January 1, 2021 4:38:06 pm
There was a time when pursuing a career in media and entertainment required good looks, art or film school degrees or parental pedigree. There were slots where individuals spent most of their careers – hero, heroine, heroine’s sister, Ramu/shyamu Kaka, villains, vamps, comedian.
But the explosion of digital content opened a new gamut of possibilities erasing many of the ‘rules’ that govern content selection on traditional TV channels or even in Bollywood. Having a camera in the palm of your hand and an audience who didn’t need to be in theatres or even in front of a television changed the rules around how content was made. It also created a new breed of content creators who turned to various social media platforms to find an outlet and eventually a profession.
YouTube emerged as perhaps the most popular platform to post full-length videos and small web episodes of shows that were high concept and created on shoestring budgets. Soon stars were born, who today are as well recognised and popular as A-list movie actors.
One of these content creators who catapulted to popularity is Bhuvan Bam. Born in Vadodara and raised in Delhi, Bhuvan is a musician at heart who ventured into the world of video creation purely by accident and a fair sprinkling of outrage. After a satirical video he posted in reaction to an insensitive journalist’s questioning of a flood victim went viral, there was no looking back for Bhuvan who started his ‘career’ playing his guitar at a restaurant from 8 pm to 12 pm every night.
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While he was enjoying creating content and posting funny videos on Facebook, his friends told him that on YouTube, he could actually make his hobby/passion an income-generating occupation. Vines was then a popular video hosting service that allowed artistes to post and share six-second long videos, and that’s how Bhuvan came up with the name BB ke vines and created his own channel on YouTube. While there were plans to eventually change the channel’s name, the immense popularity has ensured that the name has stayed on. After a breakthrough Valentine’s day video, there was no looking back for this young man who is now not just recognised but mobbed in public.
Bhuvan’s videos often feature him playing over 19 different people, each with their own look, quirks and style of speaking. Characters like Bhanchoddas, Sameer Fuddi, and of course Titu Mama have become very popular. In fact, Titu Mama, even got a spin-off talk show of his own, Titu Talks and a chance to meet Shah Rukh Khan. While Titu is based on Bhuvan’s uncle, he relies on his observations and interactions with the people around him to find inspiration for many other characters he has created.
Each of Bhuvan’s videos is scripted, filmed and edited by him and he also is the only actor. Using basic props and wigs and a simple camera phone, Bhuvan films his rib-tickling videos at home with little or no help from anyone else. Even with popularity and a definite rise in his financial fortunes, Bhuvan has chosen to keep his characters grounded in their relatable middle-class ethos. Perhaps the fact that he hasn’t changed or upgraded his characters as his popularity grew or modified the way in which he films videos has ensured that his popularity sustains as well. Bhuvan became the first Indian to cross 10 Million subscribers on YouTube and now has a whopping 19.8 million subscribers on his YouTube channel.
Bhuvan and his brand have grown over the years and the singer-actor-writer now has a team helping him run the company BB Ki Vines Productions and a merchandise brand Youthiapa. But while it all seems like a dream come true from the outside, it has taken years of consistent work, patience and the ability to take risks to keep audiences engaged. Being a content creator on YouTube is a demanding profession that requires a near-constant personal involvement of the creator who is at the centre of this creative universe. The competition is fierce, and in an increasingly crowded digital space, one has to post clutter-breaking content consistently to build a subscriber base.
Each five-minute episode takes him typically 15 days to ideate and write, and Bhuvan only shoots it if his script manages to make him laugh. He films all videos on his phone and this usually takes him 4-5 hours. It then gets edited and uploaded on the same day, after which it’s time to move on to the next thing.
Very often the next task at hand is finding solace in his keyboard and guitar, composing tunes and writing songs. Music has always been his first love and he rather proudly says that he is a musician first and a content creator second. Bhuvan has released six songs to date, and while he does plan on spending more time composing and creating music videos in the future, he promises to balance his passion for music with creating comic videos that his audiences love.
Often the pressure of being constantly funny, creative or engaging does get to him. He has spoken candidly about going through a creative block and perhaps that’s why he is consciously working on fewer videos each month focussing on constantly raising the quality of content. He keeps penning ideas down as they come to him, and takes breaks to analyse what is working and what isn’t. Music is a constant solace and inspiring force as is observing those around him for inspiration.
2020 was hard for him, as it was for so many of us. Bhuvan contracted the Covid-19 virus but thankfully made a full recovery. However, this unexpectedly difficult year has impacted him both personally and as an artist. Like so many of us, it taught him to be grateful for his family and loved ones and appreciative of simple luxuries like being able to step out for a cup of coffee or going to the movies. The realisation that human beings are fragile in solitude has hit him hard and though technology helped us stay in touch with each other and kept him going professionally, this year and its troubles have only strengthened his resolve to stay connected with his viewers through great content.
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