Certified Rascals, a new sensation on YouTube in this pandemic lock-down situation, brings to you the fun and miserable parts of IT work culture in the urban city. They literally has taken the effort to turn the frown of their viewers to upside down. They are humbled and grounded to stay related to the common people to resonate with them. They stay relevant. We have had the sweet opportunity to talk to Sudhir, the man behind and in front of this new splash that’s in the making.
Sudhir says he is fascinated about cinema and his emotions root from the fact that he is from Chennai. “Being a film director is my longing passion”, he says. Certified Rascals launched since May 2020. And their seemingly effortless attempts, to pull off these many funny skits in a very short span of time, is quite astounding. Here is a peek at some of the riveting inside information about the co-founder Writer and Actor, Sudhir and his team.
You seem really comfortable in front of the camera. Are you guys actors by profession?. If not, How do you prepare yourself to write the scripts and to act?
No, We are not. We all are IT professionals. In our team, Sriram is a trained artist. Ravishankar is a mimicry artist who also dances well. I worked with him in the same office and I had the opportunity to see his talents. Aravindh have also done some short films which are very sophisticated. They set their par to meet the essence of a feature film. They had the exposure to acting through that. They are familiar with the parts of direction, editing and stuffs too. Vishwa and Rithu have acted in Aravindh’s short films and gained acting experiences through that. So, they grasp the need of the scenes easily and give a satisfactory output. It becomes easy to sail through together when we meet the like-minded people. Alagunidhi, Sharan, Gayathri are all new to the acting experience. They find their passion to push their boundaries to excel. They often surprise us with their knack.
How did it all started?
Random call to Aravindh ,who also a Short film maker and Script writer, the conversation ended up with the Creating Facebook page for IT memes, After brainstorming between Aravindh and His friend Hariharan, we came with the title of CERTIFIED RASCALS to the Facebook Page, After We did a Dubsmash video for fun. The one where Santhanam in Kalakalappu movie tells “Paruthi mootta Godown laye irundhirukalam..”. We used that scene for our office conference call as a scenario and it was an immediate hit. It went viral and many IT employees related to that video. It surprised us to an extent and it gave us an idea to take it as a concept. We explored to see if there is any other existing online channel that does a full-on comedy skits on the IT profession and its work culture. There was none. That gave us an excitement to pioneer something unique and be first. We got onto execute the idea. We came up with the concept based on password settings. Pavi4Loki became a big hit and brought us huge viewership.
How do you begin to give shape to your ideas?
We get on a call to discuss and prepare our content. Aravindh(Co-founder & Editor) and Myself (Co-founder & Writer) We also have script writers like Sharan & Azhagunidhi and Anushya MS take charge of the script writing often . Whoever does the script for the week, we discuss and find ourselves a final draft to execute. Once the draft is finalised, we select the artists to play the roles. When I direct the episodes, I convey my need from my end on how to capture the essence, the looks of the footage, the dialogues, the modulations in delivery. The team shoots and sends them to me. Sometimes, We have taken around 50 or even 60 takes until we get the right thing to go with.
Since we all are IT professionals. We finish our shifts by 6 or 7 PM and get on to do it. We shoot our footages from Monday to Sunday little by little. And by Friday, we gather the foot-ages and Aravindh edits them. He gets up at 5 AM and do it for a 10 hour long stretch. His time is at a difference of 2 hours as he is doing it from Singapore. He stretches out his time to complete it.
Regardless of the duration of our episodes, whether it’s a 3 mins video or longer than that, We give the same amount of effort. The lesser the minutes of the episode, the more sharpened, creative effort it needs. The challenging part is that it’s difficult to make someone laugh in 30 secs. The script preparation is what demands our times more. Once we feel that we have drawn something exciting, We get on to execute it and those are completed in no time. And the magic occurs!
What are the all the hurdles you face in the process?
While I was shooting our scripts using my phone, my kid got his hand on it one day and ran with it. But this accidental few mins episode gave a huge laugh among the viewers. It was widely shared and our viewership started to get bigger. It gave us the idea to do short snips for a minute that would reach more audiences. It was really challenging to come up with a short script with an exceptional bang. We worked hard to come up with such scripts that would stay with the audiences for a long time. It took us a month to get used to the knack for it.
