India’s biggest YouTube star, Bhuvan Bam looks back at his journey, how he got a porn star to feature in his video and why he is refusing offers from Bollywood.
The YouTube sensation of India, Bhuvan Bam is unlike most of the men of his age. At the age of 25, he has a Youtube and a Facebook channel with over 12 and 4 million subscribers, respectively. A trained singer hailing from Delhi, Bam spent his days attedning class in the college and nights singing at restaurants, completely unaware of YouTube and its power until the horrific floods engulfed the Kashmir valley in 2014.
“I watched a reporter ask a woman how she’s feeling having lost her son in the floods. I was appalled at the insensitivity,” Bam recalls the incident that prompted him to make his first video, a 15-second satire that he posted on his Facebook account. “I enacted a conversation between a reporter and a lady. So when the lady is asked the question, she starts dancing happily,” he adds.
After receiving appreciation, he continued posting comedy satire videos on his account. And as the likes increased, he founded BB Ki Vines, a Facebook page in 2015, where he posts two videos a month now. While his content was gaining attraction in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Dubai, it was only after eight months that he began to be recognised in the home country.
Bhuvan Bam with Shah Rukh Khan
“I was getting gig offers from neighbouring countries, but no one knew me in India. Just when I was about to accept an offer, one of my videos went viral in India. So much that when I would move out of the house people addressed me as janab or huzoor. They assumed I am from Karachi,” laughs the YouTuber. Bam acts and shoots his own videos after spending 15 days in conceptualising, scripting and editing. He shoots single-handedly from the front camera of his phone and reveals cheekily that it’s just his phone that has upgraded from a Nexus 5 to a Google Pixel.
Gradually as BB KI Vines gained around 10 million subscribers, a friend brought to his notice that he could make money by posting his videos on YouTube. Taking his videos a notch up, he created a character Titu Mama, an interviewer, and wrote pitches for brands called Titu Talks with Shah Rukh Khan (SRK), something he knew wouldn’t happen.
Bhuvan Bam with Johnny Sins
“Titu mama is my own mama. I have taken inspiration from him and in fact, my subscribers identify with him. He is a character that loves roasting people and wants to talk to them just for cheap thrills,” says Bam who picks up his characters from observing people.
It took him three years to finally get SRK on Titu Talks in December last year and it was worth the wait. “Harry Met Sejal and Raees released but the interview didn’t happen. When Zero came, I got a call from Red Chillies Entertainment saying they wanted to collaborate with me and if I had any fresh content. After I narrated the script they said yes in no time. I was thrilled. When I narrated the script to SRK, he laughed, he was very happy with it,” he reminisces. That very night he gained 300,000 subscribers.
However, Titu Mama’s latest interview with an American porn star Johnny Sins, who Bam has grown up watching, has been gaining more popularity with over 16 million views at the time of writing. It was after Bam once re-tweeted one of Sins’ tweet becoming a meme in India, that the two became friends. “After we started talking on WhatsApp, I told him about my YouTube channel and sent him the SRK interview. He agreed and I went to Los Angeles to shoot the video. The beauty here is that he refused to listen to the script and just asked for his lines and what is to be done,” says Bam gleefully.
Though he is getting narration offers from Bollywood, Bam is keen on working only on his channel. “I know I don’t want to do that. BB Ki Vines is my baby. I have put so much time and heart into it. I want to make it a bigger brand, and I think YouTube is as big as Bollywood right now,” he smiles.
For all the budding YouTubers, Bam advises to be patient and wait for the right audience to find them. “Once you crack your audience, the growth is natural. Social media is a bit tricky but the key is in patience. I know it’s easier said than done, but I have been patient for six years and never gave up,” he concludes.