News you shouldn’t take seriously, The Hindu. Dated, 30th May, 2017

Viva News, an arm of the digital company Culture Machine, presents a fun take on current affairs

A dose of humour doesn’t hurt and there’s no dearth of it online with ever burgeoning memes, gifs and spoof videos. But only a few hit the sweet spot with their content.

Viva News, an arm of Culture Machine, targets Telugu speaking audience with its satirical twist to news. The first episode, which has clocked in more than 12,11,090 views so far, was in December 2016.

In the wake of demonetisation, its anchors Raghav and Shannu read out crime bulletin about two thieves who targeted an upmarket house in Jubilee Hills and made away with bundle of ₹100 notes from the kitchen and coins from the piggy bank. A sketch from the cops points fingers at Raghav and Shannu themselves. What makes the bulletin funny, apart from the news itself, is its tongue-in-cheek comment on anchoring as the duo struggles to pronounce Telugu words like ‘nypunyam’.

Viva News has had at least one or two episodes per month since then and is adding subscribers to its list. Their news satire might look like a different take on ‘News That Wasn’t’ but is more than that. News is interspersed with vox populi interludes where reporters get the public to comment on anything from ‘why do people honk?’ to how they choose people on Tinder.

In the May episode, a spin-off of Indian Premier League had the Kangaru (panic) Premier League with teams named Bheemavaram Body Builders, Srikakulam Earth Shakers, Amalapuram Asha Jyothulu, Vizag Thunder Buddies, Karimnagar Care Takers, Tirupati Thrillers and Medak Munching Batch.

The digital media company Culture Machine has other popular channels like the Put Chutney, Awesome Sauce, Blush Channel and Being Indian. “When we thought of a channel for Telugu-speaking audience, we wanted a standalone series rather than a story-driven web series,” says Sabarish Kandregula, channel director-content at Culture Machine.

Kandregula informs that at least 60 to 70 % of the content is based on current affairs. News spoofs and vox populi apart, they also had a spin-off of the IPL with new teams with quirky names that caught attention. “We brainstorm on topic, short list them and select for each episode,” says Kandregula who scripts each episode, factoring in viewers’ response and inputs from his team.

There was also a dig at filmmakers who intentionally ‘leak’ scenes from their films to gain mileage. A short filmmaker shown on Viva News supposedly leaks his entire film online and still has no viewers!

In their forthcoming episodes, Viva News wants to try and present an inside view of what happens in Modi’s government, with a tinge of fun. “After demonetisation, there could be something else that would affect everyone. One of it may be Swachh Bharat 2.0, with an emphasis on revolutionary cleanliness operation,” feels Kandregula.

Who knows? It could be a sign of things to come.

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