There is no secret formula for success in the world of the internet. While for some it may be sheer luck, for some it is passion coupled with hard work that turns them internet sensations overnight. When 28-year-old Srikanth Sriram founded the My Village Show YouTube channel in 2012, he had a mere 1,000 subscribers who watched his vlogs he posted. Seven years later, the channel, famous for its quirky comedy and raw portrayal of everyday life in a Telangana village, has close to 700k subscribers. Not just from Telangana, Srikanth and his co-actor Anil Geela now have admirers from around the world. While Anil has signed an upcoming movie with actor Vijay Deverakonda, other members of the crew are finding new avenues outside Lambadipally village.
How it all began
It was in 2012 that Srikanth finished his BTech, returned to Lambadipally, his village in Jagtiyal, and began a YouTube channel under the name Mel Kulupu.
“My father and I wrote songs on common issues in the village like sanitation, toilets, education, and composed tunes that we uploaded on our channel, Mel Kulupu, which in Telugu means ‘awake’. I had bought an iPad with the money I had managed to save over the years and that was the first equipment we used to record songs and videos. Later on, I began recording vlogs, which was just me talking about the various issues in our village. I then pursued my MTech, worked in a firm for a year, only to realise that that was not what I wanted to do. I quickly returned to Lambadipally, bought cameras and a computer and changed the name of the channel to My Village Show. Our fist viral video happened in 2017 and the rest, like they say, is history,” Srikanth recalls.
Srikanth (on the left) and Anil
The Kiki challenge sensation
Anil may be a familiar face to My Village Show fans, but otherwise too he is distinctly recognisable – he is the Telangana farmer who won the internet dancing in a muddy field, with a pair of bullocks, to the tunes of rapper Drake’s ‘My feelings’. Yes, it was the My Village Show actor who gave a twist to the otherwise dangerous Kiki challenge stunt, his video going viral overnight.
Talking to TNM, 23-year-old Anil, a mathematics teacher by profession, says that the Kiki challenge video was only one of the many videos that catapulted My Village Show to fame and won hearts from even outside the country.
“Our first viral video was on internet connectivity issues in the village, which got us over a lakh subscribers in a single day. We’d made a couple of videos before that had got decent traction but not enough to make people subscribe to the channel. But the first time we struck gold we slowly began understanding the pulse of our audience and started shooting videos that evoke nostalgia. Because a lot our appreciation came from people who had left Telangana and who were happy to see a channel that promoted village customs and traditions in a humorous manner,” Anil recounts.
After the Kiki challenge video went viral, Anil says he had no rest for the next couple of weeks.
“Once the video hit the internet, we had hectic days ahead. We began giving interviews to local channels, media outlets from Delhi, even the BBC approached us, wanting to know more about our channel. The Kiki challenge video was just another harmless one we shot, especially because we didn’t want to shoot a risky one. But never did we expect it would bring us such fame,” Anil says, adding, “The funniest part is that while the entire world knew us for the Kiki video, people in our village were clueless about why media people were storming our houses for a video we shot in slush!”
Cookery videos to everyday humour
The My Village Show team comprises eight members who write scripts, do the camera work, edit and also manage the social media handles. Scripts, as Srikanth says, is not a one-man affair but a team effort, where every member participates in the brainstorming and ideas are pooled.
“We do not stick to one particular genre while writing. We explore and even take up ideas that people in our village suggest. For example, Anji maama (a popular character in the videos) is an excellent cook and we thought why not shoot a video where he prepares Kunda chicken and add funny elements that would entertain the audience. The video today has 27k likes and many fans have told us to do similar cookery videos. For the videos to become a hit, we believe it’s the raw and nostalgic factors that we need to portray,” Srikanth explains.
Some of the videos are also satires, ranging from taking a dig at mindless PUBG players to poking fun at local politicians.
“After our villagers complained of lack of proper roads, we did a funny video on the same. Soon, Karimanagar MP Vinod Kumar gaaru called us, assured us of good roads and also said that he is a big fan of our channel,” Anil says, beaming with pride.
Gangavva, the star
While many of the videos talk of issues faced by the young men and women in the village (how young people host parties or the hilarious one on couples celebrating Valentine’s Day), many also include the elderly who act as loving grannies and sometimes as annoying uncles to their nephews. Among them, Gangavva is probably the most popular actor on the channel, thanks to her relentless spirit even at the age of 80.
“We were looking for an elderly woman who could act in our videos and Gangavva, Srikanth’s relative, fitted perfectly. The first time we read out the script to her, she listened once and improvised on her own during the shoot. Gangavva doesn’t need to memorise any dialogues, she is at her best in front of the camera,” Anil shares.
Gangavva is such a natural actor that she has now caught Tollywood’s eye. Her movie, Majili, with Samantha and Naga Chaitanya in the lead, will hit the screens on April 4. She has also been signed up for two other films – one with Shekhar Kammula and the other with Puri Jagannadh.
Not just Gangavva, Anil too will be making his Tollywood debut later this year, with none other than actor Vijay Deverakonda.
“It was at a YouTube fan fest that our team met Vijay Deverakonda. He spoke highly of our channel and said he was impressed with the humorous characters I played on screen. Next thing I know, he offered me a role in his upcoming film; we have already finished shooting the first schedule,” says Anil.
As for Srikanth, the young man says he is currently working on developing the channel into a village based startup and set up his own studio. The My Village Show team recently built a complex, which they call the Human Resource Development Centre, where the members train interested villagers on basic computing and filmmaking, and also put up shows for farmers from the village.
“We built it out of the revenue we generated for the past 2-3 years through our channel and from the money we were able to crowd-source through our channel. Since it all began from Lambadipally village, we believe it’s a fitting tribute to the place where we spent most parts of our childhood,” Srikanth adds.