COM­ING OF AGE–THE YOUTU­BER

Be­ing in an era dom­i­nated by vi­su­als, an enig­matic young­ster, Pra­jakta Koli rises to the lime­light within merely a span of three years. In con­ver­sa­tion with So­ci­ety, she walks us through her jour­ney of suc­cess.

Society - - CONTENTS - By Vani Kr­ish­nan

Be­ing in an era dom­i­nated by vi­su­als, an enig­matic young­ster, Pra­jakta Koli rises to the lime­light within merely a span of three years. In con­ver­sa­tion with So­ci­ety, she walks us through her jour­ney of suc­cess.

The world tends to adore young and charm­ing per­son­al­i­ties. Such is the one of Pra­jakta Koli, one of In­dia’s lead­ing fe­male web en­ter­tain­ers. Keen in the­atre at a very young age, she used to in­dulge in danc­ing, singing and var­i­ous cre­ative ac­tiv­i­ties in her child­hood days. “I used to per­form a lot, and I al­ways loved act­ing, so in col­lege I did a bunch of the­atre. There were days when I liked paint­ing, I have al­ways been very fond of movies, books, and ev­ery­thing very ro­man­tic,” she added with a grin. But con­vers­ing with her un­rav­els the fact that she never had the thought of com­ing in the fore­front as a YouTu­ber. Pra­jakta’s ini­tial as­pi­ra­tion was to be­come a ra­dio jockey and as an in­tern in Fever 104 sta­tion, re­al­i­sa­tion struck her later that ra­dio is not ev­ery­one’s cup of tea. Like any other in­di­vid­ual, she also en­dured a phase in her life where ev­ery­thing didn’t go as per the ‘plan’. “It wasn’t work­ing out. I felt that I am not cut to work or func­tion like that in any way. I even had a show and they let me go live as well. It was ba­si­cally just re­al­is­ing that although I had planned to be an RJ for the long­est time in my life, I wasn’t able to make it work. My fam­ily could see that I wasn’t very happy. They could clearly see that I was very mis­er­able when I went to work ev­ery day and I had lost a lot of weight.” Bat­tling through her days at the sta­tion, Pra­jakta one day shot a triv­ial In­sta­gram video with ac­tor Hrithik Roshan who had walked in the of­fice for an in­ter­view. How­ever spon­ta­neous the video was, this caught the eye of In­dia’s dig­i­tal con­tent net­work, OneDig­i­tal En­ter­tain­ment. Recog­nis­ing the tal­ent within her, the com­pany sug­gested ex­plor­ing her scope in YouTube. “When I met Sudeep Lahiri from OneDig­i­tal En­ter­tain­ment, he told me I should at least try do­ing it. But be­ing a YouTu­ber wasn’t a job back then. It was just grow­ing,” she con­fessed. “I told my par­ents that I am go­ing to quit ra­dio and try some­thing that’s com­pletely new. I was ex­cited about it but I didn’t know how it was go­ing to turn out. I re­mem­ber telling my fa­ther to give me one year. He then said I could take two, it was fine. They were very sup­port­ive since day one,” she nar­rates fur­ther with a hint of to­tal grate­ful­ness in her voice. Though scep­ti­cal about the en­tire idea, she launched her YouTube chan­nel ‘Most­lySane’ on 12th Fe­bru­ary, 2015. “It was ac­tu­ally the first name idea that hit my mind. Then I couldn’t think of any­thing so I just stuck to that,” she added. Through the last three years, the young 25-year-old has man­aged to win over mil­lions of hearts with her charm. “The first video I put out was called ‘Types of Sin­gles on Valen­tine’s Day’. It was 12th of Fe­bru­ary and the clos­est oc­ca­sion was 14th.” Within the first four months, she man­aged to ac­cu­mu­late about 2000 sub­scribers. “I also did this video to­wards the end of June, 2015 called ‘10 Hi­lar­i­ous Words Delhi Peo­ple Use’ which blew up. That was my first vi­ral video.” Within a month of up­load, she hit a bench­mark of 20,000 sub­scribers. When ques­tioned about her jour­ney

of be­ing an es­tab­lished YouTu­ber, a mod­est Pra­jakta asserts, “I don’t think I am still es­tab­lished; I see cre­ators who are do­ing so much ev­ery day. They are op­ti­mis­ing and cre­at­ing great con­tent so I am still learn­ing. I don’t know if I am still es­tab­lished or there yet but I think things picked up 10 months ago.” With the dig­i­tal plat­form of In­dia grow­ing on an large scale, we asked her about her fu­ture plans. “I had not seen my­self here five years ago. I am some­one who grew up al­ways mak­ing plans about my fu­ture. With­out YouTube, I would have re­mained a very mis­er­able and bad RJ. Af­ter I started this, I de­cided not to put any solid plan in place, like not have ev­ery­thing chopped out and writ­ten to the T about me. I ac­tu­ally don’t know, with the way YouTube is grow­ing. No­body saw YouTube be­com­ing a valid thing three years ago in In­dia. When I started off YouTube, I had thought that even if I got 30,000 sub­scribers I am good. I have more than 2.5 mil­lion now. I didn’t ex­pect this. I re­ally don’t want to cap any­thing.” Some of the up­load trade­marks of her chan­nel are #RealTalkTues­day and #SawaalSatur­day. “It is sort of be­com­ing like a well-oiled ma­chine. Thurs­day videos are like the mother ship of the chan­nel, they are the com­edy what most peo­ple come back to my chan­nel for. I per­son­ally re­ally like Tues­day videos be­cause they are very real and can­did. There is no script, noth­ing is de­cided it’s very like on the go. Apart from that, there are a bunch of videos I re­ally like. Re­cently I posted this video called ‘ My first time’ with Ayush Mehra. I re­ally like the way that video has been scripted; I re­ally liked my video with Bhu­van Bam. One of my per­sonal favourites in­cludes a video I did last year called

