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#BringBackBLF is more important than you think

If you follow the Indian comedy scene you might have noticed a hashtag called #BringBackBLF popping up last week. For those wondering what it means, BLF stands for the ‘Better Life Foundation’, an Indian mockumentary web series released on YouTube in 2016. Following the lives of employees at the Better Life Foundation NGO, the series featured lead and cameo appearances from the biggest names in Indian comedy today, including Naveen Richard, Sumukhi Suresh, Kanan Gill, and Kenny Sebastian, among others. 

The cast of BLF: Sumukhi Suresh, Sindhu Murthy, Naveen Richard, Utsav Chakraborty, Kumar Varun, and Kanan Gill
[The cast of BLF: Sumukhi Suresh, Sindhu Murthy, Naveen Richard, Utsav Chakraborty, Kumar Varun, and Kanan Gill] via IMDb
Upon release, the five-episode show was met with positive reviews from critics and audiences alike, resulting in an equally acclaimed second season picked up by the streaming service now known as DisneyPlus Hotstar.

Clearly inspired by iconic workplace mockumentary shows like The Office and Parks and Recreation, BLF was praised for its subtle and self-aware tackling of a myriad of issues in Indian society – like the language gulf between those who do and do not know Hindi, mentalities towards the differently-abled and the infamous world of Indian bureaucracy. I could go on and on about the Michael Scott-esque lead character Neil Menon or his far more competent program head Sumukhi Chawla (think Leslie Knope with Rosa Diaz’s sunshiney attitude), but let’s get to the point. 

In 2018, a short time after BLF’s season 2 was released, Hotstar took it off of its platform. The move was seen by many as a ‘knee-jerk’ reaction to the news that one of the actors, Utsav Chakraborty, was accused of sexual misconduct. That was the year that the #MeToo movement swept through India, bringing many such instances to light and empowering survivors to tell their stories. However, Hotstar’s action also called into question its authenticity and whether it was just ‘hollow appeasement’ to appear part of the movement. #BringBackBLF was trending on Twitter, and the show creators spoke up about their opinions as well. 

Director Debbie Rao writes the name of the show on the slate
[Director Debbie Rao behind the scenes of BLF 2] via Naveen Richard
Why bring this up two years later, you may ask? Thanks to the efforts of college student Nishant Manoj, #BringBackBLF has caught the attention of the show creators a second time, and better late than never – we need to discuss the implications of Hotstar’s decision to take it down.

Objectively, it does seem as if the removal aimed to display solidarity to the victims of criminal behavior from the stars of their content. However, Vikas Bahl’s Masaan remains up on Hotstar, and Mukesh Chhabra’s Dil Bechara (understandably) received 95 million views in the first 24 hours on the same platform, despite both directors being accused in the #MeToo movement as well.

Yes,Kevin Spacey was rightly fired from House of Cards, but they were allowed to finish without him. What is more, none of the previous seasons got wantonly removed from their platform. Neither did the numerous films associated with Harvey Weinstein. Production simply went on without their accused members, and that is a choice that the BLF team was robbed of.

The show also featured a large number of women in the crew, including the director Debbie Rao, executive producer, and female leads. What is more, because of their contract, the creators do not own rights to the show that they built. This means they do not have permission to re-upload their hard work on any other platform either. 

Crew and creators of BLF behind the scenes
[Crew and creators of BLF behind the scenes] via Naveen Richard
I don’t know about you, but I was reminded about a similar spat that Taylor Swift had with Big Machine Records about owning her own content. Taylor came out on top eventually (as queens do), but what happens when you aren’t worth upwards of 300 million dollars?

Ultimately, I don’t know if DisneyPlus Hotstar will ever acknowledge or make amends for their actions. They’re a multimillion-dollar company with bigger fish to fry, so they’ll probably stop at blocking the person who restarted the hashtag (they did) and leave it at that.

Whatever happens though, hopefully, #BringBackBLF serves as a reminder about the danger of knee jerk reactions – however well-intentioned – and the importance of support for creators who have poured their hearts into their work.

TV Shows Pop Culture

This comedian makes me feel seen as a Muslim

For many, discovering that The Daily Show correspondent Hasan Minhaj would be leaving the show was heartbreaking news. As the first (and only) Muslim correspondent on the show, Minhaj brought an authenticity to the news that viewers had not seen before.

When it came to stories that affected Muslims, he wasn’t just relaying a story; he was living the experience. Viewers felt that. Luckily for his fans, he announced two major updates: he would be going on a North American tour and he would be starring in his own Netflix show The Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj.

A gif of Hasan Minhaj that says
[Image description: a gif of Hasan Minhaj that says “dope”.] via WiffleGif
Let the squealing commence.

