It’s time for independent content to shine

Social media influencers and indie artists seem bigger than movie stars today.

People can’t seem to get enough of the trailer of Ranveer Singh’s Gully Boy. It's based on the life of hip-hop artist Divine, someone who defines the rap/hip-hop subculture in India and what was known as 'Gully Rap' in Mumbai. When I recall the day in 2014 when he won the Best Hip Hop Artist award at Radio City Freedom Awards in both Jury and Popular Choice categories, I knew that we were on to something big. The song was ‘YehMera Bombay’. This was followed by another Radio City Freedom Award in 2016 when he got the Jury Choice for ‘Meri Gully Mein’ along with Naezy. Yes, that song. The fan following that they achieved after that was mind boggling and this year with Gully Boy they will break into the mainstream.

Zoya Akhtar, one of Bollywood’s most experimental directors, is taking this subculture into the country's most mainstream medium. Their music is highly relatable to the city’s youth. ‘Apna Time Aayega’ represents how the young India feels today. This is the India that is giving a chance to Indie content and Indie stars. And that’s how this content is getting out of the ‘underground’ tag and becoming mass. From Indie films to music to spoken word, content today is completely out there without any shackles or labels. Kal gully mein, aajsabkegharmein... 

From formula to reality

Gone are those days when the biggest names would sell, regardless of the content. If we look at the largest money spinners in the film industry for 2018, it is remarkable to see films like Raazi, Stree and Badhaai Ho counted as the biggest box-office hits of 2018. All the Khans, those Box Office magnets, couldn’t justify the hundreds of crores that were spent packaging sub-par content around them while serving a so-called formula film. Stars like Taapsee Pannu, Vicky Kaushal, Rajkummar Rao, Radhika Apte and Ayushmann Khurrana are some of the names that have shone in recent times. Creativity today is not limited to the elite – it is free flowing and is not dependent on conventional stars. Even box office darlings like Ranveer Singh, Varun Dhawan, Alia Bhatt are experimenting with stories that are real and the filmmakers are getting bolder and junking the formula for quality content. Content ruled 2018 and how.

Real Stars

People who are on par with, or sometimes even more influential than film stars are social media influencers. One has to attend events like the YouTube Fan Fest to understand the craze and fandom of these seemingly ordinary people. Hailing from small town India, these are real people doing real things like cooking or showing how to wear a sari. They appear on screen without layers of makeup. They haven’t appeared on the silver screen and seem approachable. This is the guy next door who loves to tinker with his computer, this is the portly uncle in your family who entertains everyone by dancing to the 80s’ songs, that colleague who has a quirky sense of fashion, or that granny living in a sunny, small town whose recipes you've always craved. 

Today a Bhuvan Bam has a larger Twitter following than many Bollywood stars. Big brands look towards these influencers and spend serious money with them because of their reach and connect with their fans. Today, one doesn’t have to travel to Mumbai to be a star, one doesn’t have to have the backing of a big label or banner to help you become significant. You can be in your own city, in your own gully, on your own, with just your talent for company. It is the time of independent content, whether it is music or films or on-demand videos. #ApnaTimeAayega is coming true in someone’s life on a daily basis!

(The author is Rachna Kanwar - COO – Digital Media, Jagran Prakashan Ltd. The views expressed here are her own and may not subscribe to them)  

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