A couple of months ago a video titled ‘Gaana wala song’ went viral on YouTube. It’s a spoof of the song ‘Ishq wala love’, from the movie Student Of The Year and it became more popular than the original. While it’s common enough to see amateur spoofs on YouTube — made by people who do this ‘as a hobby’ with home production quality — ‘Gaana wala song’ was produced by an online media studio called The Viral Fever (TVF).
TVF’s YouTube channel has videos that spoof everything from films to ad campaigns — for example, Jha.2 (Ra One), Rowdies (Roadies), and Money Money (Honey Bunny ad). Then there are the original concepts, like Munna Jazbaati. This video pokes fun at the over-enthusiastic intern, who hangs on to every word the boss says.
“With more than 14,000 subscribers to our YouTube channel, we are the largest online television channel,” says Anurabh Kumar, who launched TVF last February. Kumar, an IIT Kharagpur graduate, was working on a technical assignment with the US Air Force, when he decided making funny videos was his calling. “I was into theatre and making short films from the time I was at IIT. I had made a short film even while working with the US Air Force. So it wasn’t exactly a sudden decision,” says Kumar.
He got a job at Red Chillies Entertainment and worked on the sets of Om Shanti Om. But, as he puts it, his “first crush” was television. Kumar developed a concept for a TV show about an engineering student’s diary, and pitched it to youth channels. “Though one channel approved the concept, we differed on how the show would be shot. The end product was horrible, and even the channel guys knew it,” says Kumar.
That’s when he decided he wouldn’t let TV channels mangle his ideas. He believed that there was demand for the kind of shows he wanted to make and decided to prove this by going online. “TV channels are filled with 40- or 50-somethings, who have grown up in the era of license raj. They have put up a dam to our creativity. They have big cars and no skills,” says Kumar, “If I had tried casting the lead actor of the Rowdies video on TV, the channels would never have approved him. And today, after the video has become popular, the same guy is getting offers from TV channels.”
The concepts follow TVF’s tag line, ‘Sab Quityapa Hai’ (we really can’t translate this into English). “There is a charm to all things weird in this world. I can find something to laugh about in any situation — even my dad in hospital.”
While production values of the videos aren’t as slick as TV shows, they are competently and intelligently shot and edited. Importantly, TVF videos are consistent in their humour. Kumar says he is wary? of professionals from the film industry and takes inputs from only those who are good at their craft. He is more than happy to work with people who have no experience, but are creative. This is important to maintain the TVF’s farmhouse model of filmmaking, says Kumar.
TVF videos take between 15 days and a month to shoot. But there are exceptions. Jha.2, which included several visual effects, was made in three months. ‘Gaana wala song’, on the other hand, was conceptualised and completed in a little over three hours. The studio aims to produce 60 short films in 2013. Also in development are apps for all mobile platforms. Kumar says they will also be producing more series based on characters that have gotten popular, such as Munna Jasbaati.
As TVF’s fans grow, new commercial opportunities are opening up. The company now creates concepts around brands or includes brands in their videos. “There are three to four kinds of revenue models we are experimenting with. It will take some time for them to take shape,” says Kumar, adding that he is determined to do things his way. “In the beginning of our videos, the TVF logo drops on a TV set, crushing it. I don’t hate television. But I do hate the way Indian television is being run.”
Gaana wala song