The tour, Before the Storm, is a two-month long excursion that began in Los Angeles on August 11 and ends in New York City on October 18. I saw his show in Dallas, Texas, and within seconds of his performance, Minhaj quickly reminded his fans of why they fell in love with him in the first place. Before he launched into his set, Minhaj bantered with the audience, making references to the local community and thereby making us all feel like he understands our corner of the world.

Without giving away spoilers, I will simply note that though Minhaj may have left The Daily Show, he continues to educate, inspire, and incite laughter while on tour. His shows are unique in that they are filled with statistics, research, and news stories—a nod to his former Daily Show life—while including personal anecdotes that leave his audiences in tears. On a screen behind him, he flashes images, graphs, and news clips to shed light on current events.

But this is not your typical PowerPoint presentation. Minhaj masterfully weaves the information into story to deconstruct the false narratives surrounding marginalized groups and discuss topics like terrorism, the travel ban, and refugees. At the same time, Minhaj shares stories about his family, faith, culture, and new baby girl. Whether you came to his show for relatable content, a laugh, or political commentary, you easily get all three.  

Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj is to air October 28 on Netflix. Minhaj’s previous Netflix work, his comedy special Homecoming King, gave his audiences a glimpse into his personal life as a first-generation Indian American Muslim growing up in Davis, California. The show was sold out, critically acclaimed, and earned Minhaj a Peabody Award. Homecoming King’s success, a second national tour, and strong run on The Daily Show all point toward a promising Netflix show debut. Patriot Act will have new episodes every Sunday, and if his fans don’t already have Netflix, they likely will soon.

Watching Hasan Minhaj on The Daily Show and on tour brings me more than a few laughs; they give me a sense of comfort. I know that our stories and experiences are in the hands of someone who gets it, someone who understands what it means to be a part of a marginalized group, and someone who is impacted by it every day.

A show with Hasan Minhaj is not solely about the comedy, it’s about taking audiences on a journey that engages the heart and the mind. You laugh and you learn. You leave his show a little better than how you entered it, and you can’t help but want more.

The Internet TV Shows BRB Gone Viral Pop Culture

Top 9 Desi YouTube channels that you absolutely can’t miss out on

YouTube is a black hole we all gladly get sucked into. Time flies when you scroll through the videos, and a new amazing channel is sometimes the best thing you could ever find. And new finds is what I have in store for you today! I’m alllll for diversity so here’s a list of some amazing Indian youtube channels you should definitely check out, whether you are Indian or not.

P.S – I’ve tried to stick to the channels where the major language is English and, if not, uses subtitles.

1.  The Viral Fever
[Image Description : The wallpaper of the web series Permanent Roommates produced by The Viral Fever] Via Amino Apps
The Viral Fever, or TVF is that channel that started it all. One of the earliest IndianYouTube channels, it also pioneered the culture of web series in India. All of their videos are super fun, but their web series are the best out of the lot.

From the iconic Permanent Roommates to the hilarious Bachelors, their content is so refreshing and amazing.

2. Kenny Sebastian
[Image Description : A still from a stand up comedy video from Kenny Sebastian’s Youtube channel] Via Scroll
Unproblematic Desi men are a rare find, and Kenny is one of the very few. The stand up comedian focuses his content around every day desi things, and he’s relatable and his sense of humor is super clean. While his stand-ups are great, his best videos are his Chai Time comedy, which are almost like intimate, casual conversations among friends.

3. Buzzfeed India
[Image Description : A still from a video from Buzzfeed India Youtube channel] Via Youtube
Well, by Buzzfeed India, I mean Srishti, lol. All the people at the channel are great, but Srishti is the best part of the channel, hands down.

Their videos range from experiments to vlogs to satire, and their epic video, If Real Life Was Like Bigg Boss, is a must watch!

4. Film Companion
[Image Description : A still from a video from the Youtube channel Film Companion] Via Youth Ki Awaaz
Film Companion is a Desi movie lover’s heaven. From dissections to analysis to extremely candid interviews that give you a whole new perception of movie stars and filmmakers, this channel is inclusive, and dares to question the stereotypes of the Indian movie industry.

Their Tape Cast series was exceptionally creative and enlightening.

5. Kanan Gill
[Image Description : Kanan Gill is doing stand up comedy] Via DNA India
Let’s get this straight first: I have a huge crush on Kanan Gill. So does a lot of his audience, and you can’t ignore his uncanny resemblance to Andy Samberg. That being said, Kanan’s best videos are undoubtedly his satirical reviews of Bollywood movies, which don’t even spare iconic classics like Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge.