What’s the concept writing process you follow? Is it either spontaneous or you meticulously sit down and write the concepts?
We get the 90% percentage of our ideas from the reality that surrounds us in our work place. Because that’s the way to relate to the wide range of people. The concepts, that we deal with, are something that any common person would have come across in their life or work at least once. We wanted to harness that. We wanted to stay close to reality. We also have come up with some spontaneous concepts like the episode for the Password scenario (Pavi4Loki). We didn’t think twice and set to execute and released that episode. It was an accidental concept and It was an immediate hit. For the sequel, We wanted to add some drama to the realistic clasp. We weren’t sure about doing a sequel. We wrote and scrapped the script more than twice before doing it. One of the artists couldn’t make it to the sequel when things were set to execute and It took around 6 weeks to finally get it done. I, being the scriptwriter, got frustrated with the process. To my rescue, Aravindh took over to take care of the scripting process. Most of our concepts see the light after a fun filled brainstorming discussion among out team. We list down all the concepts and content we have come up with to get on to give shapes to the ideas through the script. And we don’t just to stick to the script, we also improvise and most of the times it works in our favour. Sometimes, we have found the length of a certain episodes are longer than we intended. We find our screenplay errors in such executions and work towards to correct it. This is how our concepts see the light of the day.
You do this among your work schedules, right?. How do you manage your time with it?
I have been working as an IT professional around 18 years. My strategy is that I would explicitly say that I don’t have bandwidth for certain work when I truly don’t have time to complete them in my bounded time. Initially, my teammates were weirded out by explicit boundaries and they gradually got to know the why of it. Even when you don’t have a passion or hobby to pursue after your working hours, I would advise that people don’t spend their valuable time beyond a certain limit. Family and friends need our attention. And it’s essential to have some alone time to simply do nothing. That’s the healthy work-life balance right there.
What do you think that boosts you and keep your creativity intact when you are worn out after a long day of work?
It’s true that we have achieved a wider viewership in a very short span of time since our Certified Rascal YouTube Channel launch. We have been certainly lauded for our creative comedy take on our stressful work culture. But not every product of ours isn’t up to the par sometimes. We have made some real mediocre works among the good ones too. We have been lashed for the same which questioned our confidence and our creative thinking ability. But then we realized the why of all. When we asked ourselves, “Why we began to make this channel in the first place?”, We knew the purpose is to have fun and forget about our moderately miserable work, to give a bit of laugh, to let the stress out. Instead, we began to let the criticism about our works to our head which in turn added stress to our process, which is the opposite of our objective, we decided not to let the scrutiny from the viewers about our work to bother us. We look at the constructive criticism to better ourselves.
It’s all been a trial and error. We make the mistakes and then we learn. We decided to be happy about what we have done here and be contended with our output. We realized not to forget to have fun, not to let the pressure to get to us at any cost whether our outputs turn out to be good or not. And that’s when we made the episode which mimics Super Deluxe trailer format. And to our utmost surprise, viewers liked it. We were very sure that it wouldn’t reach many but it turned out to be a surprise. We did that without expecting a criticism and that paved the way to thrive and to shatter our creative blocks.” Sudhir’s voice brimmed with confidence.
Do You have a team who does short film on a regular basis? If so, Tell us about them..
Certified Rascals channel has done 4 short films so far. Aravindh, a friend from college, he works out of Singapore. He directed the films 12B, Jupitor, Aadhi 1 & Aadhi 2 which are about 60 mins. You can find them in our channel. We can very well call them as feature films. Editing is one of his strengths and it works in our favour very well. We began to collaborate. My friends and colleagues come together to create fantastic memes for our page on week days while we work on the video contents for weekends. Sriram has been working with me since my short films days. It wasn’t my idea initially to act in our contents besides directing them. I wanted to involve more from the backend, from directorial part. But due to some turn of events, I began to act too. While some of our videos were finding its viewers, our contents featured in Sun news which was the biggest spotlight on work. We were excited and that was the point since we began to gather a wide viewership. Our colleagues and relatives called to appreciate our works. We started to gain confidence.
Did you expect this much of a wide viewership so soon? How do you feel about it?
