YouTwoTV creators on cloud 9 as channel hits 1 million subscribers

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YouTwoTV's Jaz and Harjit pose in a goofy shot.

YouTwoTV creators Harjit (top) and Jaz have a million reasons to celebrate. The talented and funny YouTube creators have more than 1 million subscribers to their channel. Photo by YouTwoTV.

It’s Toronto Desi Diaries’ 100th blog and it’s fitting we commemorate our centennial blog post with two high-flying, super famous YouTubers—Jaz Saini and Harjit Bhandal (drumroll, please).

These YouTwoTV creators, it so happens, have a million reasons to rejoice. Their channel, launched two years ago, recently blew past 1 million subscribers. Wow! Congrats guys. Not surprising then that Jaz and Harjit’s careers have taken off like Elon Musk’s rocket launches.

“We’re really lucky that we have each other,” said Jaz. “I am grateful that I don’t have to do this alone. It’s a lot of work, it’s not easy, but it’s so worth it…”

The talented duo has fashioned a neat niche in the highly competitive YouTube space, a commendable feat, considering how many wannabes are jostling for attention in the crammed social-media platform.

No wonder then their fans break the Internet every time they drop a new video (weekly).

How’s it that these two desis from Toronto (Brampton) are able to deliver hit after hit? Their video, Back to School: Types of Students boasts 33 million views. Ditto, Types of girlfriends guys hate. Their lifetime YouTube views so far? 265.7 million. These numbers are jaw-dropping.

So, what’s the secret sauce?

It’s easy. Jaz and Harjit are a couple and the camera captures their sizzling chemistry, easy camaraderie, mutual affection and respect. Now to add to this potent mix some witty banter, a topic every individual between 18 to 34 years can relate to, voila! You have an award-winning team.

I met the superstars during their “giddy with success” phase. They had just won the iHeartRadio MMVA “Fan Fave Much Creator” award; had their names and faces splashed across various media platforms and were being courted as brand ambassadors for several well-known companies.

And yet, they were humble and untouched by the noise. It was so easy to love these two.

“I still feel like we’re just regular people, just living our dreams,” Jazz says. “It is a little hard having your whole life on the internet and people commenting about every little thing you do. We’re lucky to have a really awesome family of viewers that support what we do. It’s cool knowing what we’re doing is impacting all of these people.”

Harjit: “I feel like nothing really has changed, my views and the way I handle things are relatively the same.”

Papa kahte hai…

Initially, both their families did not understand how the whole YouTube phenomenon could be a viable career. Jaz had a diploma in marketing and her parents wanted her to opt for a 9 to 5 job, one that came with a consistent paycheck.

“There was no way to talk to them about it, but show them,” Jaz said. “When we launched our YouTwoTV, we never told our parents and cousins that this could blow up, instead we decided we would tell them of our success through articles in the newspaper, interviews on TV…”

Harjit’s parents too were clueless and questioned his decision.

“It makes sense our parents wanted us to be successful and not go through the struggles they did when they immigrated to Canada,” he said. “I think they became comfortable when they saw us becoming successful.”

Winning the coveted iHeartRadio MMVA was a turning point for these two Bramptonians whose talents came into sharp focus in the mainstream media. It was surreal.

“I see ourselves in L.A, in TV shows and movies,” Harjit said when asked about the path ahead. “We have big dreams and it’s not about ‘what-if-we-fail’ instead, we’re always thinking of what we can do next to make it even bigger.”

The pit of despair:

Last year, Jaz filmed a video, “Dear Mom” in which she talked about her mother’s struggle with depression and her death by suicide. It was a raw and poignant conversation that underscores the fragile mother-daughter relationship, the unanswered questions, the pregnant pauses and the shadow of darkness.

Jaz, like her mother, lives with a depression and is struggling to find answers about the darkness that occasionally envelopes her.

The video ( below) is a brave voice of a woman who in telling her story has made it easy for others in the South Asian community to do so.

Here’s a conversation Toronto Desi Diaries had with the YouTwoTV couple.

TDD: YouTwoTV has crossed the 1-million subscriber mark, how does this make you feel?

