If familiarity breeds contempt then anonymity should breed comfort. With this premise in mind; many have flocked to Internet chat rooms, are hooked on Whatssapp and Facebook, finding solace, companionship and on occasions even sexual satisfaction from virtual strangers who may be using fake aliases. That is the idea behind Vikram Bhatt’s web series Maaya which will kick-start VB on the Web, his very own free-to end-users (read viewers) web channel which he is launching in collaboration with Samir Pitalwala’s Culture Machine in October.
“It is about how two people who having cloaked their identities from each other, meet and live out their sexual fantasies, in the process fall in love and deciding to take on the world which views their relationship with jaundiced, judgemental eyes. It is an unusual concept which while not really a Fifty Shades of Grey is an erotic love story in its own way and will play with BDMS hereto taboo. So you can expect chains, blindfolds, handcuffs and all those sex toys that we could never hope to see in a Hindi movie given our puratinicalcensors,” points out Vikram who in a career spanning over a quarter of a century, has exploded many taboos on screen in films like Raaz, Kasoor, Red and more recently Love Games.
Disturbed and disillusioned by the growing censorship issues, Vikram had initially decided to pen Maaya as a novel, Summer of Frost. But when digital, uncensored platforms started opening out to him, he decided to tap into FB, YouTube and Culture Machine’s own brands like Being Indian and Blush to reach out to an audience, primarily in the age group of 15 to 30 which turned away from theatres or left to watch truncated content, had turned to American television.
Maaya which features Shama Sikander as the sweetly innocent, wide-eyed protagonist who finds love through lust, is the kind of fantasy that most of our filmmakers who have already started practising self censorship in a climate of prudish morality, never thought could be made for real. “But now with me sharing details and pictures of the show on the social media, my writer, director and actor friends are excited and in the mood to experiment. Suddenly, we have a new playground without the sentinels around,” grins Vikram, who has also green-lit two other shows for his channel, a comedy, Apun Ka Naam Sailesh, and a romcom, Ek Plate Zindagi.
However, it is Maaya which has just wrapped up its first schedule with Shama, Veer Aryan, Vipul Gupta, Pareena Chopra and Aradhya, which promises to sizzle on the social media. Says Vikram, “In a country where a James Bond kiss is cut down to size and a Brett Lee is prevented from having sex on screen, I had despaired of ever making something like Maaya. But now I can make my own Sex in the City without any checks on my creativity and young people can watch it too for free. And advertisers are welcome too. Woohoo come join the fun!”