True crime, clairvoyants and more: Decoding the boom of desi thriller podcasts

Mystery and true crime audio are the next big things
Mystery and true crime audio are the next big things
Mystery and true crime audio are the next big things

Desi listeners can't have enough of homegrown thrillers and true crime audio content and the mystery podcast boom has only seen a spike in the last year. In the last few months, mystery fiction podcasts like Bhaskar Bose, I Hear You, non-fiction outings like Mafialand, Dosa King, and the soon-to-be-released Crime Kahaniyan have taken over the audio platforms. It also helps that names like BAFTA-nominated producer Guneet Monga, radio icon Mantra, actor Aahana Kumra and several celebrated names have joined the podcast wagon in the last few months. 

Guneet Monga's Mafialand is a one-of-a-kind outing that explores the workings of mini-mafias across the country, from school admissions to parking lots
Guneet Monga's Mafialand is a one-of-a-kind outing that explores the workings of mini-mafias across the country, from school admissions to parking lots

But what is it about hair-raising psychological thriller or horror podcasts that make them so effective as entertainment? We got a psychotherapist to shed some light on it. Pune-based psychotherapist Smiti Srivastava, feels the sense of unpredictability contributes to our love for well-paced thriller content.

“Thrill, as a feeling, is essentially sensation-seeking. It feeds on three main components - excitement, fear, and pleasure. When we listen to stories or consume content that gives us a sense of thrill, we are engaging with these three components which provide vicarious entertainment from feeling like we are part of the situation in some way. At the crux of it all, it’s the ‘not knowing’ that makes us want to either dig deeper for more information or completely turn away and escape. This also reflects in the general attitudes people have towards psychological thrillers in the form of audio or visual content," Srivastava shares. 

Aahana Kumra in I Hear You, a fiction audio series about a clairvoyant detective
Aahana Kumra in I Hear You, a fiction audio series about a clairvoyant detective

A Spotify Spokesperson confirmed that women listeners especially can’t get enough of immersive true crime at the moment. "Horror and true crime podcasts have been popular world over. In fact, last year, we'd collaborated with social psychologist Amanda Vicary to reveal why women in specific are so obsessed with true crime. Podcasts from this genre have also reflected on the Spotify charts in India. Psychological thrillers - whether inspired by real life, or fiction - have engaging storylines and audio storytelling makes it an immersive experience for the listener. Currently, 20% of the top 20 podcasts on Spotify in India are based on true crime or fiction thriller / horror content, and we are working with local creators to bring podcasts such as Darr Ka Raaz with Dr. Phobia to our local listeners. Other Spotify Originals such as Death, Lies & Cyanide, The Dosa King, I Hear You, and Bhaskar Bose are other podcasts from this genre that are popular on the platform,” the spokesperson reveals. 

Spotify's newest Original podcast, for instance is titled Darr Ka Raaz with Dr. Phobia, where Rajesh Khera, famous for playing the Onida devil, plays psychotherapist Dr. Grewal. The psychological horror podcast spans 26 episodes with two episode releases each week, and takes the listeners on a journey of different phobias, uncovering hidden secrets, and treating patients through hypnosis and past life regression therapy. 

There’s of course, a chemical reason to why we find such innate rush with audio-based true crime series. “As humans, we are far more scared of things that are unseen (that create anticipation and dread) and implied (that create fear and the need to escape) rather than things we can actually see. Psychological thrillers make generous use of these components, and activate parts of our brain that give us an adrenaline rush. These plot twists, especially in a listening experience such as podcasts, make us feel constantly engaged and anticipating. We are chasing a sense of relief and exhilaration as a conclusion to the story”, Srivastava adds

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