“Family is everything to me,” says 22-year-old Akshay Partha Sarathy who became an overnight internet sensation after putting up a video with his grandmother, Chellam.
“Everyday, after dinner, my family gets together to watch something and just be in each other’s company. So, that is what I was doing that day as well— sitting next to my grandmother and checking my phone. I’ve uploaded solo videos on TikTok but that day, I casually shared a funny music video, the Chinna Machan song, with my grandmother and just for fun decided to record it during the break. I had no idea it would blow up like that” says the social media buff, who uploaded the video that night and went off to sleep.
By next morning, it had gone viral!
“I was shocked to see the numbers. In just a few hours it had received over 1 lakh views. Most of my individual videos would take days to reach those numbers. But, more than that, it was the people and their positive comments in the thread, that then motivated me to continue this work,” he adds.
Akshay is a lawyer, and started uploading videos back in 2018 when TikTok was known as Musically. It was only in 2019, when he started uploading videos with his grandmother that quickly went viral.
From rap songs, energetic dance moves, to short funny enactments of Chellam scolding Akshay for drinking alcohol, the grandma-grandson duo has wowed the internet with these delightful and funny videos.
“With such positive comments and encouragement, I feel very excited to do these videos. It is so much fun. I feel like some heroine!” adds Chellam.
Prior to the lockdown, Akshay who would balance his professional life with his passion for acting and music, says the video collaborations with his grandmother were rather irregular.
“I never wanted to pressurize her to do the videos because it takes a lot of time and effort. But, to my surprise, she seemed more eager to do it than me. It was her excitement that motivated me and somehow with her, everything I do is effortless and fun,” he says.
Due to the lockdown, Akshay has been at home, which means that the frequency of videos has increased, taking their follower base to 1.2 million, as of June 2020.
Spreading The Joy
“The COVID-19 situation has created a lot of panic and stress in people, but the positive feedback that I have received for my videos, makes me feel like through this small contribution, I can lead them towards a more hopeful and happy mental state. So, while initially we would record the videos only in Tamil, with time we slowly began performing songs and dialogues in other languages as well, to have a wider reach,” says Akshay.
Sharing one of the most memorable moments of viewer engagement, he says, “One day, I saw a viewer DM me on Instagram, requesting to speak with me personally. I gave my number, but he insisted that we chat on video. video chat. I was quite skeptical, but decided to accept and to my surprise, on the video call, I saw him sitting with his wife and elderly mother, and crying. Eventually, when he calmed down, he told me how he had left his mother at an elderly home due to financial difficulties, and that my video somehow touched his heart and pushed him to get back his mother and apologise for abandoning her. I was shocked to realise how a simple and playful video could bring a broken family together. To this day, I get chills thinking about it.”
With TikTok banned in India now, Akshay has shifted to Instagram, and mentions that he will continue making these videos for as long as it is possible.
His friend and a fan of grandma Chellam, 23-year-old Mahesh Kumar says these videos are much more fun clips. “When scrolling through, these videos are bound to bring a smile on anybody’s face. They make my day.”
Many others have also voiced their appreciation, on various social media platforms. An Instagram user, harshit_shivan_, for instance commented, “You remind me of my grandmother, I cannot see her because of her not having a smartphone but I look at you both and it makes me happy.”
Another user, the_minion_11 shared, “I love you patty ma, really. When I see you, I remember my own grandma but she passed away.”
When asked about all of these reactions, Akshay smiles. ”Happiness is contagious, and with these videos we want to spread just that!”
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)