6. Filtercopy
[Image Description : A still from a Filtercopy video] Via
Filtercopy’s tagline should be relatable. If you’re South Asian, it’s guaranteed that you’ll nod along to every video. They talk about everything from middle class problems, love, friendship, family to every day things of millennial life.

Their amazing regular cast gets some exciting guests very often who spice up the content even more.

7. SNG Comedy
[Image Description : A still from a SNG Comedy video] Via Twitter
SNG Comedy is home to a variety of comedy videos. Run by a group of stand up comedians who are all brilliant in their own unique way, their weekly podcast series The Big Question is the highlight of the channel. They also have some fun sketches, my ultimate favorite being Bollywood Couples Therapy.

8. Unerase Poetry
[Image Description : A girl is reciting poetry at an Unerase Poetry show] Via Youtube
Found by the 16 year old poet Simar Singh, this bold and candid show of beautiful and evocative poetry is a must watch. Every video is honest, hard-hitting, and makes you think.

The best out of the lot are definitely Aranya Johar’s A Brown Girl’s Guide to Gender and Beauty and Simar Singh’s own Legal Rapist is gut-wrenching.

9. All India Bakchod
[Image Description : A still from a AIB satire video] Via Youtube
The people behind AIB are experts at satire. From Bollywood to real-life social issues, they deal with it all with comedy as the weapon, and they don’t refrain from calling out the problems. Their honest series are the highlight, and the podcasts and sketches deserve a special mention.

Do make sure to check out these amazing channels and content! Though it’s better not to start watching them before the days of your finals.

TV Shows Pop Culture

American TV shows still keep saying that Indians are just snake-charmers living in the slums. Why?

Nowadays, everything you see in the media is deemed to be true, and a lot of TV shows and movies have started relaying information that holds true value (to an extent).

Everyone, and I mean everyone, learns a lot about the world based on what they see in the media. This is why it’s so important to realize and correct all the unjust information being displayed.

Every time you watch a movie that shows parts of a third world country, you see all the slums, homeless population, and a lot of dirt. You won’t ever see how beautiful Kenya really is because you’re so used to seeing all the wild animals running in the desert with kids.

It doesn’t occur to you that an African country would have skyscrapers and or any type of civilization.

Similarly, every time India is shown in a movie, you see a village with kids running after goats and cows – you don’t see the liveliness that Mumbai has, the lighting in Delhi, or the beauty in Punjab.

Instead, you see a particularly narrow perspective of India.

Obviously, the information is true to an extent – but the media seems to only focus on the worst, which isn’t a great perspective.

This misuse of information is then further affirmed by celebrities, who use these stereotypical notions about their country as a part of their comedy shtick. Comedians, Russell Peters, in particular, are famous for making fun of India and many other third world countries.

A lot of Peters’ jokes circulate around the fact that Indians are cheap, they own or work at convenience stores/call centers, they only eat spicy food, and that they only dress and smell a certain way. These jokes can be hilarious, but by encouraging this humor, we add to the fire.


We incorporate these jokes in our everyday lives until they’re used against us.

Ever since I moved to the West, I’ve been a target of such humor.

People have asked if I’m married already, if I know how to make curry, if I save every penny like I’m supposed to, or if I’ve come from a village.

It’s extremely demeaning.

When I was younger and didn’t know any better, I used to laugh along with everyone and mimic the “Indian” accent. Then I realized that this encouraged the same people to make fun of my peoplemy family.

I began to get offended when people tried to correct the way my dad spoke English, but then I realized that I must’ve started this joke by correcting him myself.

I was a part of this vicious cycle, and then one day, I decided to end the cycle, once and for all.

I stopped laughing when people made racial jokes about Indians, I refused to mimic the Indian accent, I stopped making fun of other Indians.

And I stopped people from making fun of the man who brought me to this land with a lot of hard work, blood, sweat, and tears.

Indians have traveled the moon and back, yet from TV shows, you might think Indians still work at convenience stores. India produces the highest number of engineers in the world.

With over a billion Indians, we’ve conquered a lot of milestones, yet media chooses to paint us all with the same brush.

We need better examples in the media, like Mindy Kaling:  a lead who is an amazing doctor with a great sense of humor. Another great example would be Priyanka Chopra: a lead in the popular show Quantico, that’s all about breaking barriers.

You don’t see how the Indians have conquered the world, you don’t see how an Indian company Tata has taken over to being the world’s largest growing businesses. You don’t see how the CEO of Google is an Indian man. You don’t see how far and wide Indians have gone because we’re still stuck on TV as being the cheap, snake-charming, convenience store owners.

We need more of roles that break these stereotypes,  more roles that show exactly how strong and diverse we are as a group.

More of these inspirations.