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Archive for December, 2011

The explosive virality of “love failure”

As this post goes live, the world has woken up to the reality that is “Kolaveri Di” and its 25 million+ views so far on YouTube. It is deep irony and a sad reality that a language that is over 2000 years old and has an amazingly rich literature had to cheapen itself into a “Tanglish” manifestation to catch the world’s fancy.

But that is not the primary reason behind this post. Curiously enough, the past two years produced two other songs that caught the attention of Bollywood and the multiplex generation as well – “Emosanal Attyachaar” from “Dev D” and “Jaa Chudail” from “Delhi Belly”.  And the man behind the lyrics for both was the same – Amitabh Bhattacharya. The first song came in both a rock version and a brass band version with wickedly creative lyrics, whereas the latter was a rock heavy, headbanging classic. Both of these had amazing lyrics as well – if you can call them that – that suited the theme of the “torture escapee” pretty well.

What is interesting is that while these achieved cult status among the urban pockets and radio loops, they never reached the iconic YouTube Gold award status that Kolaveri has now attained. This analysis might be a worthwhile exercise in what triggers virality and instant stardom in a billion-strong nation like India. For starters, with “English” lyrics that were very basic and simple, and subtitles, it was easy for anyone to follow despite the languages they spoke. Add to that the “making of” theme to the video, the raw, edgy feel to the production quality given the hurry with which it was done, and the mysterious looking, pretty Shruti Hasan in the background, the video itself had a lot going for it.

Add to that the maniacal fervor with which Tamilians elevate anything successful to other-worldly, I bet the social networks were all filled with Tamilians broadcasting this link far and wide. Even imitations of the song done in Punjabi and English got views in the order of multiple millions. And of course, the ultimate truth – Rajnikanth wished that his son-in-law become world famous, and of course it happened.

What is encouraging out of this trend, hopefully is the signal to Indian bands that there is an audience for slickly produced video content for the web. If not directly revenue generating, this will hopefully bring in audiences to their concert tours and generating follower bases for them on Facebook and Twitter. I love Swarathma and Indian Ocean for example, and enjoyed watching their episodes on “The Dewarists”.  Several talented artists were featured in this series and I hope they get larger fan followings as an outcome.

What the “ECK factor” (Emosanal Attyachar, Chudail, Kolaveri) has done to Indian music, is to also cement the role of “love failure” as one of those goldmines for viral viewership growth. While the impact of this on a society that’s already patriarchal for the most part might be detrimental, individuals caught in instances like the ones portrayed in these songs can heartily relate to the angst in the lyrics.