A group of mimicry artistes in Kerala turn to YouTube to overcome lockdown curbs

‘Avastha’, a mini-web series on the effect of lockdown, has won them a dedicated following

As a wannabe bridegroom discusses the ‘gifts’ the woman might get from her father as he is a ‘government employee’, he learns to his dismay that she is actually his new boss before he is thrown out of the house. Part of a web mini-series, Avastha (situation or state of being), this episode is one the many that has gone viral on social media.

To circumvent restrictions of lockdown, many stage artistes have taken to YouTube and Whatsapp with talk shows, music programmes, comedies and mini-series to earn a living.

Devaraj Dev, a mimicry artiste from Kozhikode, decided to try his hand at writing and directing web series. After some of his three- and four-minute shows became popular, he decided to make a series of light-hearted episodes on the lockdown.

Avastha is an honest look at how the lockdown has affected our lives, including animate and inanimate objects,” says Devaraj. “We also take up whatever is trending in the news. I sent an episode to Millenium Audios and Videos who have a channel to promote shows on YouTube. They liked the idea and are producing all the episodes now.”

Reflecting on current issues

Each episode is about 14 to 15 minutes long and tackles current issues. The latest one, uploaded on July 3, is about dowry and the marriage market and how it is often referred to as ‘gifts.’ Within the short episode, Devaraj and his team create a layered narrative making fun of dowry hunters and brokers.

Previous episodes focused on the petrol hike, tech-savvy youngsters taking their naïve parents for a ride, cyber abuse, football, and desperate measures to make ends meet. All the themes, even serious ones, are narrated with a humorous touch.

The team behind ‘Avastha’, a mini-web series on the effects of lockdown
| Photo Credit: Special arrangement

‘Uschool’, which was released in the first week of June when schools usually reopen in Kerala, also went viral as viewers reminisced school re-openings before the pandemic. That is also the time when the monsoon makes landfall in the State. However, for two years now, the pandemic has stopped the hustle bustle of a new school year. Online classes have been the norm for 2020-2021. Now 2021-22 has also ushered in a new academic year with students glued to their screens.

As people grow used to the new normal, the vacant classroom, blackboard, desks, benches and even the school bell recall the good old days when students’ lives revolved around them.

Conceptualised by Devaraj, the cast include Pradheep Balan, Ashraf Palani, CT Kabeer, Rijixen and Devaraj himself.

The first episode, uploaded on June 29, 2020 was on the plight of mimicry and stage artistes who were forced to cool their heels as the lockdown came into effect in March, 2020. It showed two mimicry artistes going from home to home like itinerant salesmen, requesting a chance to showcase their skills and earn something.

“That was actually our situation when all stage shows had been cancelled. We work with leading Malayalam TV channels but we depend on stage shows, especially during festivals and major events. The lockdown pushed us to the wall. Post-pandemic too, we plan to continue with the web series. Since, we are a small team, we do most of the work ourselves. Almost all the series have been filmed and edited by Ashraf Palazhi. Thanks to the producers buying the episodes, we have been able to pull along,” says Devaraj.

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