Gaurav Gera's social media profiles are a riot. His Instagram and Facebook feed are filled with videos of his online avatars, Chutki and Shopkeeper. If you are among the rare few who haven't watched Chutki and Shopkeeper videos, they have Gera playing both characters. The videos which last for just about a minute or so, are in the form of conversations between these two that are sometimes highly inappropriate and sometimes just plain bonkers.
However, he did not turn into a phenomenon overnight.
Gera mentions that he started making these videos in 2010. It did not work out then because neither did many people have smartphones nor did the Internet bandwidth help. So, he stopped making these videos in 2011 and restarted in 2015.
Gaurav also believes that the Internet is a two way space and although he shoots like fiction, he gets responses like in theatre -- instantaneously.
Telling HuffPost India about how he started, Gaurav says, "I wanted to make videos for people like me, you know, the ones with no patience for long content. I like to consume content on the go and I imagine I am not the only one. So, I wanted to make stuff that people could watch when, say, they are stuck in traffic, or commuting."
Gaurav further adds, "I need to make content any time of the day, so I carry both the wigs all the time. I shoot anywhere. I did not want to be dependent on anyone else. I write, edit, direct, act -- do everything. All the characters are played by me but if I can plan it beforehand, I get actors and friends like Mona Singh to act along. My helper is also a regular."
So, what makes comedians click today? For starters, jokes do not have to wait for hours to be received anymore. Also from WhatsApp forwards to Vines, there is an instant audience for every type of joke -- good, bad, cringeworthy or meme-worthy.
Mallika Dua whose Makeup Didi and Komal and Kanchan deserve their very own primetime show, says, "I was doing videos online, anyway. But you have to wait for someone to produce it and it also take a lot of money. As a comedian, one cannot wait to make these videos. So, I started making these videos on Snapchat and got very good responses."
It is evident that these characters have to resonate with the consumers, which is why a shopkeeper and a Punjabi aunty and a parlour lady works.
Talking about her inspiration for these characters, Dua further added, "You know, when we go to the parlours we tend to meet all sorts of characters, with not enough golden hair. The client, somehow, is never happy! It is impossible to make them happy! Somehow these got lodged into my head. It is kind of stupid but also so much fun. I really enjoy doing this."
Dua also makes it clear to me that she only shoots these videos when she is inspired, or no point doing them at all.
Varun Thakur's much-loved douche, Vicky Malhotra, is getting all the right kind of attention. "I have been doing comedy, stand up, acting for quite some time now. My manager and I thought that I need a character to complete the arch. Vicky was a character I had played before on shows many times and this was a character I could even play in my sleep! So, I decided that there won't be anything better than him. He is this entitled, rich douchebag who thinks that he is the shit, except he is shit. He is a MCP who projects his insecurities and failure on other people and factors."
"All I had to do to play Vicky on Snapchat was to add a filter. People watched these videos and really liked it! People like this guy for some reason. They even send me snapshots of conversations, where people talk like him now. But it is only when my fellow comedians told me that Vicky Malhotra is funny, did I believe that," adds Thakur.
Thakur also revealed that he starts his day with a Vine, "That's what I do for the first two hours of the day. But I am glad that people are liking it."
Akshat Kapoor's relatively recent character, Mrs. Bedi, is a Punjabi aunty who, well, does not quite know when to say what. Explaining how he got the idea for this hilarious character Kapoor says, "I really didn't have to think much. I am a Punjabi who has grown up seeing my mother and dadi say the funniest things. The amount of comedy that takes place everyday in a Punjabi family is unbelievable. Old Punjabi aunties would talk just about everything! So, when I saw this Snapchat filter, I kind of wanted to recreate my grandmom as a character. And a lot of people asked me to put it up on Facebook, which is what i did. Now people are really liking it. Now I am thinking of coming up with another character, this time from UP."
Ssumier Pasricha whose Pammi Aunty does not need any introduction cuts me short when I ask him what made him come up with a character like her. "Why not?", he says. As an after thought, Pasricha adds, "She is a reflection of our society. Also, she is just a normal Punjabi woman, that's it."
So, if you have a decent cellphone and Internet connection and know a person who is a force to reckon with, this is your golden chance to get noticed.