When it comes to cool and hip web content, Chennai charms with its YouTube channels.
Thanks to a pool of talent that includes MNC staffers by day and commentators by night, engineering grads-turned-short film actors, and aspiring film directors who are at heart, pop culture nerds.
There’s no dearth of content either. There is a lot to be said about Chennai’s quirks, and there’s a whole spectrum of Chennai-based YouTube channels who’ve probably already said that.
It’s quite a heart-rending scene for every YouTuber to see a group of teenagers huddled over a smartphone waiting for “that really cool video called Batman in Chennai” or something to buffer. And in that moment, Put Chutney became an overnight sensation.
Locally, Chennaiites felt justice was done to them. Nationally, the exoticism of Madrasis spread. And internationally, all NRIs wrote love letters of missing their homeland in the comments.
Put Chutney's What if Batman was from Chennai?
“We don’t want commentary on pop culture, there’s enough of that to go around. We want to BE pop culture,” says Rajiv Rajaram, Creative Director (South) of Put Chutney by Culture Machine.
High production value, extensive scripting with a penchant for shareability maketh the channel subscribed to by 2 lakh viewers. Rajaram knows his stuff – he’s been in the business of comedy, the grind of the writer’s table and has donned the standup hat. Sketches and parody commercials are hard work – writes, rewrites, an ounce of improvisation and it doesn’t end there. More production, editing, and well – you have a high quality 90-second web video in hand.
Put Chutney's Phagun explores Hyderabad
“We can do simple too – one Abdul Kalam video got so many shares. We don’t always apply the same formula because we need to keep with trends then and there too,” he says. It’s serious business, no child’s play here.
Another that calls itself a ‘random channel’ is Paracetamol Paniyaram.
When encountering the skyrocketing growth of a few Indian YouTube Channels, Jaytesh Sridhar, a content producer and actor, was miffed. Specifically with the barometer of success of a video– virality.
“That’s why we called ourselves anti-viral. Why does everything have to work in an order? Our name is two things that have nothing to do with each other- put together,” he says.
Paracetamol Paniyaram – the alliteration was spared however – started out with a non-conformist vibe. Literally. Their first video was a Tamil swear word, which proved enough that they weren’t here to please everyone. Swear words are generously thrown in. Typical templates like spoof news shows and commercials, how to’s and a more niche, (unprintable swear word) series keeps their brand of irreverent, young adult comedy intact.
The difference between Temple Monkeys and PP is that PP is more overt about their devil-may-care attitude, and their spin on things appeals to a different audience. “We heard from a friend that his friends from Salem watched our videos and could really relate. And we’re happy we have that pan Tamil Nadu audience.”
Types of Smokers by Paracetamol Paniyaram
They’re also on the crossroads in terms of audience appeal. Everything changes when a localized channel wants to go national. Tamil jokes that read well on paper and work great for Tamil audiences, can go awfully wrong and lost in translation for an English audience. “We’re considering starting a separate English channel, because if we also go national on the same channel, we could just lose the subscriber base we have,” he rues. Despite the irreverence, they’re serious about celebrating that. Here’s their latest video.
Paracetamol Paniyaram's 1 year celebrations
A theatre group at heart, Stray Factory made its entry into the YouTube scene 2 years ago. From Buzzfeed to BBC, "We are South of India"- a revamped Billy Joel classic that echoed the sentiments of 'Madrasis', was picked up, discussed and celebrated. The content here was localised but wasn't particularly universal however.
Black Sheep, Stray Factory's web series
"We are what you call a mix of local humour and ‘Peter humour’,” says Arjun, referring to the Tamil slang for an English speaking Tamilians who, in some cases, prefer Lady Gaga over Bombay Jayashree). Arjun is a web content creator associated with Stray Factory.
Videos with great production value and a web series to boot, Stray Factory is doing pretty well in the market. But as Arjun explains, the market is saturated, "You have so many creators now, it's impossible to compete. You can't win here, everyone is doing their own thing. Shareability isn't the only factor.”
Stray Factory has also gone a serious way with Stray Stories -a documentary series bringing stories from the South. The ideation process is similar to Put Chutney’s - no improv, more scripting and serious on building a brand and making it to pop culture instead of discussing it. "We don't do swearing and we also do national and international content. It's not entirely hyperlocal," he says. The channel is on a fluid run - easily adapting to different formats and narratives. Here's their go at universal content.
Stray Stories' An Engineer among jackals
So what's the viral formula? Taking yourself seriously enough to build a brand, but not too seriously to lose the punchline.
(This article wrongly credited the founder of Temple Monkeys as a former Wipro Techie. The change has been made and the error is regretted)