Bhavjoth Anand (right) with members of Awkwardness Unlimited.
By Suyash Gabriel
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About a month ago, 18-year old Sahil Bedi walked onto the city’s streets with a DSLR camera and a sense of purpose — creating videos that can inspire change. The result was Public experiment on women abuse in India, a video that featured a van with tinted windows and a woman screaming for help from inside it. Shot in Naraina Industrial complex in Delhi, the video was a social experiment conducted by Bedi and his friend Pranjal Narang, who placed that van to see how many people would stop to help the distraught woman. Only three out of 27 people who crossed the van stopped to offer help.
“The purpose of these videos is to expose the reality of how people react to certain situations. It shocked us to see that only three people stopped, especially since there is so much violence against women in the city. But these three people are inspiring enough to help start a change,”says Bedi, who is a first year History student in Sri Venkateswara College. The video cultivated over 25 lakh views within a few weeks. His Youtube channel, Yes No Maybe, which was began in May, has managed to garner over 26,000 subscribers and over 50 lakh views in just over three months.
In his most recent video titled India on Sex Education, Bedi is seen asking youngsters in the city how they felt about sex education in the light of Union Health minister Harsh Vardhan’s recent statement saying that it should be banned in schools, and that fidelity was a better solution to AIDS than condoms. While some sheepishly grinned and looked away from the camera, others condemned the statement and voiced their opinions.
Rahul Sharma, founder of Trouble Seeker Team, a YouTube channel , is another addition to the group of social networking enthusiasts, who are trying to focus on socially relevant issues. They are using YouTube as a platform to raise awareness about social concerns. Sharma began his channel as a platform for prank videos but gradually began addressing issues ranging from poverty to racism. “Our prank videos were getting quite a lot of views, and we realised that if we can raise awareness about issues we felt passionate about, then why not,” says Sharma.
One of their most viewed videos titled Harassing a Girl from the Northeast, has garnered over 20 lakh views since it was uploaded four months ago. “When I read about the murder of Nido Tania, I wanted to make a video that would address the issue of domestic racism, but also deal with gender discrimination in the same video, since they are both massive social issues,” Sharma says. “We don’t want people to share these videos mindlessly because that defeats the purpose. These videos are meant to show viewers how people like them can stop to help someone in need and inspire them to do the same,” he adds.
Awkwardness Unlimited, another YouTube channel co-founded by Bhavjoth Anand, accommodates a host of videos revolving around a variety of topics, including sexual harassment (Harrasing a Girl in Public), while also adding a bit of a spin to their approach through a video series titled Simple acts of kindness, which follows the team as they distribute hugs and chocolates to people on the streets, and give food, clothes and toys to the homeless. “Social experiments are difficult to pull off but are worth it at the end of the day because you know you’re making a difference,” says Anand, 23.
However, Anand believes that these videos are not tools to educate people, but a mechanism through which realities can be made starker. “People know what’s going on. These videos are a harsh reality check which remind them of what the situation actually is, and inspire them to wake up,” he says.