People YouTube star Wilbur Sargunaraj talks about graduating from the internet to a full fledged feature film
It is hard to keep a straight face and interview someone like Wilbur Sargunaraj, you try it for the first few questions and you end up smiling and that often leads to a whole lot of laughing. Wilbur Sargunaraj is a Youtube sensation, and is most famous for teaching westerners the nuances of using the Indian latrine, the various ways you could tie a lungi and for Indians going abroad, he has the one-stop guide to order a burger at drive-through. He says he is ‘35 years young’ and a ‘global citizen’ and why not? Wilbur is almost always touring across the world. He has one foot in Toronto and one foot in Rajapalayam where his parents run an old-age home for the destitute. He talks with an accent, he types with an accent and you wonder if it is an act or it really is him. Wilbur peppers his responses with the classic ‘Wilbur on YouTube’ quotes and you’re left wondering, if this man is for real!
Before YouTube, Wilbur used to perform and tour and as times changed, Wilbur adapted. “Artists needed to take advantage of the internet to market themselves,” he says. In 2009, Wilbur uploaded his first music video, Love Marriage and as it went viral, he launched Wilbur World Wide. Wilbur’s videos have more than 3 million hits; “I never thought of ‘becoming’ popular and to this day I release videos for the pure enjoyment of creating them…not with a goal to be the next viral star,” he says.
You can’t put a pin on what Wilbur does; he is your quintessential dabbler. He worked as a driver, a waiter, baker, janitor, retail salesperson and now he produces music and films and his goal is to entertain. Wilbur strongly believes that his experience of different jobs made him the person he is today. “There is more to me than just making videos about toilets! I hope my forthcoming film, Simple Superstar will clarify this,” he chuckles.
The idea for this film, Simple Superstar came up in 2010 after he had launched his first album. “I wanted to share my story. I wanted to talk about the hardships of being an artist, besides it has always been a dream to work in a feature film. Never thought it would be my own!” he says. Simple Superstar , he says is an ‘innovative’ film and a ‘first class story’. “The film has your regular ‘Wilbur How to’s, musical hits and you’ll also see Wilbur beat up bullies on the street,” he says. Wilbur worked with an extremely small cast and crew, whom he handpicked over six months ago. “The cast doubled up as crew and no one complained,” beams Wilbur. Wilbur is making this film along with Robert D. Stephens, an architect from Mumbai who got in touch with Wilbur. The film is set in Dubai, Mumbai, Chennai, and rural South India (Tirunelveli). This is an English language film, peppered with Tamil and has been subtitled in English.
The movie has been wrapped up and they have started duplicating the film for festival screenings and submissions. “In India we are looking to the Mumbai International Film festival to be our Film Premiere and we also hope to get into the International Film Festival of India which takes place in Goa at the end of 2013. I think we will be organising the launches in Chennai, Bengaluru and other cities as well,” says Wilbur.
I wanted to talk about the hardships of being an artist, besides it has always been a dream to work in a feature film.