Jazz: It’s actually so surreal that in less than two years, we’ve somehow managed to convince 1 million people that we’re entertaining. It feels awesome to know that our hard work is paying off!

TDD: How many videos do you post per week and what’s the creative process? Do you write down the sketches, dialogues, decide location…?

Harjit: We make one video a week on YouTube and try to make 2 to 3 small skits on Instagram a week.

Jazz: As for the creative process, it’s different every week, sometimes we have an idea in our head and we spend a full day scripting and two days filming.

Harjit: Sometimes, we have no idea and spend 2-3 days thinking of a topic and have to cram filming into one day.

Jazz: We take an approach to every video differently, which keeps us on our toes.

TDD: “YouTube Stardom” is a millennial/ “Gen Z concept, how did your parents reconcile that neither of you were going to end up in a conventional profession?

Jazz: I’ve always been super independent and have done things differently than anyone else in my family, or just in the Indian culture and what my parents were used to. My Dad wasn’t really surprised when I went this route, he trusted that I knew what I was doing, but kept his distance and watched from afar.

Harjit: Up until last year, my parents were still telling me to “get a real job.” It wasn’t until I started getting awards and I was in the news that they finally supported my dreams. Now they know how many subscribers we’re at before I even do!

TDD: What topics do you avoid when it comes to the content you produce?

Jazz: We try not to limit ourselves or even censor ourselves. I feel like people can tell when you’re not being genuine or when you’re trying to be someone you’re not. We try to avoid just being fake or even copying someone else’s work. It’s hard to be original with so much content out there, but we try and make sure we’re giving something fresh and new to our viewers every week.

Harjit: That’s the most important thing to us (being ourselves), and we definitely try not to offend anyone, ha,ha.

TDD: Anything in your childhood prepared you for facing the camera so effortlessly?

Jazz: – Nothing at all

Harjit: We don’t belong here, haha!

TDD: Were you a couple when you started the show? Or did love saunter in slowly?

Jazz: –We were already madly in love before we started YouTwoTV.

TDD: Which one of your videos is closest to your heart, and why?

Jazz: “Dear Mom” is a video that we made a few months ago, it’s different than anything we’ve ever done and talks about my relationship with depression and suicide and it was the first time I’ve ever publicly spoken about how my mom passed away.

Harjit: “Dear Mom” lies really close to my heart as well for pretty obvious reasons. I’ve never really seen Jaz let herself be that vulnerable and we focused so much on the videography in that video.

TDD: Who are your role models and why?

Jazz: Harjit! He’s one of the most positive and hardworking individual I know. I’m really lucky to have found him.

Harjit: Besides Jaz, Eminem and Shah Rukh Khan are definitely my biggest role models.

Jaz and Harjit pose in front of a wall.

Super funny and super talented duo Jaz(left) and Harjit of YouTwoTV are enjoying taste of success with one million subscribers. Photo courtesy YouTwoTV.

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Merry Christmas, Toronto

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Toronto Desi Diaries wishes everyone a Merry Christmas.

Christmas

Sunday, Dec. 10

Event: SOCH workshop
Details: Supporting Our Community’s Health (SOCH), will be hosting a series of mental health workshops, to increase awareness and education about what depression is and how it can be treated. These interactive workshops will take place in both English and Punjabi at the Chinguacousy Branch Library, 150 Central Park Dr. at 1:30. On the agenda: Kundalini Yoga for Depression by Harvir Grewal.
Contact: Here

Event: SACHHS Gala
Details: South Asian Canadians Health & Social Services (SACHSS), a registered not- for-profit charity offering services that include mental health, addiction, stress management, anger management and more is hosting a fundraising gala at Natraj Banquet Hall, 7275 Torbram Rd., Mississauga at 5 p.m. Dr. Hamid Slimi is the guest speaker.
Contact: Here

Saturday, Dec. 16

Event: Swayamvar Toronto
Details: Desi Dreamz is hosting its singles event for South Asians between 26 to 47 years. The event will take place at Novotel Toronto, 3670 Hurontario St., Mississauga from3 p.m. onward.
Contact: Here

