A few stories on 101India’s YouTube channel would make any editor in the news industry downright envious. From interviewing former militants in Kashmir to shadowing gau rakshaks in Ramgarh on their midnight runs, 101India’s feed is provocative and hairy. Not all are this serious. With a particular focus though, on documenting outcasts (B-grade film actresses, circus performers) and delightfully odd social practices (UFO hunters in Ladakh, Parsi arm wrestlers), 101India is also making the fringe more mainstream.
“The youth of India likes to see people fighting; they like to see performing monkeys,” says Oshidar, MD & Chief Creative Officer, 101India. “But, we wanted to get away from that. We just thought there was a space for a certain kind of easy narrative. India is such a diverse country where truth is often more interesting than fiction. There’s enough fodder here to keep us going for a long time.” Oshidar started 101India after becoming tired of the noise of reality TV and news channels, a noise he contributed to in another lifetime — he was closely involved with some of MTV India’s biggest hits, including shows such as Roadies and Bakra. If we found them to be too loud after their novelty factor wore off, Oshidar must have found them nothing short of ear-splitting. This is why he now does content that’s a lot easier on the senses.
Take, for instance, an extremely successful series called Dinner with Dons (DWD). It features candid interviews with real-life gangsters while noshing with them. The combination works like magic — some videos have garnered more than 6.5 lakh views. Another interesting (but, perhaps not the best) series is the Phir Se Ramsay series, which romanticises the Ramsay genre of gore. “The response to the Ramsay series has been mixed. People who like pulp horror have reacted positively to it. People who don’t like pulp horror were unable to understand the point of seeing a witch in a dance bar,” says Oshidar.
Considering his company is not a household name yet, how does Oshidar plan to increase the number of eyeballs on his channel? “The simplest way to increase viewership is Bollywood, cricket and celebrities. A) That’s expensive, and B) I’d rather kill myself. So, we will have to find [new] programming concepts, and hope that there is a mature, evolving market for young people that wants to consume alternative kinds of stories,” he says. One of the things that pisses Oshidar off is the fact that brands aren’t willing to experiment more. He hopes that with the entry of VICE (a popular international player that does offbeat documentaries), the audience for alternative content will get a boost, and he, too, will see a rise in his clientele.
Despite the rising popularity of web-based content, Oshidar thinks the future of television is safe, since people would always want to watch Game of Thrones. “It’s a pipe. You take content from a TV channel, it’s the same programming, the same channel, the same players. It’s just that you are watching it in another way.”