New technologies like 3G might make Bol Niti Bol a herald of things to come, but it will first have to fight off all those kids with their camcorders, reports Samrat Chakrabarti
MEET NITI Dua. She is 17, annoyingly chirpy and taking Ekta Kapoor where she hasn’t been before — your mobile phone. Balaji Telefilms’ first web series (exclusively made for the Internet) Bol Niti Bol went live on June 28 and in the first two weeks garnered a following of 4,000 plus fans on Facebook and 12,000 views on YouTube.
Remember Lonely Girl 15 — the 2006 YouTube phenomenon when millions of YouTube junkies logged in to watch the video journal of a charming teenager? Well, Bol Niti Bol is Lonely Girl 15 with headache-inducing fast edits and a soundtrack to match. This it turns out, is Balaji’s idea of the average Indian teenager.
Each webisode is in the form of a video journal where Niti Dua tells us about the latest event to rock her world — a date that went wrong, revenge on a lecherous professor and a friend’s pregnancy scare — all delivered in a breathless three minutes with enough happening on screen to keep you from pressing Ctrl-Alt-Del.
Bol Niti Bol isn’t the first Indian web-series. Twenty-one-year-old Pratik Arora’s mockumentary Company Bahadur, filmed on a budget of Rs 5,000 per episode in his dad’s office, takes that credit. But what’s significant is the entry of a major banner like Balaji into a space largely the keep of the amateur.
Why? Look at your handset. Third generation mobile telephony will soon hit India and with it the Internet will truly go mobile. The increased bandwidth will mean YouTube on demand and with that, micro-format video content comes into its own as a business proposition. Persis Siganporia, creative head for Bol Niti Bol, says, “With 3G set to hit India, we see a huge opportunity for the micro-format and we’d like to get there first. It’s a new world for us and we are feeling our way through it”.
THE INTERNET is a strange place. Old rules don’t apply, the formulas are unknown and the business model is a working theory. Siddharth Kumar, director and creative head of the Chennai-based PixelKraft that produced Ram and Ria for Rediff — a web sitcom centred on a yuppie couple come alive from the Infosys-Wipro universe — says, “The Internet doesn’t know demographics. What you’re looking at instead is what I call psychographics. With Ram and Ria, we were after a 20 to 30 age group and something they might want to watch during their lunch break. The Internet does away with the lowest common denominator and opens up niche spaces. Ram and Ria was a probe we sent to the moon to see what the planet looks like.”
The monetisation of a web-based business idea will perhaps require equal amounts of experimentation. The rule of the Internet is to give something free, hope it catches on and then cash in later through advertisements or merchandising, but either way requires a product to take on the snowballing effect of an Internet viral loop. The focus for Balaji, gauging from its use of the social media to market Bol Niti Bol, is to create a brand.
But in a world where advantage of resources is redundant, the emphasis must be on content that can counter a kid in Bhatinda with a catchy idea and a camcorder.