How the hell did she do it?
As Humans of Bombay launches its own talk show on YouTube, its founder discusses the past, present and future of the storytelling platform
Have you ever come across someone, listened to the story of their life, and wondered, “How the hell did he/she/they do it?”
This was the exact thought that Karishma Mehta, the founder of the digital storytelling platform Humans of Bombay, and all the members of her team had when they read about entrepreneur Divya Gokulnath, a potential guest for their forthcoming talk show. The phrase returned to their minds again and again when they looked into their other guests as well, until finally, it stuck. And this is why their newly-launched talk show is called How The Hell Did I Do It?
What’s in a name?
Karishma thought this name would give the show a global edge, unlike other shows in the Indian ecosystem like Koffee With Karan and Rendezvous With Simi Garewal.
“I’ve always liked to be detached and not overtly there; to give more importance to the platform than to the person,” explains Karishma, who grew up watching The Oprah Winfrey Show. “Even so, I never thought I would have my own talk show!”
But Humans of Bombay has been around for eight years, so a talk show seems like an organic evolution, one required to showcase deeper emotions and highlight the subtler nuances of the platform’s storytelling.
“We were doing interviews anyway, which came across less as interviews and more as intimate conversations. So with respect to the format, we evolved from written work to Reels,” says Karishma.
Though season 2 of the talk show will release on a streaming platform, season 1 is underway on YouTube so that Karishma and her team can set the tone with their hour-long episodes without having to deal with an outside director or producer.
“We could have done a video podcast, but we were sure we wanted a show where you could feel the emotions and the pulse of the interviewee,” says Karishma.
From cricketers to entrepreneurial founders to spiritual guides, season 1 has a whole gamut of guests in neatly, tightly-packaged episodes. “I am a huge fan of operating from the gut,” Karishma smiles.
That gut feeling
In fact, it is thanks to Karishma’s gut that Humans of Bombay came into existence in the first place.
It began when she returned to Mumbai for a gap year after college, a time when she had been inspired by the Humans of New York column in The New York Times.
As a student, she had already blocked the ‘Humans of Bombay’ name on Facebook on an impulse. Her original idea had actually been to start a magazine modelled on the Americal digital youth culture magazine Thought Catalog, with Humans of Bombay as a column.
With this in mind, she set off to Marine Drive with a photographer friend and started talking to people. As Karishma and her friend tramped about, a recently-widowed woman opened up to Karishma about wanting to get back on her feet financially.
“I was surprised that someone who didn’t know me had had such a deep conversation with me,” Karishma says.
This depth is what you will see on YouTube as Karishma chats with the likes of Harsha Bhogle, Anupam Mittal, Divya Gokulnath, Prafull Billore, Manish Malhotra, Harsh Mariwala, Gauranga Das, Diipa Khosla and Aamir Khan in the 12 episodes of season 1.
“The thought process behind getting someone like Diipa or Aamir on the show was to showcase how we do interviews with self-made people, people with grit and determination,” says Karishma.
After season 1, the show will evolve into a hybrid model with a mix of celebs and every day people, which is the essence of Humans of Bombay.
“We believe that every person has a story. And we are here to tell it,” she says.
The talk show is completely bootstrapped by Humans of Bombay, with respect to man power as well. But it didn’t come about without a struggle. In fact, they were initially told that it couldn’t be done at all, given the necessity for a heavy-duty production.
“YouTube is a whole new ball game and nothing similar to Instagram. We wanted to make the best of what we have. Our interviews usually don’t feature anyone except the interviewee, so there is a change in that where I’m in the videos too. It’s been very fulfilling,” says Karishma.
She promises that the celeb interviews will show the people behind the stars in a way that they haven’t been seen before.
“We will give the most raw, real footage that you will see of people you have already seen a lot of,” Karishma says. “For example, Aamir Khan cried profusely during our interview. We want people to know the person, the human, behind the celeb mask. We’ve retained the realness that is the true flavour of Humans Of Bombay.”
From HT Brunch, September 10, 2022
Follow us on twitter.com/HTBrunch
Connect with us on facebook.com/hindustantimesbrunch