Entrepreneur Karnesh Ssharma is launching Clean OTT, a streaming service focusing on female-oriented original content, in the first quarter of 2023.
Female actors, directors and producers will be at the heart of the service, which aims to move away from the male gaze that plagues Indian content and to create a sustainable platform for female professionals to further their career in the entertainment industry, while also removing age barriers.
The content will include originally curated and produced works by Clean and pre-selected projects that meet the Clean OTT messaging framework by other producers from India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Nepal.
Ssharma is also a co-founder of Clean Slate Filmz (Netflix’s “Bulbbul,” Amazon’s “Paatal Lok”). The Clean OTT library will feature work from directors, scriptwriters, actors, and producers associated with Clean Slate Filmz, as well as providing opportunities to emerging talent.
Investment in the platform comes from Clean Slate Filmz, its founders and like-minded institutions.
The streamer will be driven by an annual subscription SVOD model and will initially launch in India before expanding to markets such as the U.K., U.S., Canada, and the U.A.E., where there is a significant Indian diaspora population. The subscription price has not been revealed.
“Our mission is to leave behind any preconceived notions or prejudices over what is deemed ‘traditional’ in Indian film from a gender perspective, and instead focus solely on gripping, quality storylines which give women agency in storytelling and places them and their perspectives at the core of the action,” Ssharma, founder of Clean OTT, told Variety. “It really is a ‘clean slate’ for women in the industry and breaks away from the traditional roles that they are often afforded, and the way that they are depicted within the entertainment sector. We want to provide a much more equal path for career progression and longevity for women in the industry.”
“Clean OTT is an all-encompassing, engaging platform for the world to gain a future driven understanding of the beauty of content originating from India, that cuts across the language and socio-economic barriers, placing equality and inclusivity at the core of its vision,” Ssharma said.
While a budget for Clean OTT was not revealed, Clean Slate Filmz has a separate INR4 billion ($54 million) war chest for investment across streaming and film projects.
Clean Slate Filmz currently has eight projects in development. First up is Netflix series “Mai,” starring Sakshi Tanwar (“Dangal”), with acting workshop and casting specialist Atul Mongia debuting as showrunner and director, with Anshai Lal (“Phillauri”) also directing a few episodes. The series follows a homemaker from a middle class household who chances upon her daughter’s killers and is drawn into the world of crime. “Mai” is due to stream from April or May.
Netflix film “Qala” by Anvita Dutt (“Bulbbul”) is a period film set in the 1930s and 1940s against the backdrop of the music industry and follows a mother-daughter relationship. It stars Tripti Dimri (“Bulbbul”) and Swastika Mukherjee (“Paatal Lok”) and is due in the first quarter of 2022. As revealed by Variety, “Chakda ‘Xpress,” a Netflix film inspired by the life of one of women cricket’s all-time greatest players, Jhulan Goswami, starring Anushka Sharma (“Pari”), is underway.
Also in the works are two more series and two more films for Netflix, and two series for Amazon Prime Video, details of which are under wraps at the moment.
Clean Slate was set up by siblings Ssharma and Anushka Sharma, a top Bollywood star, in 2013. “We would always talk about the kind of films which were being made, at that point of time, and what agency women actors had in films,” said Ssharma. “From Anushka’s point of view, it was more about trying to get good cinema out, and where women have larger representation and more meaningful representation on screen.”
“And that’s, that’s something I was also very aware of, and we thought, what better way than to probably start telling the stories ourselves,” said Ssharma.
Clean Slate launched with thriller “NH10” (2015), followed by fantasy-comedy “Phillauri” (2017) and supernatural horror “Pari” (2018) – all revolving around strong women characters. The films were box office successes.
Amazon series “Paatal Lok” (2020) was widely acclaimed for its searing look at the badlands of rural India, while Netflix original film, period supernatural thriller “Bulbbul” (2020), another female-focused tale, also won plaudits.