Just last week, Netflix announced Zoya Akhtar’s ‘The Archies’ which is set to release in 2023. The project marks the debut of some well-known star kids, like Suhana Khan, Khushi Kapoor and Agastya Nanda, Dot, a young musician. The cast also includes Yuvraj Menda, an Instagram celebrity along with Vedang Raina and, Mihir Ahuja, whom you may remember from films such as ‘Super 30’ or ‘Feels Like Ishq’.
The announcement of this project has created immense hype, but at the same time has drawn some criticism from multiple sources. ‘The Archies’ is an adaptation of the popular Archie comic series. Ever since its inception, in 1942, Archie comics have been consistently rising in popularity. These comics have been an integral part of many people’s childhood, and are even famous today because of the nostalgia factor. The characters from Archie comics have appeared in many forms of media like films and video games.
Even as far as Netflix is concerned, this would not be the first time an ‘Archie Comics’ adaptation has found a home on the streaming site. Though Netflix is not responsible for the production of the television series, it has played a huge role in helping the CW’s ‘Riverdale’ a majority of its popularity. The streaming service is vastly responsible for the series’ worldwide distribution. Over the years, Riverdale’s popularity has been declining as the show has started introducing far-fetched and bizarre plotlines. All this to say, Netflix doesn’t exactly have a perfect track record when it comes to Archie Comics adaptations.
Speaking of Netflix not having a perfect track record, just at the beginning of this year, the company saw a loss of a total of 200,000 subscribers. This in turn was a cause for Netlix’s stock to plummet down drastically. There are a couple of reasons behind this problem. First of all, despite being one of the biggest streaming sites, Netflix does not have a very diverse catalogue of movies and shows. There certainly are some specific titles which have successfully caught the audiences’ attention and amassed a considerable level of popularity amongst the people. Some examples could be Squid Game, which managed to take the entire world by the storm and even Stranger Things, a dark sci-fi thriller full of 80s references. However, these and a limited number of other titles are not enough to keep the audiences’ interest, especially with the growing competition.
This brings us to the second reason for Netflix’s slow decline. At this point, Netflix is far from being the only company with a relative monopoly over streaming services. Amazon Prime has been growing gradually for quite a few years now, and the recent launch of Disney+ has also garnered a lot of viewers on its platform. People tend to opt for Amazon Prime, generally, because it comes with added perks. As for Disney+, it has made a splash with its vast range of shows and movies, which made people curious. With the rise of so many new and coming streaming services, it is simply not economical for people to buy a subscription for each of them. When people have to narrow it down to the options that are the most viable to them, they are less likely to pick Netflix.
Especially when it comes to Indian audiences, Amazon Prime becomes a much more tempting option as it encompasses a large variety of shows and movies that cater to the Indian audience as well as a good pick of regional content as well. Even Disney+ has a much wider range of content, including Marvel films and Disney’s own productions.
As for this adaptation of the Archie Comics, the question becomes whether it is the right fit for the Indian audience or was it made with only the Wester audience in mind? The trailer offers a glimpse into the especially vintage West aesthetic that the show’s theme seems to be following. An Archies adaptation with a specific western aesthetic is nothing new and has been done a million times before. What would have been interesting to see is The Archies adapt this quintessential comic to a very palpable Indian setting. Though it is difficult to determine if that is something the movie will fail to achieve simply from the trailer, all the evidence right now points towards that.
While it may not fit the Indian aesthetics, this adaptation might be more faithful to the comics, though its appeal to the general public would be considerably less. If Akhtar’s goal is to create a more homogenized version of the story, which would have a more global, specifically Western appeal to people, it would be quite evident once the movie is released.
A conversation about ‘The Archies’ cannot be concluded without discussing the blatant nepotism obvious in the cast. The film consists of a cast of seven actors, out of which four are star kids. Suhana Khan (Shah Rukh Khan’s daughter), Agastya Nanda (Amitabh Bacchan’s grandson), Khushi Kapoor (The late Sridevi and Boney Kapoor’s daughter) and Dot (Amit Saigal’s daughter) make up more than half of the film’s cast. While the film also stars three newcomers, Yuvraj Menda, Vedang Raina and Mihir Ahuja, they are clearly outnumbered. It is no secret that Bollywood has a considerable nepotism problem, and this cast is clearly proof of it. While conversations on the issue of nepotism float around the film industry time and again, they do not seem to go anywhere. With the big directors and production companies crafting projects to launch star kids, newcomers to the industry have become rarer and rarer.
The Archies, at least from what can be seen from the trailer, clearly seem to be trying to emulate a westernized approach with the strange white-washing of the actors and the accented English. The adaptation would have garnered much more fame or support from the Indian masses if the film had tried expressing the experiences of an average Indian teenager. If it were set in a small town in India, focusing on the daily experiences of this group of friends, the Indian audience could find some aspects of their story to relate to. However, the film is not out yet, and could easily be something that an average Indian would find interesting. Now only time will tell what kind of reaction this Zoya Akhtar project will elicit.
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