Vancouver te Versova
As it inches towards its third anniversary, BhaDiPa garners interest for being the first mover in Marathi digital entertainment. But how exactly did a Canadian-born woman co-launch an outfit in a country, for a language, moons away from her own?
Imagine trading a breathtaking view of Kitsilano Beach—one of the most sought-after in Vancouver, for Versova's fishing village stretch. Add to this a job that requires a Canadian-born to run a digital firm that engages exclusively in Marathi content. Paula McGlynn, 29, is the woman behind India's first Marathi YouTube channel, Bharatiya Digital Party or BhaDiPa.
Eleven years ago, when she was finishing high school, McGlynn faced a dilemma. Like several young and restless minds before her, she didn't know where life was taking her. Then, at a geography class, she watched a BBC documentary called Planet Earth. "I was never a film buff, but this documentary was done splendidly. I remember thinking, it doesn't matter what I do with my life as long as I learn filmmaking and make a career of it," she recalls.
After a Bachelor in Fine Arts from Simon Fraser University , she signed up for a major in filmmaking at the same institute. "At 22, I was almost done with the four-year degree course when I was told about an internship in India. The expenses were paid for and the grant came directly from the Government of Canada. I was game."
BhaDiPa's latest offering is Pandu, a web series that takes a witty look at the life of a Mumbai cop
McGlynn found herself in Chennai to write a paper on the Indian film industry. The research involved interviewing stars from the fraternity. "In 2012, I flew down to India and was set to work at a film appreciation workshop hosted by IIT Madras. There, I met Anurag Kashyap and Sriram Raghavan." But the highlight of the internship for McGlynn was her stay in Mumbai and Pune. It's here that she was introduced to regional cinema. "Canada has a large Punjabi population; my perception of India was skewed. For me, Bollywood represented India. I saw that the regional film industry was thriving, thanks to the exceptional storytelling techniques they employed."
About two-and-a-half-months later, she returned to Canada, only to return to India for another project. "This time, I was supposed to facilitate a collaboration between the Canadian and Indian film industries. The idea was to initiate a co-production agreement between the two countries. This trip, too, lasted for a few months. But this time, I left with the idea that I was coming back to work here," she says.
As luck would have it, McGlynn's third trip changed her career trajectory. "I was invited to assist with a Marathi drama-romance called CRD. The casting director and chief assistant to the director were supposed to pick me up from Dadar TT since we were to travel to Pune. It's here that I met the multi-talented Sarang Sathaye and Anusha Nandakumar." Nandakumar is director, producer and screen writer, and winner of a national award for the short documentary, The Boxing Ladies.
On their way to Pune, they talked about a shared dream of building something around Indian cinema. And so they did. "About seven months after that first meeting, we decided to co-run Gulbadan Talkies, a creative video production service. We did odd jobs like recording weddings or organise events. I also played one of the lead roles in the Marathi film, Pindadaan, for which I had to learn the language." The trio hit gold when they visited Mumbai for a conference on the booming Indian digital space. "Participants spoke of Marathi cinema having turned a new leaf. So, we thought, if the digital space is booming in Hindi and English, why not do something in Marathi?"
In April 2016, McGlynn, Sarang and Nandakumar launched BhaDiPa. "Barring a few videos of maushis sharing authentic recipes, there was nothing in the digital space in Marathi. And these videos had enjoyed a million views." BhaDiPa was destined to become the pioneer of Marathi content on the web.
BhaDiPa's first show, Casting Couch with Amey & Nipun, featured Amey Wagh and Nipun Dharmadhikari, who interviewed Marathi celebrities in a satirical way. Their first guest was web series star Radhika Apte. "Within a month, we had 25,000 subscribers. While we had a quick jump off, we only hit a homerun two years later when we released the short film, Aai, Privacy & Me. By end of 2018, we had about one lakh subscribers."
McGlynn says for a foreigner to enjoy a winning streak in a regional entertainment industry is far from normal, but wasn't challenging. "Thankfully, I had so many people supporting me to reach a wider audience. The industry has been nothing, but encouraging, and I am grateful," she smiles.
Recently, BhaDiPa's web series, Pandu—a fun take on the everyday life of a Mumbai policeman—is the toast of the town. Written and co-directed by Sarang Sathaye, stand-up comedian and actor, Pandu is being discussed for its dark humour and slice of life treatment. Close to 20 writers and stand-ups form BhaDipa's core team. McGlynn says, "Pandu is close to my heart because BhaDiPa was launched with the idea of making fictional, long-form series."
Number of BhaDiPa subscribers as of 2018
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