Most Indian pop-culture following, millennial and Gen-Z audiences, have spent many hours on Netflix. And most of this section has seen shows like “Narcos” or “Money Heist” with subtitles. OTT platforms have blurred the concept content divided by language.
In just the last year, we have also seen Indian regional content break records online. Localized content has a level of authenticity and relatability that you cannot get from English.
To further understand this school of thought, we had a chat with Praveen Kumar on our weekly podcast, Pepper Spotlight. Praveen is India’s prominent Tamil Standup comedian and spearheading the south-Indian standup comedy movement.
You can check out the whole episode here:
Getting To Know Praveen Kumar
Praveen Kumar is currently one of the country’s most popular Tamil standup comedians. With over ten years in the industry, his work has won hearts across the world. He is one of the founders of the standup comedy scene in Bengaluru; as an English comedian back then.
Today Praveen’s Tamil standup special has over five million views on youtube, and he is the only Tamil comedian with a one-hour show on Amazon Prime Video. He also featured as a judge on the Tamil spin-off of Comcistaan.
The Move To Tamil
Praveen’s move from English standup was far from a hunch or a lucky strike. It was a combination of both planning and a deep understanding of the comedy market in India.
Firstly, Praveen was born and raised in the small Tamil town of Kanchipuram. So, his natural thought process was always in Tamil. Even as an English comedian, he spent hours thinking of jokes in his mother-tough, then translating them to English.
After finding comfort with the stage and business of comedy, he attempted Tamil comedy on his friend’s recommendation. His first attempt at a one-hour show was the same comedy special written in both languages. He would do an early show in Tamil and a late show in English — both running sold-out shows!
Additionally, Praveen noticed there was no other standup comedian in the Tamil market. He would be the first if he made the switch. “There are some people who go back to my old English videos on youtube and comment: why is this not in Tamil,” said Praveen explaining his audience’s reaction.
The Audience With Regional Comedy
“For the first few shows, it was the same English comedy audience who knew Tamil,” said Praveen. Performing your art in a new language is as good as starting from scratch. Lucky for Praveen, his English comedy following were Tamil-Speakers courtesy of his relatable humor.
“Once I started doing it in Tamil, I found out I was relating more to Tamil content, and so was the audience,” he added. According to Praveen, the regional content consumer falls into three categories:
First are those who love the content online and came to the live shows for the experience. The second are those who come to shows specifically as a fan of the artist. There is also a unique third type that watches online videos and waits for the next online video. This last type does not contribute to ticket sales but helps you grow your brand online.
Another interesting observation for regional content was the hit rate. Most Indians are very deeply rooted in our native languages. We feel at ease or in our natural state with this familiarity. “Even when you cuss in your mother tongue, it’s more impactful; think about it,” explains Praveen. This language connection will always be an advantage for region connect in India.
Promoting You Artform
At first, Praveen was hesitant to promote his shows. He found the process of pushing tickets into the faces of the Youtube audiences to be extremely odd. But one day, a realization hit, “If Shahrukh Khan, who is such a famous actor, is also doing events to promote his movie, who am I to shy away from it.”
Praveen is a firm believer that only YOU can sell your own show, artform, or content. It’s your baby, and no one else is going to care about it but you. Any creator aims to get eyeballs for their work, and promotions play a crucial role.
For Praveen, his first standup comedy special on Youtube was life-changing. Putting a whole hour of Tamil standup online, with no expectations, turned Praveen into a Tamil comedy sensation. He believes that his comedy career can be seen in two stages: before his Tamil special and after.
What Is Next For Regional Content In India?
Today both the audience and the large OTT platforms are warming up to regional language content. Praveen believes that this type of content can actually help improve the fanbase of platforms like Amazon and Netflix.
“If it’s there, it’s a reason for people to watch it,” he says. “Sooner or later, OTT platforms will understand the power of regional content when they realize how big an untapped market exists.”
Find out more about his fascinating journey in Tamil comedy in Indian on our latest episode of Pepper Spotlight. On the shows, he further explains his process and the struggle of comedy with the COVID crisis.
Each week’s new episode features a different guest and a unique explosion of information, insight, and stories.