{First Published in The Hindu Metroplus}

Tanya and Mikesh have been together in a long distance relationship for three years now. One fine morning, Mikesh decides to come back from the US to Mumbai, to propose to Tanya, except Tanya doesn’t want to marry him, for she’s just realised that she barely even knows him. What follows next isn’t the story of the latest Desi romantic comedy novel to hit the shelves, but the first season of Permanent Roommates, a web serial that is produced by The Viral Fever channel on YouTube.

Permanent Roommates has had two seasons so far, and with more than a million hits on each episode, isn’t just a massive success for an independent operation, but has also sparked more YouTube web-series being created in its wake. These shows are all online on YouTube, which means you can watch them whenever you want to. They are roughly twenty minutes long (much like any show that would normally take a half hour slot on television), and take on themes which would be considered to be too audacious for Indian prime time TV. Permanent Roommates, for example, takes on live-in relationships, modern friendships and pre-marital sex – themes which have been done to death on western television shows, but are refreshing to watch when presented in Indian context. Permanent Roommates is based in Mumbai, so the characters speak in Hindi, however, the channel provides subtitles, which is a boon for the Hindi challenged such as myself, not to mention that it ensures that the show gets the large audience that it deserves.

Another web series that I really enjoyed watching, was The Better Life Foundation on the Them Boxer Shorts channel, also on YouTube. The Better Life Foundation, which stars popular stand-up comedians Naveen Richard, Sumukhi Suresh, Utsav Chakraborty and Kanan Gill among others like Kumar Varun and Sindhu Sreenivasa Murthy, is a comedy about a group of young people who run an NGO in Mumbai. The show is presented in a ‘mockumentary’ style, similar to The Office and Modern Family. The humour in the series is very original, and the acting is spot on. I found myself actually laughing out loud many times while watching (this hardly ever happens), so if you’re looking out for a new comedy series to follow, don’t look further than The Better Life Foundation.

Permanent Roommates and The Better Life Foundation are just the tip of the iceberg where Indian web series are concerned. A lot of production houses are coming up with web series that are both regional and relevant for the young audience it caters for, complete with local pop-culture references. Put Chutney, a Chennai based YouTube channel which rose to fame with its “If Batman Was From Chennai” video just released its own web series called Ctrl+Alt+Del which traces the life and times of a group of IT workers in Chennai. The amount of activity in this space is quite exciting, and I really hope that this trend manages to jolt regional serial makers from their current and seemingly never-ending themes of unnecessary sacrifice, jealousy and vengeance, take notice of the fact that their audience’s tastes and views are changing, and finally, realise that we deserve better than feuding mother-in-laws.