Aravindh and I did our short films years ago and till date it hasn’t reached more than a few thousands views. We thought we spent months and years to write and financially support it to execute such films. But Certified Rascals has reached a wide viewership in such a short span of time. It is difficult to comprehend the growth even for us. We realized we have begun to form a close connection with the people. They are relating themselves with us which I think is the biggest gift we could ever ask for. We did some research. Inadvertently, we found that we are the first to do comedy skits on this genre that talks about IT work culture. From there, we took the plunge. Ravishankar, in my team, he came with me when we started the channel. Rithu did some short films with Aravindh. Gayathri, she is my colleague. Like this, We, like-minded people, came together to start something beautiful like this.
Have your work people watched it and have you received any unhappy comments?
They know I’m passionate about films and want to direct them. To see me act and perform in front of a camera is a complete surprise for them. We have got some great comments that indeed boost our confidence. My company is really supportive in my pursuance of my dream. They even discussed about the way how I carry myself with the passion in my appraisal meetings. My teammates also received the same support from his peers in workplace.
What other talents have you discovered about yourself in this process?
I’m interested in photography and sensual art. But Day or night, I have always found myself passionate about Cinema and how it’s made. I have done some stage plays in my school days. I didn’t pursue it during college days. And later, I found some like-minded people who would want to create something and associate themselves with cinema that feeds their soul. But things don’t come together most of the times and that frustrate us. Some people don’t make to the film making due to their personal commitments. That paved me the way to write a script that doesn’t require any human soul. I have written an interesting script with just a one rupee coin. It is still in the script form and yet to be made.
Even after I got a job, I never let my passion die. I found one way or the other to keep learning. After years of learning, when we are really given the opportunity to grasp the possibility of making the dream come true, we would usually hesitate a bit. And I did too. I wanted my work not to depend on another person to make my film. So, I began to learn the skills. I joined a film institute in 2013. I learned how to make a film and edit films from Nizhal Film Institute – Thirunavukarasu and Jiva who was very genuine, never thought about the fee I paid. He was just about transferring the knowledge to others.
I learned a lot about cinema, about world films there. I spend my weekends there for 8 hours after my work during week days. And the final assessment is for me to make a zero budget short film called “Samosa” in phone camera. I am proud I was able to learn the method. What I learned in the process is, if you don’t have something with you, you have to create it for yourself. To pursue my direction passion, I could have taken the long route to learn the skills which may or may not be fruitful at the end. But Certified Rascals has offered a lot of opportunity to break any stereotype to be a filmmaker, not just for me but to my entire team. It let me be experimental with myself. And I’m so grateful for that.
And the scripts, which I didn’t find the opportunity or feasibility to make them as films, I published them as books. I got the idea to write the books when my son asked me for a bedtime story. I am happy that I was able to pull it off. They are available in Amazon Kindle and Amazon Store. I have written books called English Kids comic story “Cow and Pig” & Tamil fiction “Rajini Arasiyaluku varuvaara?” and planning to publish it on his birthday. So, That’s my plan. I am planning to pour my thoughts as scripts and based on the feasibility, some will be made as films and some will be published as books. And between all these plans, Certified Rascal came as a surprise that I would cherish dearly.
Things wouldn’t have fallen in its place if it’s not for the support I got from my family. They support me while I am trying to pursue my passion. And my team, I couldn’t have asked for anything better. They work together with me. They get me and be on time for us to go on the floor. It wouldn’t have been possible without them to get our ideas to see the light of our day. And we take turns to direct the episodes. It gives all of us the learning opportunity and find the hidden talent in everyone of us. Sriram and I, we consciously take the backseats and observe my team to push their boundaries. They are equally passionate about me and that makes the things easier. I thank them with all my heart and that’s the strength of our team. I am fortunate to have met this team. We are eagerly waiting to meet each other once this lockdown is over.
Show us your idea bags, How do you plan to take this to the next level?
We are hoping to make a feature film in the next year. We are working on the script. So, that’s in the bag.
He was thrilled to hear when we uttered that there is a fat chance for him to be casted in manager roles in films as he has made such an impression in his Certified Rascals episodes. And his team would go to places as social media is the source to find the talents. We were spellbound to listen about his infectious passion which was quite impressive. We wished him all the best to give a big break with his directorial passion and dream.
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