Friday, Dec. 22

Event: Disney on Ice
Details: Enjoy the magic of winter with family at Disney On Ice with Reach For The Stars, a brand new show featuring a host of beloved Disney characters and stories. The shows run until Jan. 1 at Toronto Theatre, 1 Blue Jays Way.
Contact: Here

Sunday, Dec. 31

Event: New Year’s Eve
Details: PGA International will be hosting its annual New Year’s bash at Moonlight Convention Centre, 6835 Professional Crt., Mississauga. Festivities start at 7:30 p.m. and will continue until 2:30 p.m.
Contact: Here

Event: Bollywood Hungama
Details: Bollywood Tunes and Kalpesh Patel are hosting NYE 2018 at Chandani Convention Centre, 5 Gateway Blvd. Brampton from 6:30 p.m. onward.
Contact: Here

 

Autumn in Toronto: when leaves are flowers and events are all just as mellow

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fall colours

This file photo by the late Fred Loek, Metroland photographer, captures the surreal beauty of autumn at Erindale Park in Mississauga.

Saturday, Nov. 4

Event: Tribute to Mohammad. Rafi
Details: Mehboob Shaikh will recreate the dulcet tones of one of India’s greatest musicians – Mohammad Rafi. The concert is taking place at Port Credit Secondary School Theatre, 70 Mineola Rd. E. from 5 to 8:30 p.m.
Contact: Here

Event: Meri Awaz hi pehchan hai
Details: It’s the audition for Mere sung gaa’s 2nd season, Bollywood karaoke singing. Bring your voice and energy to Rehearsal Factory, 1611 Finfar Crt. in Mississauga at noon.
Contact: Here

Event: Flower City Bhangra
Details: Saath Foundation is presenting Canada’s first-ever live-only Bhangra Competition at Rose Theatre, 1 Theatre Ln. Brampton at 11 p.m.
Contact: Here

Saturday, Nov. 18

Event: Grand finale of Meri Awaaz
Details: The final showing of talent of the Mere Sung Gaa is happening at the Chinguacousy Secondary School, 1370 Williams Pkwy. at 5:30 p.m.
Contact: Here

Thursday, Nov. 23

Event: Passage to Bollywood
Details: A Passage to Bollywood is a vibrant show with foot-tapping music, colourful costumes and a gripping plot. Show happening at the Rose Theatre, 1 Theatre Ln. at 8 p.m.
Contact: Here

Saturday, Nov. 25

Event: Parampara
Details: Toronto Tabla Ensemble is presenting a concert, Parampara at the Harbourfront Theatre Centre, 235 Queens Quay, Toronto at 7 p.m. The tabla concert will feature Sare Nau, a composition in a 9 1/2 beat rhythmic cycle, Bhumika (birthplace or grounding) and other select pieces from Ritesh Das’ upcoming TTE CD, Bhumika.
Contact: Here

Events: Swayamvar 2017
Details: Desi events is hosting a singles event for South Asians between the ages of 26 to 47 at the Novotel Toronto, 3670 Hurontario St. Mississauga at 1 p.m. There’s a similar Swayamvar happening Dec. 23 as well.
Contact: Here

Toronto filmmaker salutes sisterhood in Anarkali

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This is part one of a two-part blog series.

Anarkali

The cast and crew of hit web series Anarkali

Off the bat, I can guarantee one thing.

Watching one episode of the hugely successful web series Anarkali won’t do it. You’ll likely end up binge watching the entire two seasons.

The show will also stir a longing for your squad (if you’re caught in motherhood/career and your teenage years are a hazy blur).

The web-series created by the immensely talented Rakhi Mutta and edited by an equally competent Kiran Rai (lead actor/Anarkali) presents a vignette of a young desi woman’s life in North America. It’s told with humour, sensitivity, drama and melodrama.

The YouTube series is about  a devastated Anarkali (Kiran) who gets dumped by her fiancée Prince (Gavan Anand). The slow unraveling of her life and identity post-breakup, is the premise of the show.

So far, Anarkali has become an Internet hit in over half-a-dozen countries around the world with some 20,000 YouTube subscribers and 650,000 views.

“A lot of people think Anarkali is the story of South Asian girls dating because of the way it’s branded,” Rakhi said. “For me, it’s much more than that. It’s one woman’s journey to finding more about her self.”

