Vikram Bhatt’s web series, Maaya, on the channel ‘VB on Web’, gathered lots of curiosity as it brings an extra-marital affair with shades of BDSM to the Indian screen. It was a big dare even for Vikram who’d stretched the boundaries of sensuality last year with some kinky love games. For those who didn’t know that BDSM is an acronym for role-playing involving bondage, discipline, dominance, submission and sadomasochism, he always had to make references to EL James’s Fifty Shades of Grey, and its filmi spinoffs, to explain Maaya. And the reactions were comical, “Really? Has he tried it? With whom? Where?”, as if you had to kill to direct a murder series.
It’s been three weeks since Maaya started playing and the reactions are even more surprising. The promos which promised unabashed sexuality, not surprisingly the initial audience was 98 per cent male. The surprise is that 2% women viewers who were a miniscule to start with, have grown to 28 per cent. The opening episode, unveiled on January 27, hit 1 million views in three weeks, but the fourth episode jumped to 1 million views in two days and in a week is close to 2 million. Amazing statistics for a web series, which would have got an ‘A’ rating with many cuts from the CBFC if made as a feature film. Even more impressive is that in less than a month, the channel has close to 50k subscribers.
“This has been possible only because the series which had been dismissed as soft-porn by conservatives has struck a chord even with women who are looking beyond Maaya and Rahul’s kinky fantasies brought to a climax with blindfolds, whips and chains, to the angst and anguish that lies beneath. They are identifying with their better (or worse) halves as well,” says Vikram not surprised by the coming-of-age converts, reasoning that we’re living in times when women are as active as men on dating apps like Tinder and vocal about their sexual preferences. This is true not just of the Gen X or city slickers, but also small-town middle-class housewives.
As part of his research, he met a woman from Indore who’d been forced into threesomes after marriage. While her husband quickly tired of these bedroom games, she was hooked even though it created friction at home, eventually divorcing him to live alone and enjoy sex the way she wanted. “It’s cases like these that made me risk Maaya which hopefully will bring our online content out of the closet to give the Netflix’s Gossip Girls a run for their viewers,” Vikram adds.