We’ve all grown up on stories of how good triumphs over evil. Story tellers everywhere invest a lot of time and effort in establishing the credentials of the anti-hero. In Hindi cinema, it takes on a completely different meaning, where the villain’s role is as pivotal as the hero’s (There’s even a Filmfare award for the Best Actor in a Negative Role). Having said that, our generation has been deprived of the trademark evil laughter, cult one liners- ‘Mogambo khush hua’,‘Kitne aadmi the’ or state of the art shark and crocodile tanks and underground hideouts.
Given that background, there’s no villain in the recent past who has captured our collective imagination. That is, until Sujoy Ghosh’s Kahaani gave us Bob Biswas. The unassuming, pot-bellied, self-ironic insurance agent by day and contract killer by night is this generation’s answer to Gabbar Singh and Mogambo. It is Biswas’ trivial treatment of murder that sets him apart from the garrulous and extravagant villains of yesteryears- an earnest voice establishing the credentials of his victims, a polite request – ‘Nomoshkar, ek minute’ before removing his revolver, pulling the trigger and then heading back to work on a cycle rickshaw to work on insurance claims.
And what happens when Bob Biswas goes online? All hell breaks loose! Fan pages are made, fan-art is created, minimalist posters are made and everyone wants a piece of Bob Biswas. “There's no psychopathic laughter. No twitching. No punch dialogue. He is the friendly neighbourhood hired assassin. He is Bob Biswas.”, reads the Bio on the Facebook page of Bob Biswas- https://www.facebook.com/Ekminute. The highly successful page was started and is run by a bunch of MBA students from Mudra Institute of Communications, Ahmedabad (MICA). Red Bull caught up with owners of the page who gave wings to the character and spent more than ek minute to talk about how they helped magnify the Bob Biswas phenomenon.
So, tell us, what was the motivation behind starting a page after a character from a movie? Probably the first of its kind in Bollywood, right?
Yes, it might be the first such page, but that wasn’t the motivation behind starting it. Eight of us friends saw the movie together and were completely blown away by Saswata Chatterjee’s performance. The page was supposed to be an intra-college platform to leverage Bob Biswas’s personality to share our Bobhead comics, memes and other artwork, but once we started, it just spiralled out of control! We can attribute the phenomenon to the timing of the launch. We saw the movie on the first Saturday and started the page the same night. People who saw the movie in the coming weeks would have searched Google and Facebook for Bob Biswas. Since we were early movers, we showed up first on the results, and with relevant content, we gained popularity.
So you had built the plan for promoting the page right from the start or did it sort of evolve?
It’s fair to say we learnt along the way. Once we realized the traction we were getting, we took it upon us to keep dishing out quality content. At one point we were clocking 1000-1500 likes a day. We now have more than 31,000 likes and at one point our maximum reach was 400,000. Having studied a little bit of Digital Marketing in class also helped us amplify the virality of the page. Internet humour is catching on. Rage comics, memes are extremely popular and we decided to use a similar touch.
Witty one liners, photoshopped movie posters and our trademark ek minute comics clearly work with our target audience. The humour that we built around the character pokes fun at our lives today, through exaggeration and sarcasm, which underline and go beyond the limits of modern Indian tolerance; all things that are seen to have a 'Chalta Hai' image. With our humour, we have made an attempt to say Nomoshkar, ek minute and question this thinking.
Did you guys have to face any challenges along the way? Any other experiences you’d like to share?
There have been many interesting experiences. We’ve been accused of plagiarism, only to fight our case and come out on top. At one point other facebook pages were stealing our content and posting it as their own. We then started watermarking all our content to put an end to this.
There have been many humorous messages in our inbox as well. People talk to us like we are the Santa Claus of Kolkata, making outrageous requests, all of which are fun to read and respond to.
Getting consistent media coverage was another high point and in some ways, small rewards that gave us something to smile about. Other than these, 2 a.m. strategy meetings at Chhota (the night canteen at MICA), conference calls to handle crises and chain mails discussing content have all been part of the amazing experience we’ve shared over the past four months.
And finally, the big question- What next for facebook Bob?
Apart from churning out content on a daily basis, we intend on getting in touch with the makers of the movie to chart out the course ahead for Bob Biswas. As MICANs we take pride in being creative and channelling that creativity to get tangible outcomes. There has been a lot of speculation about graphic novels and what not. We believe that we’ve been instrumental in extending the character’s popularity and can certainly continue doing so. The page is testament to the fact that we are probably the biggest fanboys of Bob Biswas and we would love to continue being part of his onward journey. We’d like to leave a message for Sujoy Ghosh and Saswata Chatterjee. Nomoshkar, give us ek minute!
(The Bob Biswas facebook page is run by Abhimanyu Roy, Abhishek Joshi, Abhishek Rane Anand Sankar, Maltesh Ashrit, Pratap Kaul, Shreshth Varshney and Sonal Gupta. They are second year MBA students at MICA, Ahmedabad.)