A fortnight with Netflix India

Kyle Chandler and Ben Mendelsohn in 'Bloodline' - Watch on Netflix India

Some people have asked us what we thought of the Netflix India experience so we decided to put together our early impressions. We’ll also share what we’ve watched and what we think you should too.

The Stream
The quality of the stream – it is everything. We have a standard internet connection, nothing fancy. Videos on YouTube and Vimeo often buffer repeatedly, especially at the end of the month when we near the limit of our plan. With Netflix it’s been like watching TV – continuous and 99% buffer-free (we had trouble just once on a Saturday evening). The resolution fluctuates until it finds a level and then stays put. There must be compression but there are no visible or audible artefacts. This was what I found most impressive. I still don’t believe it will last forever, but I’m crossing my fingers.

The Catalogue
People have been complaining about how we get a limited catalogue. Honestly, I’m just glad to be getting anything. It’s not like you can blow through the catalogue in one weekend, heck even a month. There is enough variety to keep your entertainment options open for a while. I’d explore the documentary section first if you want to feel like you’re having a completely new experience. Access to TV shows and movies has improved greatly in India over the last few years (I do mean through official channels!) but documentaries haven’t been as easy to access. There are some excellent ones to be found on Netflix so do go through the list.

User Interface
Clean, simple and visual as opposed to text-heavy. It really is idiot proof. You don’t have to work hard to browse, explore, find the next episode of whatever it is you were watching or add to your favourites for later. It also automatically picks up from where you left off if you pause mid-viewing. Very efficient.

What We Watched
Bloodline (TV Show)
This is hands down my favourite of everything I’ve watched on Netflix. E couldn’t do it beyond episode 1 and I don’t blame him. It is tense, gut-wrenching and really quite brutal. I am a sucker for pain so I’ve been binge-watching this show. Bloodline tells the story of the Rayburns, a family who runs a resort in the Florida Keys. The siblings, all adults now, come together at the resort to celebrate its 45th anniversary. Things start going very wrong when Danny, the black sheep of the family, comes home and old wounds are re-opened across the board. As far as ensembles go, this show has captured lightning in a bottle. Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights), Linda Cardellini (Freaks and Geeks, Mad Men), Norbert Leo Butz (Dan In Real Life) play three of the four siblings, and legends Sissy Spacek and Sam Shepard play the parents. The heart of the show is the black sheep Danny played by the Australian actor Ben Mendelsohn (The Dark Knight Rises, Killing Them Softly, The Place Beyond The Pines). It’s hard to articulate what he does because he does so many subtle things and he does them so well. He’s angry, vulnerable, funny, destructive, broken, hopeful, and, how to put it without entering spoiler territory… entrepreneurial. Watching him is often heart-breaking but you can’t take your eyes off him, he is such a force. I’ve watched 8 episodes so far and I know this is going to end messily. All this set against the very mercurial beauty of the Keys makes for a riveting thriller/drama. Check it out, let us know how far you get.

Scream (TV Show)
Much less scary, interestingly, is the horror show Scream, based on the ’90s movie phenomenon. Which is not to say they resist pulling out all the stops just because this is TV. Characters are killed with great regularity and brutality and pretty much no one is indispensable. This is a teen show, I’m guessing for teenagers, but we enjoyed its trusty mainstream horror vibe tremendously. It was tense and the mystery built very well over the season. If you’re nostalgic for the time when you first watched Scream as a kid or if you’re into shows about pretty people running from serial killers, this one is for you. Real life is much scarier, this has very manageable scares.

Hot Girls Wanted (Documentary)
There had been a lot of buzz about this Rashida Jones-produced documentary when it came out last year so we checked it out. The subject matter – young girls who arrive by the thousands each year to try and make it in the porn industry – is clearly NSFW so be aware of where, and when, you’re viewing it. I can’t put my finger on why it was so watchable but it really was – and it’s not the obvious reason. There was something fascinating about listening to and watching these different girls and how they write their own narratives. My favourite moment was when two of the girls are watching on TV, a girl who was doing the talk show rounds and gaining fame after she revealed that she was a university student who had acted in porn films. They sit back and watch the whole thing, kind of side-eyed, and then scoff at the fact that her story is nothing special, all she has is a better PR person. I’ve heard musicians say it (about other musicians, not porn stars), filmmakers, writers, heck anyone who is struggling to get by and feeling the burn every time a peer gets acknowledged for what may or may not be a big deal. To say that it’s ‘the human story behind the objectified porn performer’ makes it sound like a big fat cliché but it really is not as dull as that. Watch it, you’ll see what I mean.

Keith Richards: Under The Influence (Documentary)
Ah, Keef! I wrote at length about this documentary last week. Excerpt: “Here’s the thing – you don’t watch Keith Richards: Under The Influence, you experience it. For each of its 81 minutes you are witness to a vitality that is so complete it makes you want to get up and do things, great things, heck, anything. You feel it when you watch the 72-year-old Richards play music and you feel it especially when you watch archival footage of the Rolling Stones and marvel at the foresight of whoever it was that made the decision to document the band’s journey in such detail.”
Check it out!

Sense8 (TV Show)
This was the only one that didn’t have us immediately going back for more. It is a very interesting idea – “A group of people around the world are suddenly linked mentally, and must find a way to survive being hunted by those who see them as a threat to the world’s order.” It just took really long in the first episode to set up. Like molasses-slow. Maybe on a light night we’ll go back and give it one more shot.

Final Thoughts:
Overall, we enjoy the option of having Netflix, especially if it continues to function the way it does. Our viewing of TV and movies takes place at the end of long and exhausting days or weeks where we just want to unplug from reality for a while. I’m sure that’s the case for a lot of people. At the price point they’re offering and the options available, I don’t see why Netflix India should be disappointing even though we don’t get most of the US catalogue–as yet.

sonaluna

Musician / Sound Editor