As one of the first content creators to pick up on homegrown humour, Ashish Chanchlani paved the way for a lot of what we enjoy on the internet today — and plans to take it to Bollywood too.
The first two minutes of my Zoom meeting with the insanely popular YouTube sensation Ashish Chanchlani are enough for me to decode his appeal and his unending love for his fans. He is warm, friendly, and nice enough to put me at ease. Chanchlani’s boy-next-door, down-to-earth attitude is his magic trick, and it’s pretty much in plain sight, but it’s one that captivates anyone who runs into him.
Ashish Chanchlani belongs to the breed of content creators who started out some time in mid-2010s, in an attempt to provide humour that was purely homegrown, and relatable to the people of the Indian subcontinent. The early 2010s was the time when one had to turn to a foreign channel like a Pewdiepie or a Smosh for getting one’s funny bones tickled. Then, channels like AIB, EIC, and TVF entered the scene, and proved to be quite game-changing. However, the idea of becoming popular on the platform by being an individual creator was still not known, and not really tested. So when I first discovered Chanchlani, through a lot of insistence by my peers at a time when I was still navigating high school, I instantly became a fan. Here was a creator who wasn’t a part of the aforementioned channels, but was making content that was as wild and insanely funny as any other channel on the platform.
Chanchlani was supposed to become a civil engineer, but fate had other plans for him. An aspiring Bollywood actor and a hardcore film buff, Chanchlani accidentally stumbled upon Twitter’s Vine one day, and started exploring the medium. After getting some success on the platform, he soon turned to YouTube, and started making content there. The rest, as they say, is history. In no time, Chanchlani became one of the most recognisable faces of the Indian YouTube scene.
With over 24 million subscribers, Chanchlani’s channel currently has the second highest subscribers in India. Since the time he set his foot into the game, many promising YouTubers also emerged, some in a bid to recreate Chanchlani’s magic, while some to explore themselves. “I think everyone has their own style and personality when it comes to creating content, and I see that in the new, young creators, who also inspire me, seeing how they are changing the strides of internet content making,” Chanchlani says. “The only thing I would say that makes me stand apart is what I want to do from my heart. I never try to be someone else. I never compete with someone else.”
Becoming a YouTuber today is not really considered as an offbeat career option, but a few years ago, that was not the case. Nobody was oblivious to the medium, but the idea of generating income by churning out videos in your bedroom was not taken that seriously. YouTube has since proved to be some sort of a safe haven for those who want to pursue their interests with creativity, and now, it is no less than a lucrative career option. Chanchlani feels that since the past one year, gamers and content creators are finally being recognised. “Carryminati got featured in KBC. People now think that YouTube is a very, very good career option, and you can earn very well.”
Chanchlani’s short films, The Dealer and Aakhri Safar, show a different side of him, totally different from his persona in his videos. Aakhri Safar, which is his first attempt at writing and directing a short film, begins as a horror film, but ends with a funny twist. The film, which is drenched in bold green and red lights, was actually inspired by a story that Chanchlani came across on Quora. The Dealer, on the other hand, accentuates a powerful message against eve-teasing. The video didn’t take long to take the internet by storm, and became viral with 15 million views and more than 2.3 million likes within two days itself. Chanchlani doesn’t believe in being over-preachy while conveying any message. “In the The Dealer, I have not preached. I showed a video where a girl is getting molested, and the girl gives it back to the guy in her own way, and he gets his karma,” Chanchlani says. “This subconsciously inserts a message in people’s mind that you should be ashamed of molesting and harassing a girl.”
He plans to showcase a different side of him through this type of content, and he also plans to set up a production house. He has auditioned for films like Stree and Student of the Year 2 in the past, and he also aims to share screen space with Rajkummar Rao, Ranveer Singh, and many others. “It’s my dream to work with Akshay Kumar, Rohit Shetty, and Rajkumar Hirani. These are amazing people and there are so many more. I am forgetting many people right now, but these are some of the people that came to my mind. I would really love to work with these people and enhance myself. I have auditioned for many films, but I just think that the right opportunity hasn’t knocked on my door yet.”
Mean comments now can be found on almost every YouTube comment section, and sometimes, they are downright toxic. It seems that anyone with an internet connection today can become Gordon Ramsay, and come up with the most nasty remarks possible. Chanchlani, like any other digital influencer out there, has also been a target of these nobody-asked-for comments, and he had a hard time dealing with them when he had just started out. “I used to be very affected initially; I used to react to them very badly. I would reply to them, and just start fighting. But then I realised that it’s stupid to even give these people any attention. Because the more you fight with them, the more you try to explain your side of the story and come across as morally and ethically correct, the more they try to bring you down. They would want you to be wrong, even if you are a saint.”
He adds, “I don’t need to take any advice from any random, unemployed guy who has done nothing but is just jealous. I also bless them in my mind, in a way, and wish that one day, they would understand, and if they don’t, then god bless them. I am not going to come over and explain my side of the story. Just move on, chill, and ignore. I think I have grown a thick skin now.”
When asked about the most ridiculous rumour he has ever heard about himself, Chanchlani narrates a rumour that’s quite unpleasant. “I heard this rumour that I was cheating, and simultaneously having affairs with a lot of girls, and that I made a lot of girls pregnant. It was pathetic. My friends, including my female friends, were laughing their ass-off when they heard this, and now, my close friends occasionally refer to that rumor to take a sarcastic jibe at me,” laughs Chanchlani.
The content creator believes he still has a long way to go, but there have been a few instances in his life that have made him aware of his own influence. For instance, when he got a call from Marvel to conduct an interview with Benedict Cumberbatch, he couldn’t sleep for two days. “I lost my shit. I went mad,” Chanchlani says about his collaboration with Marvel. On top of that, in the same year, he got the opportunity to shoot a video with Akshay Kumar, and when the latter told him about his own son’s admiration for his work, he realised that he’s not just a “nobody” now.
Chanchlani certainly has what it takes to make a mark in the entertainment industry, and he has managed to defy expectations and surprise his audience with his unexplored sides. Nobody can foresee the future, but in Chanchlani’s case, the stars definitely look aligned.