All of us have heard of stories of people enamoured by Tamil cinema, running away from their homes and landing up at Kodambakkam with silver screen dreams in their eyes.
Even if the theme is the same, the story of Review Raja, a 24-year-old resident of Ontario, Canada, who goes steadfastly by his online name, is a bit of an oddity made possible by the power of the World Wide Web.
The YouTube reviewer, who claims to be the only Caucasian reviewing Tamil cinema online with the motive of “bringing Tamil cinema to the world,” has a pretty good online following: his YouTube channel has had more than 1.8 million views since its launch in June 2012. His reviews — that often parody the Tamil films he is reviewing with him playing the lead actor — have wowed not just the non-resident Tamils in Canada and abroad, but have also received an overwhelming thumbs-up from fans in Tamil Nadu.
And since he landed in Chennai on February 1, the enterprising Canadian has networked with top studio bosses, met up with some A-list Tamil film actors and directors, who are also his Twitter friends, viewed the controversial Vishwaroopam on the very first day at a local theatre and might have even worked out a special appearance deal in an upcoming Tamil film directed by a leading director.
The IT consultant, who puts out the video reviews once a week with help of a small but very efficient crew in Toronto, knows that just being a YouTube star, might not really bring in the monies. Though the brand-building around ‘Review Raja’ is the primary focus now, he hopes to go back to Canada with a business plan surrounding the Tamil film industry, quit his day job, try and learn more than enough Tamil within a year to be not just an entertainer but also a businessman related to the industry.
He has been accompanied by his father on the trip to Chennai. It does come across as a bit odd to see the Canadian father call his adult son ‘Raja,’ so intent is he on keeping his ‘stage name.’ “My dad and the rest of my family support me completely. My friends in Canada believe I have gone completely crazy though,” he laughs.
The ‘Team Review Raja’ comprises his friends in Toronto – Arjun Mano (cinematographer), Rajeev Kugan (online development/ direction), Wes Macdonald (motion graphics) and Chennai-based Udaya Bharati (music composer). Unlike most others on YouTube, the team does not use any copyrights-infringing material.