YClave 2018 that was held during Waves 2018 witnessed a great lineup. Sandeep Balan & Ashwini Kulkarni from Cheers, popular Youtube channel known for web series such as Rise, What’s your status, etc and short films such as Half ticket, Born Free, etc graced Waves with their presence. DoJMA got a chance to interview them backstage and this is what they had to say:
DoJMA: How has been your experience at BITS?
Sandeep: It was pretty good. We landed at 3 o’clock; and then we went straight into the auditorium. There was a dance competition going on. We thought we’d stay for about ten minutes, but we sat almost till the end. In fact, we got glued to our seats. We have always passed the campus when we are in Goa. It’s the first time we are inside. You guys do a great job. It’s all top notch, first class!
DoJMA: How have been the vibes of Waves 2018?
Ashwini: Very interesting. Your theme I believe is embrace the shadows. I saw Thanos, and the the Spiderman. How is all that stuff made?
DoJMA: That has been been done by a very talented group of people, the Department of Arts & Deco; very talented guys, working day in and day out!
Sir, with the advent of platforms like Netflix, TVFPlay and Amazon, do you sometimes feel threatened that these platforms might snatch away your viewership in some way?
Sandeep: No, I don’t think we have that concern to be honest. We believe everyone who makes good content has an audience out there. There is always a scope for new content. See, we are pretty new to this place; we started afresh from zero subscribers. Now we have 7.5 lakh subscribers in around 18 months with just five of us to start with. So, we didn’t have an audience to start with, and we have pretty much stayed in the game, and are now inching close to a million. The key is telling stories you love to tell. You have to take the onus. One of our stories, was ‘Rise’, which was a road trip film. When we were writing it, it was more of fun. I was reading about IT layoffs. Many people out there might be able to relate to it. So, every time there was a news in the newspaper, for me, it was interesting to tell a story of someone who has saved his salary for five years, and the day he gets his dream bike, that day he gets fired. So, that is the irony of the story. That is something which we felt we should write. And then this self discovery journey; from Pune to this place and that place.
Ashwini: Also, we believe word of mouth is pretty important. One, is free, and that it travels very fast. We have purely banked on the word of mouth. So, there is no concern as such. If a lot of platforms coexist, there is no challenge as such. Or at least that is what I feel.
Sandeep: Also, when you see platforms like Netflix, they do reach a lot, but all of them have a limited time of free subscriptions. Also, if you look at the content, they mostly reach out to YouTubers. So, for us, I believe, it’s mostly going to be an upwards journey from here.
Like, the most trending WhatsApp status is season 2 of a series on Netflix, but then it’s paid. People are mostly done with their one month of free subscriptions.
Ashwini: Also, the data that YouTube is producing, none of these platforms get.
DoJMA: Moving back to the writing process, even Varun Grover once said that Valmiki should be the bigger hero than Ram. What do you think are the challenges faced by writers? Do you think writers get their proper due?
Sandeep: Writers are inherently very lazy. At least I am. Every other writer I meet is the same. I can write very fast, but it takes a lot of effort for me to sit down and start.
Procrastination is something that writers suffer. And I guess, for me it starts with an idea. For example, the series that I mentioned is Rise. What if he loses his job, the day he gets his bike and he is distributing sweets.
What’s your status started with the idea that it will be cool to show three stages of relationship. Because everyone might be in some stage of a relationship. A married guy would be able to look back to the single guy. The committed guy could be looking either sides. When you are single, you want to be committed. And the you are married, you feel like it was better single.
Its; still tough to write further. Because, each series is about some 30,000 words. To write that much, it takes a lot of push. Specially, if you are as lazy as I am, it is really tough to be disciplined.
And to answer your question about do writers get enough credit, I would like to mention that when the Y’Clave guy asked have you ever used your popularity to hookup with someone, no dude, because no one knows the writer. We sit behind the scene and the actor takes the credit. With all due respect, I mean, they bring it to life; but it is an equal effort. For us, the introduction is, have you seen that scene, it was me who scripted it. So yeah, it is a two layered thing. So, we don’t get the credit.
DoJMA: Your work gets the credit.
Sandeep: Yeah, and that is okay with us. If people know us by Cheers, and not as Ashwini and Sandeep, we are good with it. Because Cheers is our baby.
Ashwini: But I would like to add that so many strips and series have been written by him, but no one knows it that well. So yeah, even today, in India, writers do not get the credit. Hopefully it changes.
Sandeep: Hope so.
DoJMA: So, among your competitors in the Web Series Arena, who do you think is the strongest? Whose work do you look forward to the most?
Sandeep: See we have started watching web series, at least I have, with TVF. Pitchers was the motivation behind our startup. We work in a beer company. So, the night is basically when we write. So we used to look up to them. We collaborated with them for once. Kingfisher was how we pulled it off. Right now, we have not been much in contact with them. And a lot of their contact went missing recently.
Filtercopy is another good platform. I mean, after TVF, some sketches of Filtercopy are really nice.
DoJMA: Thank You Sir! Thank you Ma’am! It was lovely talking with you!