Society

Decoding YouTube channel Ungal Meenavan Mookaiyur’s success

Adventures at sea K Kingston

Adventures at sea K Kingston   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

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Amid the sea of YouTube videos floating in cyberspace, Ungal Meenavan Mookaiyur is a catch that stands out

He is K Kingston, an Internet influencer in his own way.

This fisherman’s videos on his adventures at sea are viewed routinely by lakhs of people. Kingston’s cybersea adventures off the coast of Kadaladi, Ramanathapuram district, began with his TikTok videos, which he did “for a bit of popularity”. He tried different hacks, but hit the viral league with a song from Dhanush’s Maryan. As ‘Komban sura’ played in the background, a camera showed him catching a chinna sura (small shark) weighing a kilogram. The video got 10 lakh likes, as viewers were ensnared by the blue background. That was 14 months ago.

Then, Kingston decided to do more. He made live videos of his sea expeditions. “They looked interesting to me,” says the 30-year-old. One of his videos, of a star-fish, went viral. Most people said they saw a star-fish for the first time, while others wondered if it was a plastic specimen. “The next time, I made sure it acted alive, and shot all its movements,” he adds. The star-fish episode was a landmark: from then on, his videos would be guided by viewer suggestions.

Claim to fame

Kingston is proud of his conch shell video. It showed the live creature as his voice-over narrated its life-cycle. Viewers came back with questions, which he answered, and the follower count soon went up to five lakhs. “But it was not always ‘Hey, you’re great!’,” points out Kingston. “Some asked why I was killing fish, trolls called me a killer.” But Kingston answered them all patiently. In one post, he said, “Fishermen look after fish like they are his children.”

K Kingston is an Internet influencer in his own way

K Kingston is an Internet influencer in his own way   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Appreciation across cyberspace was like oxygen for him. “I felt the pats,” he says. Some viewers suggested that he put his videos out on YouTube too. He asked a friend to create an e-mail ID for him. Kingston’s first YouTube video brought in 20,000 subscribers in a day (he’d added one lakh subscribers in 20 days). “I redid the conch shell video, and showed how to make meen kozhambu with freshly-caught fish,” he explains. The video got one million views.

YouTubing is now serious work for him. Kingston has upgraded his mobile phone, and his audience watch snippets on swimming strokes, dangers at sea, and the endless variety of sea-creatures. A techie friend in Chennai helped set up his YouTube channel four months ago. Soon, revenue from advertisements started trickling in. He is now saving for an underwater camera to improve production quality.

When, recently, he heard that his videos were being used without permission in social media, he was alarmed. Some even called him “fake”. “I had to prove I was the producer and show copyright,” he says, adding that he messaged those who lifted his content. “I told them that I never stole anyone’s work. I struggle to make my videos. Take mine if you need it badly, but don’t claim ownership... don’t say I’m fake,” he says. His brother now monitors the videos and proves authenticity through time-lapse.

Fishing for ideas

Kingston’s videos are educational too. One shows how clouds absorb water vapour from the sea. Most of his audience applauded his guts for showing the phenomenon up close, but others rubbished it.

All in the family
  • Kingston’s YouTubing, like his fishing, is a family affair.
  • He shoots, edits, comments and adds titles during up-and-down fishing journeys. His brothers run the boat. He makes six videos a day, only so that his viewers “don’t get bored.” His diversified output includes cookery lessons and Q&A sessions. He has answered queries like, ‘Have you seen mermaids? Can you pass on their names?’ But once back home, he ensures that he spends time with his two young daughters.

“A tornado in the making,” a viewer commented under the video. But Kingston was unfazed. “I knew I was right. The elders in my colony supported it but I had no scientific proof. A YouTube channel telecast the video, and a meteorologist authenticated my claim. I proved experience gives us bigger lessons than mere book-learning,” he says.

The highlight in his videos is the complete absence of malice, and the patience with which he explains phenomena. “Let’s exchange views, nanba (friend),” he says. “Come, taste my fish fries.”

He believes he is changing the unsavoury perception people have of fishermen. “We are branded rowdies and smugglers. But we’re engaged in a traditional craft; we battle waves. Now viewers say, ‘Fishermen are great... when we go to buy fish, we don’t haggle.’”

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Printable version | Jan 24, 2020 7:51:11 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/caught-in-the-web/article30557600.ece

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