“Online content has given the writer complete power, for the first time.” Varun Grover really hit the nail on its head during the discussion on ‘Will the Indian web series only ever tell the stories of its young audience?’ The writers panel featured the who’s who of Indian digital content: Sumeet Vyas, Actor and Writer of TVF Tripling, Naveen Richard, part of Them Boxer Shorts, Preetika Chawla, Executive Creative Producer of the web series Ladies Room, Satvik Mishra, CEO at ScoopWhoop media, and Varun Grover, writer and stand-up comedian.

The session was moderated by journalist and co-curator of PLAY Shreevatsa Nevatia.

Nevatia: When you’re writing for the internet, I assume that there is greater freedom?

Varun Grover: Definitely. Greater freedom, because writing for TV involves talking to a lot of serious-looking business people about your comedy show, to whom sometimes you need to explain your jokes before they exchange looks and decide whether to laugh. It has happened. Writing for digital streamlines the process a lot; the writer is the creator. And that is its biggest asset.

Nevatia: While curating PLAY, I watched a lot of series online, and there was one question that struck me. In a majority of the shows, the characters aren’t identical, but they’re all young, many of them are fairly urban and come from metropolitan areas like Bombay and Delhi. It makes sense to understand that the audience in India today that has access to a smartphone and would be keen on watching these web series. But do you think we would be lesser involved in watching stories that are different from our own?

Nidhi Bisht: There are two ways of looking at it: the Internet came at a time when our generation wasn’t able to relate to television content. On the Internet, for the first time, stories about the youth were being told honestly.

The other aspect is, as creators, it is important to shift your perspective. With Permanent Roommates Season 1, we explored a ‘new love’ angle, whereas Season 2 deals with a couple in a committed relationship. In this way, we’ve moved on from the ‘young lovers’ stage to a more mature one, so it’s definitely possible.

Nevatia: Speaking of Permanent Roommates, in the space of web series, how does the risk of not being relatable anymore play on the writer’s mind?

Sumeet Vyas: Up until recently, stories about the youth were being told by old people who would guess about how young people were, how they lived together, how they partied etc. The numbers speak for themselves as to how many people relate to it, and I think as long as you’re telling a fun story honestly, people enjoy it.

For example, I recently found out that so many young people were watching the Pakistani channel Zindagi because the stories are narrated so well. There is no substitute for quality storytelling.