These binge-eat­ing stars get paid to gorge on cam­era

As watch­ing peo­ple chow down idlis and glug las­sis be­comes a pas­time, peo­ple are mak­ing a ca­reer from glut­tony

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - Times Sport - Ke­taki.De­[email protected]

Nine plates of rice lie on a table, and a Tamil gen­tle­man dili­gently pours some curry over them and pro­ceeds to fin­ish plate af­ter plate. He eats with con­cen­tra­tion, oc­ca­sion­ally mak­ing com­ments about how good it tastes. Eat­ing big isn’t just the pas­sion of 57-year-old Porchezhiy­an, it’s also his busi­ness. He and his doc­tor-son Sabari Ku­mar run a pop­u­lar Tamil YouTube chan­nel Saa­p­attu Ra­man, which rakes in any­where be­tween Rs 70,000 and Rs 85,000 a month.

The fa­ther-son duo is one of In­dia’s most pop­u­lar binge-eaters. From chow­ing down 100 idlis in 10 min­utes to eat­ing their way through the largest pizza you’ve ever seen, these speed eaters rack mil­lions of views on YouTube.

Vishwa and Akash Joshi run a chan­nel called Viwa Food World, which has 26.5 lakh sub­scribers, and count­ing. The broth­ers have put out al­most 200 videos in which they chal­lenge each other to see who can eat more. Of late, they have tried to move be­yond ‘quan­tity chal­lenges’, but food is still the core of their chan­nel. Akash Joshi, 31, says, “Now peo­ple know we can eat a lot, so we don’t feel the need to prove that any­more.” But their lat­est chal­lenge does in­clude mouthing movie di­a­logues while stuffing marsh­mal­lows.

VISHWA AND AKASH JOSHI VIWA FOOD WORLD

The duo, whose sib­ling dy­namic shines through in their con­tent, don’t want to say ex­actly how much they make every month, but it is enough for both of them to be full­time YouTu­bers and sup­port their fam­i­lies. Apart from ad rev­enue, which fluc­tu­ates, they of­ten work with spon­sors to pro­mote prod­ucts on

Di­dier Queloz, 53

Queloz is a Swiss as­tronomer and pro­fes­sor of physics at Cam­bridge Univer­sity and the Univer­sity of Geneva. He will win a quar­ter of the 9 mil­lion Swedish kro­nor prize their videos.

This genre of video is quite sim­i­lar to the Korean, and now-global, phe­nom­e­non of muk­bang, i n which peo­ple livestream them­selves eat­ing large quan­ti­ties of food, but it is not quite the same. For one, muk­bang has in­ter­ac­tiv­ity at its core — the cre­ator eats in real-time, and their view­ers can type in their thoughts. And while muk­bang videos en­tail eat­ing huge quan­ti­ties of food, it’s a lone per­son eat­ing with no real com­pul­sion or dead­line to fin­ish. Some ar­gue that the pop­u­lar­ity of muk­bang comes down to the grow­ing lone­li­ness of mod­ern life, with many opt­ing for these videos so they don’t have to eat alone.

San­ket Sankpal, a 22-year-old Mum­baikar be­gan his chan­nel Wake N Bite two years ago. His first video gar­nered one lakh views overnight, and the rest (in­clud­ing him claim­ing to hold the record for the fastest any­one has eaten a vada pav — 13 sec­onds) is his­tory. “The big­gest chal­lenge is to keep find­ing new con­cepts for videos. We kept re­search­ing which restau­rants spe­cialise in in­ter­est­ing items — for in­stance, the world’s big­gest siz­zler,” says the civil en­gi­neer­ing stu­dent.

So, why do peo­ple want to spend their time watch­ing peo­ple eat so much food? The com­pet­i­tive el­e­ment of these videos hooks peo­ple in. Be­yond that, it is glut­tony gam­i­fied — they take our base im­pulse to stuff our mouths, so that those watch­ing at home don’t have to. For many of us, overeat­ing is a guilt-laden act. There’s some­thing cathar­tic about watch­ing some­one for whom eat­ing large quan­ti­ties of food is not a source of shame, but their very call­ing card.

SAN­KET SANKPAL WAKE N BITE

While the sight of grown men de­vour­ing ob­scene quan­ti­ties of food may not be what most of us qual­ify as ap­petis­ing, many say that these videos make them hun­gry. Meghna Dutta, 21, has been watch­ing Viwa Food World videos for about six months now. “I have fallen in love with their com­pe­ti­tion videos, par­tic­u­larly the part where the per­son who loses gets a pun­ish­ment,” she says. Dutta watches the videos as soon as they drop bi­weekly at 9.30am. “I watch while I eat break­fast, and it re­ally makes me want to eat some crazy break­fast.”

Amid the fun and games, there are health haz­ards too. Sankpal re­calls a video where he con­sumed 1.2 litres of honey in a minute and 26 sec­onds. “I ended the video with a smile and then the sugar hit me. I started bab­bling un­con­trol­lably and my mom made me take a long nap to re­cover,” he said. He adds that film­ing kills the taste too as food turns cold by the time of eat­ing.

Sabari Ku­mar says peo­ple ex­press con­cern about his fa­ther Porchezhiy­an’s ap­petite, but their se­cret is that all their food is home­made. “It’s not like my fa­ther only does this for YouTube. He’s a big eater — he has 1.5kg of mut­ton in a meal. On videos, he tends to eat 1kg more,” says the 25-year-old doc­tor.

sub­scribers Fea­tures restau­rants with unique dishes like the world’s big­gest dosa or siz­zler claims to hold the record for the fastest any­one has eaten a vada pav — 13 sec­onds

The broth­ers, who com­pete to see who can eat the most the fastest, eat only veg food Their chal­lenges have unique el­e­ments — like ‘try not to laugh while eat­ing’ or ‘eat cheese balls with no hands’

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