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I don’t usually watch content on YouTube: BB Ki Vines’ Bhuvan Bam

YouTube content creator and budding music producer, Bhuvan Bam is a man who wears many hats. He is the man behind one of India’s biggest YouTube channels – BB Ki Vines, which has touched the major landmark of 10 million subscribers. Reaching that point is a great milestone not just in India but around the globe. 

Bam realised the potential of the Internet early on when a video he uploaded on Facebook pointing out the idiocy of a news reporter when viral. From then on, he created comedy sketches that were rooted in experiences of the average Indian youth and immensely relatable to the millennial audience. In three short years, he has built a loyal following across social media platforms that total 23 million followers (10 million on YouTube, Instagram – 5 million, Facebook - 5 million, Twitter – 3 million). 

A passionate musician as well, Bam has released four original music videos since August 2016 – ‘Teri Meri Kahaani’, ‘Sang HoonTere’, ‘Safar’, and the most recent ‘Rahguzar’.

In 2018, Bhuvan Bam and Divya Dutta starred in a short film, Plus Minus, about Baba Harbhajan Singh. The short film is directed by Jyoti Kapur Das.

In a freewheeling interview with Adgully, Bhuvan Bam speaks about his life and career as a YouTuber, how he comes up with the content and characters for his YouTube channel ‘BB Ki Vines’, his growth as a musician, future plans and more. 

What made you decide to become a YouTube content creator?
I didn’t do it to troll the reporter. I found it stupid. When I gradually started making videos, the first character I played was a father. People really liked this father character, who was depicted as a dumb guy. Gradually I decided to make more characters, so I introduced friends, I introduced a villain, and Titu Mama. That process kept on going and I went on with the flow. 

How much are your characters inspired by people in real life?
A couple of them are from real life, actual characters like Doctor Sehgal who lives next to me and runs a clinic. And Masterji, I had a substitute teacher who was typically like Masterji – if he ordered ‘kachori’ and got ‘samosa’ instead, he would become furious. He taught me for a month. Masterji is one of the longer series that I have done. I’ve done mini-series (3 parts) which has Titu Mama in it, then Doctor Sehgal has three episodes, but Masterji is the longest. Of all my content, Masterji is most precious to me. 

Why did you decide on that kind of format for your videos?
I never thought that I would do this. I did it because I had a phone at that time and I had someone to make fun of. Like that media guy, he asked a stupid question so I thought I would make fun of it. I put the video up and people liked it. I had another go at it and made another 10-second video. While I was doing it, I thought since I was handling this with one hand to shoot, why should I spend money on an expensive set-up? I neither have money nor a great interest in this. 

The time it takes for you to put out a video has increased. What has changed?
Duration. I began with 30 seconds of content and went on to making 8 minutes worth of content. To write the script for that takes me 15 days. Every line has a joke in it, each character has its own characteristics, you can’t make the character do or say anything that would not fit its personality. I shoot and edit on one single day. I wake up at 7 am and start shooting at 8-8.30 am, which goes on till 3 pm. I take a lunch break between 3 pm and 4 pm. I begin the editing process from 4.30 pm and the video goes live by 8 pm. 

What is the appeal of your content that has resulted in such a strong connect with your fans?
If you follow me outside YouTube then you will know that I never portray myself as my characters. On Instagram and Twitter, it’s Bhuvam Bam. It’s who I am. My stronger base is on Instagram, where I share who I am. That’s what connects with people. Most of these followers come from my college and understand where I’m coming from when I talk about my personal life. On Instagram, I have almost 5 million followers. Facebook is also almost 5 million and Twitter is 3 million. The audience is the same, but the audience on YouTube is a wider audience. The ones who get hooked come on Instagram as well. That’s the distribution. Those who know me out of YouTube will be on those platforms. 

You have reached the 10-million subscriber mark on YouTube. What does this milestone mean for you as a content creator?
Reaching the 1-million subscriber mark was something I had always dreamed of. Once I reached that, I felt I had made it. Enough. The point at which your subscriber count is 999,999 and you just need a single subscriber to reach 1 million – there was excitement. The moment you cross that threshold of 1 million then that growth keeps happening and doesn’t faze you. Although, 10 million is a huge deal; not just in India, but globally as well. 

