Srishti Behl Arya, Netflix's director for international original films in India, is ContentAsia's Woman to Watch for today because... apart from overseeing a record number of film titles across a wider range of genres for streaming screens in India, she's part of the vanguard transforming Indian filmmaking in a big way..
Her latest films, 13 of which were announced in March, include relationship drama “Ajeeb Daastaans” (premieres on 16 April) from Dharmatic Entertainment; Abbas Mustan’s whodunit “Penthouse” starring Bobby Deol; and writer/director Karthik Subbaraj’s “Jagame Thandhiram”, about a nomadic gangster who has to choose between good and evil in a war for what one can truly call home.
Arya talks about her focus on diverse stories and voices, enabling storytellers, her hunt for filmmakers with vision and commitment, and says she is motivated by "the opportunity to connect people all around the world with incredible Indian stories and talent".
"I believe there is great power when people see their lives and experiences reflected on screen and when those stories are shared with the world we can all build a greater sense of empathy," she says.
"As a former producer, I have always loved helping creators tell the best version of their stories and now, as a creative executive at Netflix, I get to bring those stories to the world," she said during this year's Vidonxt conference in March.
She acknowledges the ecosystem that needs to be – and is being – developed in India to deliver to global filmmaking standards.
"It's super gratifying to see people who have come in and done a film with us and go on to use the practices in their next projects and their own systems," she says, adding that growth and progress isn't going to happen overnight or in isolation.
There's no reason India shouldn't be delivering at global quality. "We can do it," she says.
Arya says the much-coveted gender equality in film and series is not only about a 50-50 male-female split, but also about the gaze that they bring, their "moment in time".
"So you have the opportunity of seeing yourself represented, your people represented or to be transported into a world that can be aspirational or terrifying, but adds to the choices that you would want to make. That's the opportunity of being on a service like Netflix," she says.
Born into a filmmaking family, Arya's former life as a producer has given her unique insights into both sides of the commissioning table.
"To empower people with the means to tell their stories... it couldn't have gotten better for a former producer."
Does she miss that old life? "On some days," she says. Like when the crew gather for a drink and she's still in the office. Or sometimes she misses being on set. "But there was no way in that capacity that I would have been able to do the kind of volume or empower so many people, in my own little way, to make their movies".
Here's what else she said in answer to the other two questions we've asked women across Asia's content industry for our latest series:
What would you like people to say about you when you are not in the room?
“She gets me”.
"I would hope that my team, the creators who trust us with their vision, the audiences who watch our films feel that the people behind our films see them for who they are."
Are you now where you thought you would be when you were 20?
"Yes and no. I grew up in the film industry, so as a child I believed that everyone’s job was making films.
"Going to the cinema, seeing the impact of films, being surrounded by such creative forces secured for me that I wanted to go into the film industry one day."
"But, if you had told me that we would be telling stories across the globe in over 30 languages all at the same time, I never would have believed you."
💥 ContentAsia's Women to Watch 2021 series asks women from across Asia's content industry to talk about what motivates them, what they would like people to say or think about them when they’re not in the room, & whether they are now where they thought they would be when they were 20.