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Shlok Sharma, 26, made Tubelight Ka Chand in 2010. A short film about the dreams of a boy named Tubelight, the film was the directorial debut for Sharma, who had worked under Anurag Kashyap and Vishal Bhardwaj. After doing rounds of several film festivals and winning a few awards - with the most illustrious being German Star of India at Bollywood and Beyond Film Festival - the film was uploaded on YouTube in its entirety.
"For a short film there are not many screening opportunities and I wanted the world to see my movie and critique it honestly. YouTube seemed like the perfect medium for that. Anybody can go there, watch it, and - due to the anonymity it allows - post an honest comment, " Sharma says.
IN SEARCH OF AN AUDIENCE
For many aspiring artists and filmmakers, the site is proving to be an essential platform where they can showcase their work and launch their career.
"In the current scenario, where TV and radio just regurgitate the same old flavours year after year, original and alternate expressions don't find many popular platforms, " says Sona Mohapatra, the singer who sang Bedardi Raja in Delhi Belly recently.
"For example, a ballad like Abhi Nahin Ana would have been written off by the so-called experts, music channels and TV channel executives. But on the internet it is possibly the most-loved song and music video that I have released, " she says.
Mohapatra joined YouTube after meeting a Google executive at the World Music meet in Copenhagen a few years ago. "The site is possibly the biggest life-changing discovery I have made in the last decade, " says the singer, who now - apart from singing in Bollywood - also performs in concerts across the world.
But while she already had a headstart as a musician when she discovered the video-hosting resource, Wilbur Sargunaraj began from scratch in 2007.
"There was a time when there was no YouTube in my life. Even then I used to sing, dance and make music. At that time, I travelled from city to city and performed, yet no one knew who I was - a far-cry from the instant success that the web has brought me, " Sargunaraj says.
It all changed for the Madurai-resident when his Love Marriage caught the fancy of celebrated movie reviewer and critique Roger Ebert last year. The song about a south Indian guy pleading with his parents and seeking permission to marry for love garnered several lakh views in just a few days, making Sargunaraj one of the top Indian independent artists on YouTube.
Though he has no contract with a record label, Sargunaraj performs across the world in concerts;videos of which he meticulously uploads on his YouTube channel.
JUST FOR THE WEB
As the world gets more connected and tablets and smartphones allow more and more people to access multimedia content anytime and anywhere, there is a growing realisation that audiences exist outside the sphere of television and movie theatres.
Sensing the opportunity, there are a number of firms producing or curating shows for the Web.
One of them is 1Take Media, which calls itself India's leading distributor of "alternate content" such as documentaries, short films and independent films - the type that rarely find any space on stereotypical television.
The firm that initially started as a job agency - a conduit between struggling artists and Mumbai filmmakers - has in the last few years found success on the internet as a distributor, and now boasts of a library of more than 2, 000 documentaries and short films, and a total of nearly 11 million views.
But the granddaddy of web video in India is considered to be YoBoHo Media with its name coming from the first two alphabets of Yoga, Bollywood and Hollywood.
YoBoHo has over 40 channels on YouTube, cumulatively serving over 10, 000 videos. And it has content for everyone, whether you are in your 50s and looking for yoga tips, or a college student seeking out some funky tunes. "We started with Desi-Mad in 2007, a site for Indian users to upload funny videos. But after a lacklustre beginning, we created some videos ourselves and posted them on YouTube, hoping that it would drive traffic to our site. Before we knew it, we were grabbing eyeballs. After the initial success, we decided to expand and open more channels, " says Hitendra Merchant, founder and CEO.
YoBoHo has grown at a brisk pace over the last few years and now partners with content producers in Mumbai and stringers in the US to generate original content for its channels.
Just a week ago, market research firm ComScore placed the DesiMad channel at number 49 on its list of 50 most popular YouTube channels worldwide.
Then, there are web-only shows like Jay Hind!, described as India's only late-night comedy show. It features stand-up comedian Sumeet Raghavan and the creative team that was once part of Movers & Shakers.
"Breaking into the TV scene is difficult. It requires lot of money. Compared to that, the web is easier to crack. The best thing is that feedback is instant, " says Saameer Mody of 1Take Media.
And now, in a turnaround of sorts, TV channels are courting web audiences by hooking up to the internet to stream video snippets of popular shows. In fact, last week - in another cross-over - Jay Hind! was nominated for this year's Indian Television Awards.
Of course, fame and awards are not the only things that artists on the web are earning. Google has a program where popular YouTube performers can sign a contract with the site to earn advertisement revenue collected via their channel.
"There is a strong demand for Indian content, and this programme helps original video content creators in India to make money from their work, " says David Macdonald, head of YouTube content operations for Asia-Pacific.
Google claims that its programme has a community of over 20, 000 content creators across the globe, and every year YouTube pays out millions of dollars to them. According to company statistics, hundreds of partners make more than $100, 000 per year, and thousands of partners make more than $1, 000 per month. In India, the number of partners is in hundreds, but Google expects it to grow significantly in future.
Both, Mohapatra and Sargunaraj are part of the programme. And YoBoHo Media is said to make around Rs 30 lakh every month from advertising revenue.
Even artists, who are not part of the programme, are earning revenues through web-only production firms. For example, 1Take Media shares 37. 50 per cent of its revenue with filmmakers.
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