India's premier luxury lifestyle women's magazine
December 07, 2015

What Tickles Arunabh Kumar’s Funny Bone?

Text by Tanisha Choudhury

The CEO and Founder of The Viral Fever talks about the best part of his job, his greatest challenge and more…

The idea behind The Viral Fever (TVF)… “I started TVF as a small production house, to do anything that I wanted. That was pretty much the brief – I’m sick and tired of being told about things that can’t happen. So let me try and do that with my own efforts and my own money. Our motto at TVF is ‘Lights, Camera, Experiment!’ We initially became known for our branded content. Two years later, when we had bigger brands and I had some money, I thought of doing TV shows. So TVF Online Network for Enterprises, which is TVF – ONE actually started after TVF. Again the whole idea of online content was an automatic evolution of experimenting with newer things.

Greatest challenge when you started… “When we started TVF – ONE, I had to build a team. Whatever money we were earning from other jobs, we were sinking everything in trying to create original content. But we didn’t think in those terms. When you’re enjoying your day job, it doesn’t matter. The morning we were going to shoot Jha.2, a spoof of Ra.One, I was combing my hair and thinking of my friends who were making ad films worth lakhs and here I was going to make Jha.2, with my hard-earned money. I wondered why I was doing it. But when I reached the set, I realized how much I enjoy doing it. We were very process-oriented. We never believed any of this would happen. We believed in putting our heads down and working.”

Best part of your job… “I think the best part is that it’s been eight to nine years and not on a single day have I felt like this was a job. We never tire out. The best part about all 80 of us at TVF is that we’re fans of TVF. That just makes it easy to be here and create. That’s our everyday goal – come to work and do something cool.”

Comedy to you is… “Comedy is all about being real and being relatable. In fact I have a different definition from others. I believe comedy is something that you do and humour is something that happens, which is why we believe that we deal with humour. For example, Kramer (from Seinfeld) can do comedy, but humour happens in society. I think if someone watches India from the moon, on mute, it’ll appear to be a very funny country without a sense of humour.”

Greatest inspiration… “There used to be certain shows on DD, which people nowadays don’t know of like Mungerilal Ke Haseen Sapne, Kakaji Kahin, Mulla Nasruddin. I was a very small kid then. But I feel like India has already created some awesome shows in the past and we somewhere forgot to do that. Those were my inspirations, along with people like Walt Disney, Coco Chanel – these creators who built a lot out of nothing. Seinfeld is another great inspiration. And it’s not about looking to the west, because these aren’t inspirations just from a story point of view. Sometimes, it’s from an ethos point of view. For example, the insanity of a big city. Tomorrow, I can make a show about the insanity of Bombay. I don’t shy from being inspired by or even copying their ethos. Originality is not a problem with the audience. They want to see relatable stuff that they enjoy.”

Your dream… “My dream is to be able to be India’s answer to Disney. Hopefully we’ll manage it in our way.” (An earlier dream of theirs that they recently accomplished was to have an Indian TV show make it to IMDb’s Top 250 TV shows list. Their show TVF Pitchers stands at No.21 on the list.) “Now I think we should do a film.”

Harshest criticism… “People think I have an autocratic way of functioning and that I’m a control freak. But it’s exactly the opposite. So that’s a perception I want to change. Sometimes we seem arrogant to people, but there’s a social twist to that. Most of the original team of TVF are small-town boys and in more ways than one, we are still ‘uncool boys’. So sometimes we seem inaccessible and unapproachable because we are shy and scared. We don’t know how to entertain people sometimes and that comes off as arrogant. The new team however is quite wild and cool in its own ways. So that’s something some of us have to work on.”

Support system… “My team and the first couple of guys I started with. Amit Golani who directed TVF Pitchers, Biswapati Sarkar, who has been writing most of our stuff, Anand (Anandeshwar Dwivedi), Nidhi and Deepak Mishra, who joined when we had nothing.”

Upcoming projects… “We’re making Permanent Roommates Season 2.”

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