Instagram is witnessing a growing meme culture, with creative memes garnering millions of views and turning their creators into social media celebrities
Choti bachi ho kya?” If you spend time on Instagram, it’s likely you have heard Reels with this audio meme—translating as ‘Are you a kid?’—playing in the background. The dialogue from Tiger Shroff’s Heropanti was made viral by creator Deependra Singh (@iamdeependrasinghofficial). Interestingly, the 24-year-old from Nainpur in MP almost deleted his original video mimicking this dialogue, thinking it sounded over the top. Singh’s success highlights a growing trend on Instagram which has seen memes, and audio memes in particular, garnering millions of views.
According to Instagram, creators like Singh have seen tremendous growth in the last two-three years. For instance, Singh, who had just 4k Instagram followers in 2019, now has over 3,00,000. Much of this growth has been driven by the TikTok ban of 2020. Analytics reports have shown that Instagram is leading the Indian market in terms of downloads. The Reels format, in particular, is driving a lot of engagement on the platform. Singh’s success even convinced Tiger Shroff to shoot a promotional video with him for Heropanti 2, which has got more than 22 mn likes on the platform. He is now getting invites to events and even promotional offers.
Yashraj Mukhate was perhaps one of the first to taste such instant success. He is best known for the ‘Rasode main kaun tha’ video from August 2020 in which he turned a dramatic dialogue from the TV serial ‘Saath Nibhana Saathiaya’ into a viral sensation. The original video has close to 153 mn views on Instagram. And Mukhate’s audio from that and several other videos has been used in thousands of other meme-style videos. He said, “I started by putting out cover videos on my YouTube channel and Instagram. Later, I started experimenting with songs and dialogues. That is when I got more traction.” But his intention was never to make people laugh, as he was just experimenting with music, he said. According to Ankit Chauhan, who runs ‘oyeankit’, a handle which posts mashup style videos, memes are the new way for music to go viral, “as they help transcend the language barrier in many ways.” Surat-based Chauhan has over 341k followers on Instagram. His page is full of mashup-style videos where he mixes Indian music with videos of Shakira, Bruno Mars, or even Korean artists. Of course, mashups per se are not a new thing. The Dubsmash app had made many such audio memes go viral around 2015. That was the time Musical.ly was around, having not merged with TikTok by then. Chauhan admitted there are others creating similar content. “But my videos are typically on the beat, with everything syncing right. Even if I am putting some other song on a video, I make sure it does not look forced,” he said. This meme-style content is also helping Indian music and content find a global audience, with even global creators releasing videos based on them.
Charansh Juneja, who runs ‘The Indian Idiot’ meme page on Instagram, said he was worried Instagram’s promotion of Reels would impact engagement on his page, which has more traditional static memes, but that has not been the case. “It’s about the content at the end of the day. You have to respect people’s time and value it. You need to make sure that those two seconds are worth their while,” he explained. “Brands are coming into memes. Netflix has been really promoting it, which has encouraged other brands too to jump in,” he added.
But the biggest challenge for creators is to stay relevant once they have gone viral. Mukhate said that when he first went viral, he quickly released other videos, remembering those who had been forgotten after initial success. “The pressure is so high. When I make something and realise it is not up to the mark, or as good as the earlier video, I start something new.” What does not help are the hate comments, which can be disheartening. Mukhate said he has learnt to ignore them, though it took some time to do that. Chauhan agreed that there is constant pressure on creators, especially those who are putting out funny videos. “Don’t think you can milk one thing for too long. You have to keep delivering regularly to stay relevant,” he said.
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