31st, 2011 1 Comment

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Photo: Hindustan Times

Photo: Hindustan Times

Picture this scene: You come home from work, just in time to catch Kaun Banega Crorepati on TV, in prime time. During the commercials (Priyanka hawks Bru coffee; Abhishek advises you to “Get Idea”), you flip through various saas-bahu soaps, then suddenly decide you’re in the mood for a movie instead. “Andaz Apna Apna”? “Band Baaja Baraat”? “Mughal-e-Azam”? The possibilities abound. You settle on the latest masala blockbuster, barely out on screens for two weeks.

Considering “you” are not, in fact, in New Delhi or Mumbai and instead are ensconced in a San Francisco apartment or a home in suburban Missouri, does this scenario sound a bit too good to be true… and not to mention, illegal? Think again. Thanks to Mela, a revolutionary new South Asian digital entertainment platform launching this month, viewers will have access to a broad range of desi serials, movies, news, and music, all from the comfort of their own U.S. living rooms.

Bollywood dreamboat Abhay Deol was on hand, dimples and all, to officially unveil Mela in New York last week and explain his commitment to the product. Mela’s GM Sab Kanaujia—whose media cred includes high-profile stints at Time Warner AOL, TMZ, and NBC—called the collaboration between Mela and Deol truly synergistic: “Mela is trying to disrupt Indian entertainment, and Abhay is disruptive, too—how many people, after doing a hit movie like “Dev D”, will come to New York for a technical course in welding?”

For an actor who’s made a name for himself in unconventional indie productions, Mela offers a truly unique chance to reach new audiences. “When you make films that don’t follow the Bollywood formula, it’s hard to get a distribution platform,” he said. “The mindset is, ‘NRI audiences don’t want to see non-formula films.’ Mela will give a whole new lease of life to the independent movement in the Bollywood industry. Here, the possibilities are endless, and the distance we can go is incredible.”

Indeed, viewers can get access to a broad range of movies and programming on demand, and, given Mela’s partnerships with major content providers like Yash Raj FIlms and Eros International, the company is also providing a way to combat piracy—every filmmaker’s pet peeve. “If you don’t get to see a movie on you screens, you go to your local Indian store and get a pirated DVD. Now you can watch a high-quality product at home,” said Deol. “It’s so simple you wonder why no one ever thought of it before.”

Could this really be, as Kanaujia pegged it, the “global Hulu or global Netflix for South Asian content”? Only time will tell, but it’s safe to say that it’s breaking new ground for desi entertainment, and we’re all for that!

Sarah Khan is an editor at Travel + Leisure. Read more of her essays at www.bysarahkhan.com.