Mainstream and ethnic media, Rakhi said, do not reflect the truth of brown women’s  lives when it comes to dating. This may be the reason Anarkli has wowed audiences world wide.

“I want to tell stories that people in my community, my family and my friends can relate to,” Rakhi said. “Stories that I never witnessed growing up, but I thought were critical.”

A handycam masterpiece

What’s worth underscoring here is that the cast and crew have produced a stellar product on a shoestring budget. Calling it a budget is bit ambitious. I am told, it’s a bartering system (pizza, as form of payment, as well as sustenance) .

Delivering a hit show with slow and clunky hardware and out dated software to me demonstrates class, substance and style. Just like athletes from third-world countries that win gold medals in Olympics wearing ratty shoes, Anarkali connects with the audience through pure storytelling.

“The way I portray certain characters, the lines I use and the conversations I include about stereotypes are all important to me as a woman of colour,” said Rakhi, who not only directs but writes the script. “For instance, in one of the episodes we had Anarkali and her friends dissecting Bollywood. Through that they talked about the feminist thought and what makes a feminist.”

In another scene, Roop’s (Amrit Kaur) boyfriend proposes to her and tells her to quit her job because he wants to take care of her. That gave Rakhi the perfect segue into discussing the independent woman (cough, cough, it’s Rakhi) who wants to make it on her own.

The complexities of desi women growing up in the diaspora are fodder for Rakhi’s pen. Each 10-minute episode tackles parental and societal pressures, boyfriends that come across as unqualified jerks, and a band of super crazy, loyal and fearless friends whose antics are never boring.

Rakhi Mutta, a filmmaker/photographer has been enjoying the spotlight after her web series Anarkali proved to be a huge hit. Photo by Bryon Johnson/The Brampton Guardian

Rakhi Mutta, a filmmaker/photographer has been enjoying the spotlight after the success of her web series Anarkali. Photo by Bryon Johnson/The Brampton Guardian

Three women and a road trip

In Nov. 2014, Rakhi had plans to attend a Sikh feminist conference in Detroit. The organizers asked her to collect two other delegates from Brampton. The two turned out to be: Rupi Kaur and Kiran.

The radio lay silent and as the car ate up the miles, the three women forged a solid camaraderie. Once they returned home, they kept in touch.

Watching Kiran’s mannerism reminded Rakhi about something or rather someone.

“You’re Anarkali!” Rakhi told Kiran one day.

The rest as they say

Rakhi shot the pilot episode of Anarkali in Feb. 2015 and then promptly sat on it for months because she was afraid it would bomb. Then, on Kiran’s insistence, she uploaded the episode to YouTube and waited.

To save face, Rakhi prayed for a minimum of 5,000 hits, but she was taken aback because the views exceeded her initial estimates.

Celebrations turned sour soon. An unscrupulous Facebook user scrubbed the credits from the pilot episode and uploaded the film through his Facebook account and disseminated it. The film spread like wildfire garnering some 32,000 hits, but no one on earth knew who had come up with the brilliant idea and the credit for the film becoming viral went to the thief.

The feminist in me salutes you

Rakhi, 35, created Anarkali when she was 19.

The well-fleshed and complex character was Rakhi’s own creativity at work. She detailed the life of every 20 or 30-something brown woman finding her way. The script caught dust as the filmmaker pursued a career in development.

“When I started travelling (for my development work), I wondered why the media did not tell me about these communities and their struggles,” Rakhi questioned. “Whose history is told? We know history is about ‘his’ story, so what does it say about ‘her’ story or ‘our’ story? The stories that were being told were often about the victor and oppressor, what about the other?”

This line of introspection led Rakhi to learn the nuances of photography. Shout out to her friend Natasha Daniel, who schooled her in the basics. Once she understood the lens, Rakhi found her calling. Her repertoire of works includes: Haneri, a film on mental health, an educational video on honour killings, Silent Struggles, that looks at elder abuse in the Punjabi Community and  of course, the fictional (Anarkali).

You can watch two seasons of the show on YouTube. Shooting for Season 3 will start soon.

Next time, we will profile the show’s heart and soul, Anarkali aka Kiran Rai. Stay tuned.