In a candid chat, comedian Bhuvan Bam looks back at his rise as a YouTube star
Bhuvan Bam is very much your everyday neighbourhood comedian. His jokes are based on real-life characters that you would find in your surroundings — angry masterji (teacher), babluji (middle-class father) or titu mama (goon-like uncle). It is this observational humour that makes his videos extremely relatable, which has also garnered him fans, making him a bona fide YouTube star.
However, Bhuvan’s stardom goes beyond his two billion views. The New Delhi-based artiste recently debuted at the 2020 World Economic Forum Annual Meeting prestigious conference in Switzerland. Others in the list included Bollywood actress Deepika Padukone and young climate activist Greta Thunberg. Bhuvan, however, was one of the eight YouTube content creators who were invited in collaboration with the World Economic Forum (WEF) to bring youth perspectives to its discussions. “It was a golden opportunity for a creator like me to learn about the forum personally and watch global leaders speak. I’ll be vlogging my experience so my audience can learn from what I saw and heard,” he says.
About five years ago, Bhuvan was a regular college kid who spent his evenings performing at restaurants in New Delhi. His dream was to be a singer and YouTube was never on the cards. However, things changed when he came across a news video covering the floods in Kashmir. “There was a video of a journalist asking a mother (who lost her child in the floods), how she was feeling. What kind of question is that? So I made a satirical video on it,” he recollects. The 15-second satire video (now deleted) was supposed to be a one-off. But once the video went viral, he decided to post a few more, and that led to the launch of BB Ki Vines.
The 26-year-old built all of it solely from doing comedy skits and videos in front of his camera — in the comfort of his bedroom. What started off with 15 views, has now grown to become a platform that youngsters relate to, calling themselves the BBKV army. The channel chronicles the life of an Indian teenager and his middle-class family through quirky characters portrayed by Bhuvan himself. Most of his content is inspired by awkward and funny everyday situations including familial occasions, breakup and exams. It is witty and relatable. “My content is based on a middle-class family — exaggerating them and their experiences. It’s obviously inspired from people I meet, watch and is a few times, fictional. But these are all characters who exist I’m sure, that’s why people find them relatable,” he shares.
Four and a half years since its launch, BB Ki Vines now has over 16 million subscribers, which is more than one of the most popular YouTube channels, Lilly Singh (14.9 million subscribers).
This year started off on a great note for him with WEF debut and Bhuvan’s never been busier and happier. “I feel gratitude for all the love and acceptance I’ve received. All the warmth coming my way is overwhelming and also comforting. I feel a sense of pride in who I’m becoming and what I stand for,” he shares.
With fans and larger audience base comes the pressure to create thoughtful and responsible content, and Bhuvan completely understands and believes in that. “First, I was just making content for the fun of it and to make myself happy. After the first million subscribers, I started thinking responsibly because of who I was catering to. When you’re an artiste, you do feel a certain sense of responsibility towards your viewers. That’s when I started taking this more seriously but that doesn’t make it any less fun,” he points out.
Despite having a busy schedule and juggling multiple things — comedy, music and endorsements, Bhuvan always makes time to interact with his audience. Whether it’s on Instagram or YouTube, he replies to a few comments on his posts, which is often not a norm for celebrities. “No interaction is too much for me. I love talking to people and that’s the beauty of social media, there’s no wall in between. So whenever I get the chance to communicate with my BB Ki Vines army, I do because I am where I am because of them,” he says. Ask any of his fans and they would agree that it is this modesty that makes Bhuvan standout, even as he portrays himself as a regular Delhi boy with a good sense of humour.
Excerpts from the interview:
How do you balance between making music and creating content for your channel?
Easy, when I make videos or script, and I need to re power myself, I sing, or play music and vice versa. I keep an instrument next to me in my room, to help with whenever inspiration strikes.
What's next for Bhuvan? More music? What's your plan for 2020? You have earlier said that you'd like to do a Bollywood film. Is something on the cards?
I have been working on a big project since a few months now which I’m waiting to let out in the world, more music yes but nothing I can talk about right now. Bollywood isn’t on the cards right now, but I would definitely love to act in a film.
As a YouTuber and social media star, your life is out there for everyone to see, which also makes you extremely relatable. Where do you draw the line, in terms of sharing personal content or experiences?
My content is based on a middle-class family, and exaggerating them and their experiences. It’s obviously inspired from someone somewhere, people I meet, watch and sometimes fictional, but these are all characters who exist I’m sure, that’s why people find them relatable. I don’t share a lot on my family and personal life because I’m any way out there, making content, constantly exposed to the camera, the internet and I don’t want that for my family. Some things are private and too important to be shared with the world and that’s how I like to keep it.
What's your message to aspiring YouTubers?
I’d like to tell aspiring content creators to keep making content because only then you learn. If you expect overnight success and virality, you’re in it for the wrong reasons because success has no shortcuts. It takes hard work, determination and consistency. So, keep doing what you do and hope for the best.
What are some of the content clichés that we need to move on from this decade?
We really need to get rid of the risky challenges which go viral on social media. Many of them are fatal and completely unnecessary, they are not even entertaining.
Apart from music and comedy, you're also known for your style. What does fashion mean to you? What's your go-to outfit?
Fashion is what’s trending and style is personal, so you can be stylish without being trendy. My style is casual comfortable and classic, so a fresh crisp shirt with a pair of jeans, sneakers and a bomber jacket or a hoodie. I’m a basic guy when it comes to fashion but I also like to dress for the occasion, occasionally (laughs).