The Secret to Becoming a Desi TikTok Star During Coronavirus Lockdown

On a regular day, Bhavin would be out on the streets of Mumbai shooting a skit with his crew– co-actors, videographers, attendants and many more who are involved in the process of making a TikTok video.

As India’s coronavirus lockdown extends for yet another two weeks, Bhavin opens his window for natural light, ideal only for a few hours during the day and shoots a video, alone, in his room.

“I’m really missing having a videographer,” says Bhavin Bhanushali. Bhavin is a TikTok star with over 13 million followers on the popular short video-making app. “I’m getting my mother to shoot some of my videos,” he laughs, explaining to News18 how the process of video making has completely changed during the lockdown. “So many retakes of the same shot,” he adds.

“I have to tell her what angle to hold, then watch it, then make her retake it if it’s not ideal,” he says, talking about his new videographer– his mother.

On a usual shooting day, checking and making sure the framing and angle were right would part of the videographer’s concern – not Bhavin’s, who would be in front of the camera.

But as the lockdown has forced over 135 crore Indians indoors, Bhavin had to get his family turn into his workmate.

Earlier, the Tik Tok star laments that he could shoot videos with other creators, making his videos feature multiple characters. Now, Bhavin’s content has changed–he makes videos faster since he has to shoot only himself, with a concept he has thought of.

The number of videos he creates in a day, however, has shot up. “I’ve realized people will take more content, but not lesser content,” he explains.

“When I was with my friends, I could make multiple videos from one shoot, and now I have to make multiple videos in the same day itself,” he explains.

The number of videos also comes from Bhavin’s idea of what can make you a TikTok star in India. “TikTok gives everyone a chance,” he says. “You just have to be consistent. You have to keep posting. You can’t give up after 5 videos. Sometime or the other, something will click. One will go viral. That’s your key to success.”

For popular content Sameeksha Sud, the transition has been a lot smoother in terms of production.

“Before I met Vishal and Bhavin (who she often collaborates with) I used to make TikToks here, alone in my room,” she says. “It feels like I’ve gone back to the old days.”

But the lockdown has not stopped her from complete collaboration – “I get them to send me their footage, their part of the footage, I edit them together to create one complete video.”

For her, it’s a question of practice to create videos in the lockdown. She’s mastered every angle, every height adjustment on her tripod, every place she needs to position her ring light in.

On average, she spends 5 hours on a video, and thinks of new concepts for her videos, while doing everyday activities.

She shares the key to being a TikTok star: It is honing on your talent – no matter what it is. “You’ll see all kinds of videos on TikTok– people cooking, acting singing– so no matter your skills, this is the platform. You will find an audience,” she says.

Paras Tomar, a popular TikTok star who is based out of Bombay, says the lockdown has been hard, especially to convince his followers to stay indoors.

Paras was visiting his native home-town Himachal when the lockdown was announced. No tripod, no ring light, he usually has to rely on natural props to make sure his phone is standing, and natural sunlight is how he ensures his videos are well lit – which also means shooting outdoors.

“I have videos that are shot outside– running through nature. It is all on private property because we own land here, but I didn’t want anyone to get the wrong idea and start flouting rules,” he says.

Every one of his videos shot outside now comes with a disclaimer.

His other way to ensure people stay informed? Sharing explainers about the news. As a former journalist, Paras is used to following news in his free time and does just that on TikTok. He explains news in under a minute, to make his viewers aware on everything related to coronavirus: on whether your landlord can kick you out for not paying rent for a month, to what herd immunity is.

His content is largely the same reason he explains his idea of how to become famous on TikTok: Stay relevant.

“Actors use this platform to show off acting skills, I use it to spread news, everyone uses different formats but we’re all keeping in tune with the current events, and if you find something which the audience taps into, you have to keep doing it,” he says.

“You have to be unique. Don’t stick to cliches, experiment. Don’t copy people. You will find an audience for your originality,” he adds.

For Geet, known for teaching English and giving life advice, the lockdown has changed her content completely.

Even though Geet is currently in the US, her major follower base is in India – and found that her content which is constantly evolving needed to change with the needs of the viewer.

“Initially, when the lockdown had started, people were very hungry for Coronavirus related content. So I made a lot of updates on statistics, heroes, definitions of key terms related to the pandemic,” she says.

“But after an initial couple of weeks, I saw a shift in the audience’s needs and they no longer wanted Coronavirus content, but rather they wanted a distraction. So I started creating more content related to relationship issues, and in specific issues related to long-distance relationships because now many of my viewers found themselves in that setting because of the inability to leave their homes,” she says, summing up what most Indians feel at present, having entered the 9th week of coronavirus lockdown.

Geet is still giving out advice but keeping the pandemic in mind. “I keep reminding people to be understanding of one another because different people are dealing with the situation in different ways. I am advising people to not make any major relationship or life decisions during this time because emotions are running high right now and there is a lot of fear, uncertainty and anxiety people are facing,” she says.

Geet is trying to introduce more ‘positive’ into her content, now as she feels her audience needs hope and reassurance.

Geet’s advice to being a TikTok star is simple – create. “Due to the lockdown, we all have a lot of time on our hands, so we should make the most of it. I would advise people to use this time to explore and try various types of videos and figure out what it is you are good at and what the audience wants to see you do. And then after the lockdown is over they will be well-positioned to keep growing,” she says.

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