Going Viral for a Living

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YouTuber Ashish Chanchlani boasts of an all-age inclusive fan base (read 25 million+). His rib-tickling videos were a great escape when we were all confined to our homes. From dealing with trolls to creating responsible and relatable content, Ashish reveals all in this tête-à-tête

Word by: Samreen Khoja

It is not easy to tickle everyone’s funny bones, yet Ashish Chanchlani, known for his videos and vines on YouTube, does it seamlessly. From starting with a couple of thousand followers on YouTube to having over 25 million subscribers on his channel, Ashish has come a long way.

It is not easy to tickle everyone’s funny bones, yet Ashish Chanchlani, known for his videos and vines on YouTube, does it seamlessly. From starting with a couple of thousand followers on YouTube to having over 25 million subscribers on his channel, Ashish has come a long way.

While Ashish has a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering, he was quick to realise that the field was not for him. Hit by the acting bug, Ashish was aware of the slim chances in the field, which is when he started creating short videos on social media in 2014, but little did he know then that they would be his ticket to stardom. “I started making content online as I was inspired by Vines, a newly launched app that became popular in the US, but was still catching up in India. I started posting short videos and within no time it became viral and people started to repost and tag my account. After being bombarded with a million notifications, my followers grew organically. When I started making these videos in 2014, I never imagined that I would have more than 25 million followers, now that it is the case, it still feels surreal,” says Ashish.

It is none other than Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar who inspires Ashish. “I have always wanted to be an actor and Akshay Kumar has been the biggest inspiration. After him, the people who motivated me to come up with a YouTube Channel are David Lopez, King Bach, and Rudy Mancuso. King Bach is my favourite YouTuber and I think he's the king of Vines. From a fan to a friend, it’s been quite a journey with him.”

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But, being a YouTuber in a country like ours, where being an engineer, a doctor or a lawyer is given importance, was no cakewalk for the 27-year-old. “A YouTuber was never considered as a serious profession, and content creation was always seen as a hobby. My journey so far has been consistent and I have been focused. The landscape of content creators in recent times is going towards a shorter form of content. People do not watch long-form content due to lack of time and patience. The USP of my videos is that I concentrate on small details that make the audience stick around even if my videos are longer. I also focus on short-form content as fillers between the bigger videos. That's my strategy, and it has worked out for me very well. Nowadays Instagram reels are making people discover even more talent,” explains Ashish.

With his growth trajectory being on an upward curve, Ashish is humble and has his feet firmly planted on the ground. “When I started making videos, I was expecting to have around 1 lakh followers as I just wanted the YouTube Silver Play Button. Today when I am called as one of the most celebrated content creators, I feel proud not only for myself but also for those who supported me.

When I look back, I cherish every moment including the setbacks because it could have never been possible if I hadn’t gone through the ups and downs,” says Ashish.

Ashish, who prefers to call himself an entertainer and not an influencer, asserts that he doesn’t influence people and the real influencers in our country are the freedom fighters. However, this entertainer's journey hasn’t been all glamorous. “I would say the most challenging part of being a content creator is the fact that I have to be fresh all the time. As you grow up, you become a little mature and so do your jokes. You can't be the same person. The treatment of the joke might differ from the usual one and you might not sync with the audience’s expectations. But one should be prepared for this change, go with the flow, be flexible and step ahead with time and generation,” Ashish adds. 

In 2018, the content creator was awarded the Dadasaheb Phalke International Film Festival Award for the Best Digital Influencer. He also won the ‘Best Comedy Influencer’ award at the first edition of the World Bloggers Awards held at the Cannes Film Festival in 2019 and the same year, he bagged a cameo in Men In Black: International.
 

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Taking us through his ideation process – from the first thought to publishing and marketing the video, Ashish says, “First we decide on a relatable topic, which is usually based on things that are happening around us. For instance, during the lockdown, we made videos that best described a common man’s situation. We then curate a theme, structure the scene and tweak it with jokes. Every content creator will try to make videos on relatable and current topics, we have to think differently and make our content unique. Then comes scripting, dialogues, locations, camera, light, sound, etc. It takes 3-4 days to list everything down, and I look into all the things personally. It's like growing your plant and giving your complete attention. After putting in efforts for 20 whole days, the final video is ready to be uploaded.”

But it’s not all about jokes for Ashish as he tries to talk about the pressing issues via his videos. “I am responsible for my content. Initially, when I started I was raw and I had no idea about this and I uploaded videos recklessly. It was only a few years later that I evolved and grew up as a responsible YouTuber. I was very careful about what goes out as my content. For example, in my video 'The Mummy' there was a funny exaggerated conversation between a mother and her daughter, the dialogue was supposed to be, "Tu shaadi karke jayegi, tu apne pati ke ghar khana bana paayegi?" I found this extremely problematic and I didn’t agree with this. So, I changed the dialogue to, "Tu jab bahar jayegi, kaam karegi, akeli rahegi toh apne liye khana kaise banayegi?" I did not want to stereotype women because that's not true. These are minute things which I try to balance out,” says Ashish.

This interview would be incomplete if we didn’t address the trolling on social media. So when I asked Ashish how he handles the trolls and criticism, he answers in 3 simple words. “I embrace it. The only way to create a positive space is to embrace people. One should accept the criticism as it helps to improvise and improve our skills. All you have to do is answer the trolls with a smile and not let it affect you. Being a good person might come with a lot of tax but it is very important. You should be honest and believe in yourself, the world might want to change you into something opposite of what you are and if that happens then it’s a win for them. Never let that happen, because I am sure you don’t want to lose. Being good to yourself and pure at heart will give you fruitful results, and if not, at least you will have a good night's sleep.

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Last year, Ashish directed a short horror film Akhri Safar that got close to 15 million views on YouTube. “The one video that I enjoyed making the most was my directorial debut Aakhri Safar. Apart from being an actor I also dreamt of being a director. While making ‘Aakhri Safar’, I felt like a small kid in a cinema hall. The whole experience was amazing. I had put my heart and soul into that short film.”

While we all have certain boons and banes in life, Ashish’s biggest boon is the love he gets from people. “Whenever I go out people come to me and click pictures with me, I feel extremely good, it's like a dream come true. In the content creation process, our personal life is sacrificed. I feel that is the bane. I don't get much time to spend with my family or my friends.”

As a piece of advice for budding content, Ashish says, “Initially, it would be tough for the content creators to stay monetarily afloat. They need to understand that they have to invest a lot of time in building their brand. They have to keep entertaining and one day when they finally accumulate that audience, it is then that they will be approached by brands. The first two years would be difficult but if their heart is in the right place, if they believe in themselves then they will succeed.”