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Have dosa? They will serve chutney

AWAY FROM THE GRIND: Viewers can relate to their videos with a south-Indian spin. Photo: Ananyaa Desikan

AWAY FROM THE GRIND: Viewers can relate to their videos with a south-Indian spin. Photo: Ananyaa Desikan   | Photo Credit: Ananyaa Desikan

Meet the team behind the popular Chennai-based YouTube channel Put Chutney.

‘Something something inspiration whatever whatever hope’ reads one of the motivational posters in Put Chutney’s office. “It’s incredibly inspiring. It’s what keeps us alive,” says the team, solemnly. The Chennai-based YouTube channel shot to fame with videos such as ‘What If Batman Was From Chennai’, ‘What If The Avengers Were From South India’, and ‘A Day In The Life of HR’, that enlists the important DOSA qualities that every employee must strive for (Diligent, Out-of-the-box thinking, Self-motivation, Anterpruner).

Put Chutney, one of the humorous channels of multi-channel network Culture Machine, has put Chennai on the YouTube map with its hugely popular videos that have a south Indian spin. Styling themselves as ‘South Side Stories’, the Batman video has crossed two million views, and other series such as Life Commentary, that features running commentary for everyday activities, and Road Side Stories, Chennaiites’ opinion on various things, are also getting positive reactions.

The Put Chutney team consists of six members: Rajiv Rajaram, Aswin Rao, Tushar Ramakrishnan, Balakumaran, Vignesh ‘Gee Vee’, and Hariharan. A group of 20 and 30-somethings, they go way back — Rajiv is a partner of theatre group Stray Factory and was a screenwriter for the film Aaha Kalyanam. Tushar, the director, has worked on five movies and assisted director Selvaraghavan. Bala, the writer, and Aswin, who does some of the writing and appears in the videos, have been active in the stand-up comedy scene for years now. Gee Vee, the face of Road Side Stories, was in the radio industry, and Hari, the editor and the latest addition to the team, comes from an engineering background. They all had one thing in common — none of them had any idea how a YouTube channel would pan out, yet most of them quit their previous jobs.

“I took this chance. I worked in films, and didn’t know YouTube had such a big reach. In terms of feature films, there’s a start and an end, but this isn’t like that. There’s a start, and it keeps going,” says Tushar. Gee Vee says, “One day I got a call from Rajiv asking me to quit my job. I didn’t even ask what was on offer, I just put in my papers, and now I’m putting chutney!”

Post the success of Batman, the group diversified its content with a life commentary series, road side stories, and a touching mother’s day video featuring Uma Iyer. “The HR video opened a separate category of viewers. I didn’t know what HR was about, but there were a lot of people who could relate to it,” says Tushar. “We want to reach out to different people,” adds Bala. “Eight videos a month is our target, and each of us handles a different segment. Actually, the idea comes to us eight hours before we shoot,” says Aswin. They say that the different points of view of the various members help to draw the line between what is relatable and what is stereotypical and being politically correct.

On comparisons with other comedy groups in the country, Aswin says, “We are very clear that we want to do spoofy, weird, but not below-the-belt stuff. We just want to do light-hearted humour that everyone can enjoy.”

Bala adds, “There are channels that specifically want to push the limits. Ours is more of doing our own thing without crossing the boundary.” Adds Gee Vee, “The road-side stories video on the drinking scene in Chennai turned out well because nobody was ready to accept that they drink, and that by itself made for good content. We recently made a thought-provoking video with elders. It’s interesting to see individual perspectives about something common. Though last week, when I stopped a girl to ask a question, she swore and left. I don’t know why; maybe I looked a little scary,” he adds ruefully.

Talk about their competition, and Rajiv says, “With YouTube, nobody is competition. Everybody has a space, they’re just a tab away. That’s the beauty of it.” Aswin says, “As cliché as this sounds, our competition is ourselves. We want to outdo the Batman video, take it to the next level. That’s how you can grow as a channel.”

They all agree that this in no way interferes with their creative process or puts undue pressure on them. “We’re not creating content with the sole purpose of going viral.”

Apart from exploring different genres, they also want to be more inclusive of the other south Indian languages. They want their videos to cater to a global audience. “The regional space is a huge market. You can be regional, and be English at the same time,” says Rajiv.

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Printable version | Jul 14, 2020 10:53:14 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/have-dosa-they-will-serve-chutney/article7318162.ece

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