If the whole world’s a stage, India is the underdog we’re all secretly rooting for.
From having our very own Spiderman to spotting Hollywood A-listers like Tom Cruise or Christopher Nolan on the streets of Mumbai, it’s obvious that international production houses and streaming services have recognised our market consumption potential.
But what’s more interesting, if not surprising, is how online engagement and social media content are also becoming more Indian-specific than ever.
Remember the downtempo sleeper hit, Why this Kolaveri Di, that dropped in 2011 to a host of reaction videos from international YouTubers?
Around the same time, the fifth instalment of reality show Bigg Boss gave the world its 'What is this behaviour, Pooja?' moment that has now resurfaced as a meme.
If there is an earthquake monitor that can read pop culture tremors, the second decade of our millennium must have registered record breaking highs for Indian viral content that spread in ripples all over the digital world.
The internet had discovered how quirky and entertaining Indians can be and we were milking it. From men fake crying on Facebook to cringeworthy glimpses of our soap operas, India was feeling its oats all over the world wide web.
Post 2010, a flurry of top YouTube channels like Jaby Koay, BuzzFeed India, The Surfing Violinist, and BigAReact were popularising the trend of reacting to Indian movies or vlogging about travelling and interacting with locals in a country that was beginning to amass unmatched social currency.
On the heels of these reaction videos and a whole lot of Bigg Boss Seasons later, our Instagram and TikTok feeds are rife with cross-cultural content creators who are charming our pants off with how well they know our languages and music.
, a young man of Korean descent who grew up in Patna, is now trending for his Hindi-Bihari colloquialisms. He’s joined by American YouTuber Drew Hicks who also grew up in India and is wooing netizens with his hilarious Bhojpuri impressions.
Nina Wagner, a German dancer who makes reels of herself bopping to Bollywood tracks in open fields, has a following of more than 47K on her Instagram. There’s who can speak in Kannada, a Norwegian dance crew that can shake a leg to Chura Ke Dil Mera and even a U.K. based food blogger Jake Dryan who can whip up a mean sambhar rice.
And most of them are just independent social media users who are merely expressing their admiration for our culture or reliving their memories of Indian street life.
Along the way, sure, they have managed to win hearts and likes for their wholesome videos and are today enjoying their fifteen minutes of fame.
On a more organised scale, however, established influencers and corporate multimedia companies have been steadily amping up their presence in our nation. In May this year, Snapchat announced that it had crossed over in our country. As of January 2023, Instagram has exceeded more than .
And lest we forget, nearly half of our population is , making us key target audiences. So demographically speaking, India is a young country. And with adolescence, come growing pains and an evolving social consciousness.
Our worldwide diaspora is now close to and this puts us in the driver’s seat as far as consumption of social media is concerned.
With two wins at the Oscars this year and a Booker Prize last year, India is truly coming into its own with regards to global recognition of our films and writers.
As a community, we are very interested in our international stature.
It’s like the first day at a new school when we want to know if our teachers like us and if our peers think we are cool and interesting.
Over the past 20 years, our foreign policy both within South Asia and around the world has shifted the balance of power.
As India’s economy flourishes, at least in the eyes of the developed countries, its international trade relations and military importance have expanded.
We are no longer seen through the lens of Slumdog Millionaire or dancing on top of a moving train. The way India sees itself has undergone an ego boost and we expect other countries, especially in the Western hemisphere, to acknowledge our growth spurt. According to the , more than two-thirds (68%) of surveyed Indians say that they are proud of India’s importance on the world stage.
Additionally, Indians have always nurtured a gleeful fascination with foreigners learning our ways or cussing in our local dialects. It gives us pleasure to be seen and validated by those who have not considered us equals for so long.
Call it a colonial hangover if you will, but we are not getting over One Direction heartthrob Zayn Malik singing Teri Deewani anytime soon.
If you enjoyed reading this, here's more from Homegrown: