HT Brunch Cover Story: Slay it with a smile with Kusha Kapila and Dolly Singh
It’s hard not to fall for the stereotype of South Delhi women portrayed by Kusha Kapila and Dolly Singh. The two former media colleagues who quickly became fast friends are Internet divas today – funny, entertaining and witty, just like the content they create. When working together in full-time jobs, they bumbled their way through making videos, tapping into their observations of the people around them. Soon they had created on-screen characters that immediately had viewers falling about with laughter and, encouraged by the response, quit their office jobs and set off to become individual content creators, posting videos on social media that make their viewers’ days.
How successful are Dolly and Kusha? Well, they’re on the cover of HT Brunch, aren’t they?
Leap of faith
Freedom to do your own thing is lovely, but it has a price, says Dolly, who not only had to pay bills and rent, but also convince her parents to support her career choices.
“It took a long time for me to make the switch to independence because that was my first real job,” she says. “My parents, like most middle-class parents, believe that kuch bhi ho, salary toh aani chahiye (whatever happens, the salary must come in).”
“Some of my content is over the top, while other stuff is stereotypical, but it is all in my own skin” —Kusha Kapila
By now, of course, her parents have accepted Dolly’s career decision, but then, she second-guessed herself all the time. Eventually, with offers of contracts and consultation filling her inbox, she finally took the plunge and describes her choice as “the best of both worlds!”
Kusha did not need her family to caution her: she was already cautious, thanks to five previous job rejections. “But I’ve been a performer all my life. So when I actually put in my papers at the age of 29, I was scared, but also confident,” smiles Kusha, who has over 1.6 million followers on Instagram now.
The two of them have very different personalities. “I always knew I could make people laugh,” says Kusha unabashedly. “I believe humour comes from a place of vivid life experiences. Some of my content is over the top, while other stuff is stereotypical, but it is all in my own skin and thus it can continue to be funny.”
Dolly was quite the opposite while growing up, she shares. “I never thought I was a funny person. I was introverted and shy, always sitting in a corner. So all my characters are created by observing people and also, as Kusha said, from my own life. It is about expanding a thought.”
Using satire and humour, Dolly and Kusha deal with real issues in their videos, addressing everything from issues and mental health to social problems that touch their hearts. For instance, Dolly had never paid much attention to politics before, but the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act and National Register of Citizens (CAA-NRC) protests in Delhi last year inspired her to post a video on the subject. “I cried my eyes out during the CAA-NRC protest and realised I cannot sit on the fence in such situations. I choose my character’s quirks to put out what I think is gyan,” she says.
For Kusha, humour has become a coping mechanism. “A lot of my characters are born out of how I’m feeling on a particular day, whether it is Zulmi Aunty, Maa Woke Anand or Monday Aunty,” she says. Then, to lighten the mood, she uses her South Delhi accent: “Dekho, mujhe toh ab majja aata hai (Look, I’m having fun) doing what I’m doing. I believe I have a voice on social media, an able body and the power to initiate dialogue, so I put my real feelings out there.”
“It took a long time to make the shift [to becoming an independent content creator]. Like most middle-class parents, mine too believe that kuch bhi ho, salary toh aani chahiye” —Dolly Singh
Stating your mind often comes at the cost of trolling. “I was very thin as a young girl, and I was bullied even before I went on the Internet. So I can cope with negative comments online,” says Dolly. “The trolls did put me off at times, but if you don’t give them the attention they demand, you’ll be good. Also, there are always more people who love you or resonate with you and your struggles on the Internet, so I focus on that.”
But trolls gave Kusha so much anxiety that she started therapy to cope. “The Internet can be a dark space or a constructive space depending on how you want to use it, but hate is perpetual. We all choose our own battles and though there is uncertainty, there are also privileges to communicating your thoughts to so many people.”
Both of them have now moved to bigger platforms, having done cameos in a movie and web series. Does the fame that comes with being social media influencers help in other arenas?
“If you are known and people like your work, obviously they are kinder and nicer to you and that is something that is always welcome. It is a massive perk as they let you know through gestures,” Kusha says. And, while she has been upgraded to better seats on flights and had VIP entries to restaurants over the past two years, she knows that this gives her a very false sense of her life.
“Fame will leave if you are no longer relevant” —Dolly Singh
As for Dolly, she thinks that relevance is the key more than fame. “I’m a workaholic and I have major FOMO (fear of missing out) when I take a day off or try to rest. I don’t really look at competition, but there is certainly a sense of insecurity because the digital space is always evolving and you always need to be relevant. Fame will leave if you are no longer relevant,” says Dolly who continues to live by her Instagram bio and “makes funny videos for a living.”
Now you know why Instagram bios are important!
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From HT Brunch, January 17, 2021