How do you introduce Bhuvan Bam? As a singer-songwriter, comedian, interviewer and an actor, or all? With many feathers already settled in his hat, India’s first legit YouTube star is now at the helm of a new phase in his career
Two years ago, when I had interviewed Bhuvan Bam for the first time, he had spoken about how he wanted to develop a BB universe on the lines of the Marvel and DC world, with the various characters he plays in his YouTube videos, each replete with an origin story. To a skeptical journalist, not too well-versed with Bhuvan’s mettle then, this seemed way too far fetched — it seemed like a figment of a fantasy of an overambitious 25-year-old at its best.
This year, Bhuvan Bam is basking in the success of this very fantasy — his web show, Dhindora — his first ever long format project. Dhindora sees characters from his BB world coming together, Avengers style. “I was already conceptualising the show when we last spoke,” Bam laughs out loud, adding that it still seems surreal to him as well. The OG of social media celebs, whose meteoric rise from a singer at a Mughlai restaurant in Delhi to India’s first legit YouTube superstar had spawned legions of wannabes, owes much of his success to his perseverance, business acumen, and this very ability to think out of the box.
In his 2–12 minute-short YouTube videos shot by Bam himself using the front camera, he is seen playing characters such as Babloo (the dad), Janki (the mom), Titu Mama, Master Ji (teacher), Bhuvan, Banchordas (aka Bancho), Sameer, Mr Hola, Detective Mangloo etc., but he wanted to establish each character individually, replete with a backstory, and bring them together in a movie, à la Avengers style. “This is like the Avengers. It has all my characters. Dhindora is the starting point of establishing their world. But just like each superhero in Avengers has their own individual movies, I want each of my characters to have their own shows. That is the plan,” he explains, adding that once he had created these characters, he wanted to push it further and make people truly believe that these are all individuals. It was tough, and hence, interesting.
Dhindora, which took Bam almost two years to script, is an 8-episode comedy drama set in the middle-class ethos, and revolves around Bhuvan and his family’s everyday lives turned upside down when Babloo wins a lottery. Produced by his friend, manager, and business partner Rohit Raj and directed by Himank Gaur, it features an ensemble cast including actors like Anup Soni, Rajesh Tailang, and debutante Gayatri Bharadwaj, along with Bam, who plays 10 different characters.
“It was pretty exhausting, to say the least. We shot for 16 to 18 hours each day, for 41 days straight. On most days, it would be just me, playing all the characters, and I would have about seven to nine changes. The process was elaborate and tiring. On those rare days that I would have a co-actor, I would feel a sense of relief that at least I have another person to talk to. Otherwise, I had to imagine the other characters and react to them,” he recounts, delving into details about how much math and muscle memory was needed for the shoot, adding that he still shudders at the thought of it, but is mighty proud that they pulled it off.
However, this was not supposed to be a web series. Dhindora was conceptualised as a feature-length movie. “Even two years back, we realised the prospects of a web show. With the advent of different OTT platforms, we all knew where we were heading. Also, this format will give the audience the time to warm up to the idea,” says Bam.
In a rather surprising move, Bhuvan Bam has released the show on YouTube rather than dropping it on an OTT platform. “I was absolutely clear from the very beginning that my first series has to be on YouTube, and it has to be free. My audiences have always watched my content for free on YouTube, and it was only fair that they should be able to do the same with this one,” explains the creator, who presently boasts a subscriber count of a whopping 21.1M and was also amongst the first independent creators to cross 10 million subscribers.
Even though his Instagram following is 11.9 million, he remains loyal to his first love, YouTube. “Instagram and YouTube creators are almost similar, but also markedly different. The audience is also different. Instagram is all about crisp content, while pandemic-induced lockdown, the pressure to grab eyeballs is getting intense. How does Bam keep up? “You don’t need to keep up. You just need to retain your audience. Today, every second person is churning out content, the content consumption is so much that if you put out a decent video, it will get views. Sustaining the views and your audience is the real challenge. But what really matters is how well you can market those. Creativity is not just about writing jokes or creating a song, it is also about how well you market those. You need to know how to present the content. That is an essential part of being a creator today,” he points out.
Bam has no qualms in taking a break once in a while when it gets too much. Talking about how he deals with the fatigue that comes bundled with his job profile, he explains, “I don’t put pressure on myself to create content, unless, of course, it is a brand video, and those come with a deadline. If you work under pressure, it impacts the quality of your work. I don’t believe in working that way. Jokes don’t pop up randomly. You have to ideate a lot to create one video. And if you are working on those incessantly, you will lose it. Trust me when I say that people who love you and your content will wait.”
However, it is not only the quality jokes that he thinks he owes to his fans. Bam has made sure he uses his popularity and social media influence beyond his personal gain. He was at the forefront of the Covid relief efforts. During the lockdown, he had generated funds through his videos to provide ration kits, food, and milk to the slums in Delhi NCR. He also donated a substantial amount to farmers’ relief fund, sanitary workers, the transgender community, milkmen, community kitchens, dog shelters, and organisations working for the blind and migrant during these difficult times. But his personal world was rocked by twin tragedies a few months back when he lost both his parents to Covid.
“People have different ways to deal with grief. I chose to drown myself in work and not think about what has happened. If you have taken up the responsibility to create fun content and make people laugh, you need to deliver. Your personal life should be personal. Yes, sometimes it is difficult, especially when you are in the business of making people laugh. But it is my problem and I need to learn how to handle it,” signs off the indefatigable multi-hyphenated pop icon, who is, today, an inspiration for many.