Now my fans are almost everywhere. Apart from Pakistan, there is Nepal, Bangladesh, Dubai, Australia, Sweden and Norway. In fact, I have my third highest fan base in the UAE, after India and Pakistan. 

Have you ever faced any backlash for the content you have put on ‘BB Ki Vines’?
I don’t do political content. I don’t get into that. My views are personal; I will tell you my views, but not on camera because I know I may not be able to put it in the right words and the entire game is about putting your views in the right words. Otherwise, people might attack you on the basis of that. I don’t feel the need to talk about such things unless I personally feel really strongly about it. 

Your first passion is to become a musician. Do your fans know that?
That’s where Instagram comes in. The people who follow me on Instagram know who I am – when I talk to them and post stories. I go live on Instagram for three hours between 12 am and 3 am. The screen is completely blank and I do live shows – guitar and piano sessions for 2-3 hours straight. I have an audience of two million people at that time online. Therefore, people know that my first passion is music. 

Do your fans ever say, ‘don’t do music, do only content’?
That was really the reaction after the first song. It was a surprise to the audience. The second song came after one and a half years. Then the third song, ‘Safar’, came four months after that. People who listened to ‘Safar’ went back and heard the earlier songs – ‘Sang Hoon Tere’ and ‘Teri Meri Kahaani’. Now, everyone is waiting for ‘Raghuzar’. No one is saying don’t do this, don’t do that. They know that I’m serious about music and are waiting patiently for the song. We collaborated with 300 fans for ‘Raghuzar’. 

Going forward, will music take precedence over ‘BB Ki Vines’?
No. It’s not like I’m giving it away or letting it go. Comedy is what I like to do; music is what I love to do. I do music to escape from comedy. But there is no escape from music. It’s all about balance. My task is to balance both these spheres. I don’t get enough time to do music because for brands I need to do my comedy stuff. When I am free from that, I quickly switch to music. 

What are the various touch points you have hit in your music career?
We do live shows quite often; we do college shows. I used to play ‘BB Ki Vines’ at clubs previously; live acts, not stand-up. I don’t do stand-up comedy, I just do music. Before ‘BB Ki Vines’ took off, I used to perform at a restaurant. From there I shifted to festivals; there were food festivals in Delhi where we used to be the main stage act. Gradually, the offers have increased and now I will be performing at the NH7 Weekender this December in Pune. 

As far as my fan following is concerned, it is a pan-India following. Language is a bit of a problem in the South, but in the North, West, and East I have a lot of fans. 

You have signed up with the brand, Mivi Headphones. Are there other brands that have shown interest?
There are many in the pipeline, but I am not at liberty to talk of them at the moment. 

You have also worked in a web series, ‘The Bachelors’, with The Viral Fever (TVF). Are there more such plans?
I intend to start writing my own movie by mid-2019, which will be only for YouTube. It will be a full feature film, not in parts, and will be one hour to one and a half hours long. It will have all the ‘BB Ki Vines’ characters. What will be different about it is that it will not be in the format of my other videos. It will be properly shot with my many characters in the same frame with the help of special effects and everything. 

Who are the content creators or music producers that you look up to and watch on YouTube or anywhere else?
Music – I listen to several people that I love. In YouTube, whatever comes on my recommendations page I will check out. I don’t usually watch content on YouTube, because if that content goes to the back of your head then your scripts get hampered. You never know if you are accidently plagiarising someone else’s content. You consume so much content that you never know when you are subconsciously copying someone’s content. That’s why I watch very little content on the Internet. I have stopped watching comedy movies now. Recently, when I was writing an episode for ‘BB Ki Vines’ and I was just completing the final draft, I realised that the plot for that episode was identical to a movie I had seen a week ago. I had to cancel everything and start from scratch on a new project. That experience was really scary, so I’ve stopped watching comedy movies.

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