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What if Netflix was a crazy concert!

Updated on: 21 June,2023 07:24 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Mayank Shekhar |

There’s something about Brazilian fan-culture that separates it from the world, for sure

What if Netflix was a crazy concert!

The cast of One Piece and the stars of Avatar: The Last Airbender make an appearance at Tudum in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Pic/Twitter

Mayank ShekharEvery minute, a handler walks up to me, whispering into the ear, “You want?” I politely decline. These aren’t drug dealers, although I’m in Sao Paulo, Brazil—for all you know, there are many of those here (haven’t come across any, yet).

The handlers are selling to me celebrities! While I stand behind the red-velvet rope, holding a mic—as stars of big-ticket Netflix shows/films, walk the red-carpet, for Tudum, the streamer’s first such live, global event, showcasing their talents, before a stadium-sized crowd. 

“So, you want Chase Stokes (Outer Banks), Maisa Silva (Back to 15), Valentina Zenere (Elite), Kiawentiio (Avatar: The Last Airbender)…” I go, “No, no, no…” 

Having trained my eyes specifically on who the Indians might care for the most—Gal Gadot, Alia Bhatt, Chris Hemsworth, Maitreyi Ramakrishnan… Obviously, Arnold Schwarzenegger, but he’s not gonna show up. “Oh, what about Anya Chalotra, she’s Indian,” asks rep of the series, The Witcher! Nope. 

Feisty Denny Directo, ‘red-carpet specialist’ for the iconic celebrity-nugget show, Entertainment Tonight, that’s been around since 1981—Hollywood’s Lehren, if you may—has a full deck of cards, with questions for everyone on the list handed to us. The list has photographs, with names, to match talents that pop up on the carpet!

It’s only once you enter the venue, the magnificent Ibirapuera Park, Sao Paulo’s equivalent of NYC’s Central Park, right in the lungs of the city, with 12.5 million people, that you realise, frickin’, eh! Those blokes I was buzzing off on are bloody bona fide bosses in Brazil.

The wild screeching by mostly a youngling crowd, so multi-ethnic looking, themselves—for each of them, A-listers, regardless of country of origin, or genre of content—could tear your ear-drums at Tudum. We watch the same Netflix. I think they watch everything! 

That global OTT platforms have brought showbiz/storytelling, therefore the world, closer and closer, still—something that the theatrical distribution model, and national television networks couldn’t, as much—needn’t be stated further. 

Consider, for instance, what Hollywood’s wonder woman Gadot tells me at the red-carpet about her Heart of Stone co-star, Alia Bhatt. 

She was already familiar with the Bollywood star’s work. How? She’d first seen her in RRR, on Netflix. Which is how Americans first streamed S S Rajamouli’s blockbuster, and licked it all the way through. 

Eventually leading to an unprecedented Oscar-run, and the maiden Academy Award, for Best Song—the one filmmaking department Indians have, but always scored over the rest of the world. 

If any desi entertainment will become ‘junta’ in Brazil, it’ll likely happen over a streamer. Zoya Akhtar’s The Archies’ cast performed at Tudum. The movie is half a year away from dropping. I’m told a Brazilian fan-site for The Archies, albeit with a small number, came up right after that night’s quick dance.

Sao Paulo speaks Portuguese. The only way to get by—even order simple coffee at the café—is via Google Translate. Screaming to blow the larynx off, holding placards, posters of favourite celebs, as a love-language, knows no barriers. 

Most stars on the Tudum stage spoke in English. Not that it matters what they said. They just had to raise both their arms, instructing the audience to get louder—the job was done. 

Sure, there was an electronic board subtitling the spoken words. Netflix, being television after all, appeared to have overcompensated for the size of the screen, on stage—huge enough that you’d have to crane your neck for it. 

What’s Tudum, anyway? That thud on the desk that Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) once hit, in the series, House of Cards. It’s been Netflix’s signature intro, 2015 onwards. 

‘Tudum’ is supposed to generate a Pavlovian response to what you’re embarking on, again, and again—ie, Netflix & chill. Which, of course, has developed another meaning of its own! But the sound means different things to different people. To me, it equals, mercifully, more cerebral content.

Netflix’s greatest contribution to India, for instance, is they made documentaries/series, upper-class mainstream. It’s probably reality shows for someone else. You get the drift. 

What’ll still unite audiences, eventually, are stars/fandom around the most loved shows/films. This is how mainstream film industries, Hollywood, Indian cinema, included, have sustained over decades.

‘Tudum’, the show in Sao Paulo, though, was effectively a slate-launch, where sneak-peeks, trailers, along with the chosen cast, play out like the entertainment version of a sales-pitch on PowerPoint. Every streamer does it. But as a press-only event. Fans, however, connect differently. As you could tell from how Netflix redefined it.

Or, maybe, this sort of frenzy is unique to Brazil. Its distance from the common world has probably made it more curious about stories that are cultures apart. It took even Denny, from Entertainment Tonight, 14-hours-plus to travel from LA (North America), to Sao Paulo (South America).

As Nicola Coughlan (Penelope Featherington from Bridgerton) put it to the Brazilian crowd, “Everyone should come here—you make everybody feel like Beyoncé!” 

If I do return to Sao Paulo (manifesting it right here)—it’d have to be for an actual concert. Can’t imagine what that madness be like. Relief, that the Paulistanos everywhere are so heavily into American retro pop/rock. Which, of course, is where the music of my vintage has naturally graduated to.

Mayank Shekhar attempts to make sense of mass culture. He tweets @mayankw14
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