‘Types of Drunk Girls’. So if we have three video days in a week, we plan the rest of our weeks ac­cord­ing to that be­cause that is pri­or­ity num­ber one. Ev­ery­thing else comes af­ter that. Luck­ily for me, touch­wood, I have not missed a video in three and a half years yet so I think it’s go­ing well.” She be­lieves up­load­ing an av­er­age video is bet­ter than leav­ing her chan­nel space de­void of con­tent. Con­sis­tency is one as­pect of her chan­nel the young­ster prides her­self in. Not many have the abil­ity to cre­ate con­tent that re­ver­ber­ates with your au­di­ence. “The kind of con­tent that I do is very ob­ser­va­tional. I don’t think I am a stand-up co­me­dian at all,” she ex­plains. “It’s su­per ob­ser­va­tional, so ev­ery­thing from sit­ting in cafés and star­ing at peo­ple to see­ing my friends, watch­ing my fam­ily and just ba­si­cally ob­serv­ing life around is what helped me sort of write the con­tent.” The con­tent one cre­ates for their videos must re­late to the au­di­ence up to a cer­tain ex­tend. Char­ac­ters one play should strike a chord with the au­di­ence and her videos have def­i­nitely ac­com­plished that. But she doesn’t only make comic con­tent for her view­ers, her re­cent cam­paign #IPledgeToBeMeon on the is­sue of body sham­ing and men­tal well­be­ing reached out to mil­lions of peo­ple across In­dia. “On Men­tal Health Day, I did this video where I asked ev­ery­one that if there’s any­thing they want to talk about or if there’s any­thing they’re go­ing through, they could write me a mail about it. I got a bunch of re­sponses af­ter that, then I re­alised a com­mon thread amongst these mails was body sham­ing. There are a lot of young­sters who are ac­tu­ally go­ing through this and it’s an is­sue that no­body was ad­dress­ing. So I asked my­self, why isn’t any­body voic­ing it? It had be­come so reg­u­larly ex­is­tent in our life ‘ Mote ko mota bolna hai’ (You call a fat per­son fat), ‘Kaale ko kaala bolna hai’ (You call a dark per­son dark) that we didn’t even re­alise that there’s some­thing wrong about it or it reaches or af­fects some­one in a neg­a­tive way. This is why I took up body sham­ing and then I wrote Shame­less. I was never body shamed but I was al­ways very in­se­cure of my body. No­body ever said any­thing to me but I used to shame my­self a lot. I rec­ol­lect say­ing “Oh, I’m not fair”, or “Oh I have a re­ally big nose” or “Oh I am too slim.” So the cam­paign taught me how to get over that per­son­ally as well.” She fur­ther moves to talk­ing about what went be­hind the scenes. “I work with a su­per team who helped me pro­duce the song. The strug­gle was only writ­ing the song be­cause I had never writ­ten a rap song be­fore that and I didn’t know how it worked so the writ­ing was a bit dif­fi­cult.” While YouTube is a grow­ing plat­form for many, a lot of peo­ple have been taken aback by its new rule of qual­i­fy­ing for mon­eti­sa­tion and en­ter­ing into the part­ner­ship pro­gram. This is a ma­jor shift from the old rule which re­quired only a bare min­i­mum of 10,000 views life­time to hav­ing 4000 hours of watch time in the span of 12 months and over 1000 sub­scribers. The ones af­fected by the rule were the small time YouTu­bers. “I think YouTube is just mak­ing sure that there is reg­u­lar con­tent that is up­loaded be­cause there are a lot of spam ac­counts. By spam I mean there are a lot of ac­counts that up­load a cou­ple of videos and then it goes miss­ing for two years. It is just a way of main­tain­ing healthy con­tent cul­ture which is great,” ex­plains Pra­jakta. The web en­ter­tainer was also an­nounced as the In­dian am­bas­sador from the YouTube com­mu­nity for ‘Cre­ators of Change’, a global ini­tia­tive. “Seoul was so much fun,” shares Pra­jakta. “I loved hang­ing out with some cre­ators. I am very blessed to be friends with a bunch of amaz­ing cre­ators from In­dia too.” Not just that, be­ing ti­tled as the ‘Vi­ral Queen’ in 2017 at the IVM Dig­i­tal awards only jus­ti­fied her stature in the In­dian YouTube space. Pra­jakta has also col­lab­o­rated with many other well-known per­son­al­i­ties like Bhu­van Bam, Ashish Chanch­lani, Gau­rav Gera, Ayush­mann Khur­rana, Ayush Mehra and many more. “I love the idea of col­lab­o­ra­tions in the first place, be­cause it breaks monotony and brings so much fresh per­spec­tive to con­tent on the chan­nel. They are all very good friends of mine. As long as it is col­lab­o­ra­tions, I am al­ways there.” Need­less to say, Pra­jakta’s suc­cess has been a source of in­spi­ra­tion to all up­com­ing web en­ter­tain­ers who would like to carve a niche for them­selves in this vis­ual world.

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