Viraj Ghelani is the boy next door for those who hang out on social media everyday. He is one of the popular faces from Filter Copy (FilterCopy is a part of Pocket Aces, a tech-driven digital media entertainment company) who is either seen trying a new challenge with a celebrity or doing a ‘Real life vs KJo movie.’ Basically anything funny on FilterCopy will have Viraj in it. This is how Viraj admits to be living his dream. “While kids of my age were eager to fare well in school, I would look for an opportunity to crack some joke. Or even eager to have someone looking for me to crack a joke or say something funny,” says Viraj who was in Hyderabad to speak at the InfluencerCon 2019. Coming from a humble background, choosing to work on an OTT platform wasn’t an easy decisionfor him. “That is not because I didn’t know what to do. Apart from being a struggling actor, I had the daunting task of making my parents agree to my choice of profession. Add to it, the pressure from neighbours and rishtedar . If this were not enough, I had friends who were successful in their chosen fields and I was someone who considered studying to be a tedious task,” says Viraj as he sits to chat after taking a break from the numerous selfie smiles with his followers.
“You know why I like to crack jokes or be funny? There was a time when our family went through hardships and there was no one to bring a smile on our faces or give us relief from the pathetic situation we were in,” reveals Viraj who is thankful to his mother, whose hard work kept the family going after his father had lost his job.
He also admits that not at school, he looked forward to the extra curricular activities more than academics. After finishing his school, Viraj succumbed to societal pressures and enrolled in a Polytechnic institute and earned a Diploma in engineering. “Thankfully, during this time 3 Idiots had released. I was sure I didn’t want to do my graduation in engineering. Once I watched 3 Idiots , I related to Farhan (the character played by Madhavan). When Farhan told his father ‘even if I become an engineer I will be a terrible one’ it gave me goosebumps. I decided to ask my parents for permission to let me do what I want. I gave myself a deadline — three years,” he recollects.
After having convinced his parents for the time he needed to try ‘his type’ of a career, Viraj was in a dilemma. “I didn’t know where to start or what to do. I auditioned everywhere I could and faced rejection. And during my free time, I was on snapchat video, which was a rage in 2013-2014. Buzzfeed listed me as one of the top 20 people to follow on Snapchat. I was running out of time and had to make something out of myself and finally on May 16, 2016, I got a call from FilterCopy. I didn’t know what I had to do, but I agreed to do everything I was asked to. I am fortunate to have learned everything from the team while working with them. The content they were creating was relatable and I found myself at a place where I fit in, that calmed my worries of a finding a job,” he adds.
Viraj might be a star on the OTT platform but his friends mean a lot to him. So when he gets messages like ‘are you East, because my day starts with you,’ “I just smile and say ‘thank you’,” he smiles.