Whether it’s the subject of anti-nationals or the farmers’ crisis, Fully’s videos tap into current trends to tell a story. Sometimes, they also use art-forms to get the message across
The alarming hike in petrol prices is a concern for many, but Youtube channel Fully has addressed the issue in its own unique way – by connecting it to …weight-loss. In its latest video, a man loses 30 kilograms and turns into someone with rockstar looks in just three hours. Thanks to soaring fuel prices, he decides to put his feet to good use. While this video features an actor in flesh and blood, the team has also been using hand-drawn images and those created by moving around fabric and paper to showcase themes. These videos take their time to seep into collective consciousness, but like Founder and Chief Creative Officer Raunaq Mangottil says, the idea is to promote dialogue on issues and allow the audience to enjoy an art form too.
On July 2 this year, Fully (earlier Fully Filmy) launched ‘Safest Country For Women’ – featuring a series of hand-drawn images – and it went viral almost immediately. When the video begins, it’s all grey and white before colour starts seeping into the frames. A little toddler is learning to sit up. Near her is a foal. Cut to a few seconds later, and both have grown up. They are the best of friends. She rides the pony amid snow-clad mountains and a lush green tree cover. But then, at 3.36 minutes, your heart sinks. You spot a building with steps and a flag fluttering from it. And, suddenly, the brutality little Asifa went through comes to mind.
A month and a half later, on August 22, Fully launched ‘I Am Madras,’ an evocative ode to a city that embraces with love even as it revels in the cuss word. A city where religious lines blur and where everyone’s identity is linked to the place they call home.
The trend began with ‘Dear CSK,’ a seven-minute-long video released in March 2018 that spoke about inequality between the sexes and how a game of cricket brought about a transformation. It continued with ‘Black Vs White,’ almost of a similar duration, which released in time for Kaala. For 16 days, a young team moved cloth and paper to give the director the image he had in mind. The video spoke of oppression and eventual victory. At a time when Tamil YouTube channels either dealt with humour, films or cook shows, Fully took a call to push the envelope with artistic offerings – hand-drawn or hand-arranged images and reflections that would not merely tell a story and tell it well, but also jolt you into thinking.
For the Fully team, these videos are a way to explore what it is capable of, both in terms of themes and creativity. “While we were doing YouTube videos, we wanted to be in the same space that the Fully Filmy brand occupied – convey new perspectives in new formats, with a certain degree of seriousness. And yes, we wished to create inspiring content,” says Mangottil.
‘Dear CSK’ began as a live action video before the illustrator Najeeb Thottungal, 24, suggested that they try animation. “For 50 days, he worked to complete the 3,000-plus frames. It was a frame by frame animation,” says Raunaq. ‘Black Vs White’ and ‘Safest Country For Women’ were born out of a need to speak of something that deeply affected the team. “The intention is to speak about things that no one else is, in a way that touches a chord among viewers. The idea is to not sensationalise but to add to the narrative.”
‘Black Vs White’ was conceptualised way before Kaala. The team initially thought of a female superhero, but waited to figure out logistics. Once Kaala came along, Fully decided to focus on the struggles of the working class. “We fixed a camera with battery back-up and shot over 15 days, moving fabric and paper inch by inch. We needed constant power supply to capture the movement. This project was satisfying, and was not done with return on investment in mind. The idea was to try out something new, but due to various factors, it did not get the viewership it deserved.”
Black Vs White took its time to touch 1,74,000 views, primarily due to the confusion in people’s minds over what Rajinikanth’s actual stand on protest was after he blamed the violence during the anti-Sterlite agitation on anti-social elements. This was in direct contrast to his role of Karikaalan in Kaala, a person who encourages protest to set right wrongs.
When the team was discussing the issue of child abuse and what happened to Asifa, Najeeb suggested that Asifa’s story could take the shape of a fairy tale that ends on a sad note. “What happened was brutal. Everyone lived that trauma when the news came out. But, after a point, you are conditioned to be non-feeling. We give up hope. We dug out files of other such incidents. Our main trauma came from research,” elaborates Raunaq.
All these were projects that really stretched the rupee. ‘Dear CSK’ cost about Rs 4,000, the money going into dubbing and food. ‘Black Vs White’ cost about Rs 20,000 and the third video cost nothing in terms of money, only food.
The team found that when they worked without an end result in mind, it liberated them to think out of the box. Najeeb, a trained architect, was deeply inspired by the late child prodigy Edmund Thomas Clint of Kerala, who created about 25,000 paintings before he died at the age of seven. For ‘Dear CSK,’ Najeeb drew each frame, layer by layer, and ran it at a certain speed to see if the animation was spot on. He’s still surprised when people tell him how much they admired his work. “I’m still not very sure if I deserve those words of praise,” he smiles. The boy who grew up in football-loving Kerala took to cricket and IPL soon enough. He learnt animation on the job, as the video took shape. “What kept me going was the knowledge that we were creating something unique.”
The team has also been receiving brickbats with the same enthusiasm with which it accepts the bouquets. While ‘Dear CSK’ was loved by the majority, a section felt linking sports to more serious issues women face was frivolous. The video elicited 11,000 comments. Some viewers had an issue with ‘Black Vs White’ being linked to Kaala; they wondered why a good video with a theme had to piggyback on a movie. But, Raunaq says they love the fact that there is a dialogue. Because, that is the ultimate aim – to get people to speak about issues.
‘Black Vs White’ has a long list of credits, including the anna who supplies tea. Editor Balaji Arumugam spent sleepless nights trying to snip and shape their effort into a cohesive video. “’Black Vs White’ was a very elaborate process because of what we set out to do,” he says, “But, it was deeply satisfying. As for ‘Safest Country…,’ we decided to go back and reimagine Asifa’s life as a baby and her bond with the pony. The climax was painful to put together. For the first time, I never looked at YouTube views, I was just happy I tried something different.”