Niharika NM on hitting an Instagram milestone, flipping from YouTube to Reels, and her career options for backup.
She celebrated when Niharika NM reached a million Instagram followers by dancing to the song ‘Vaathi Coming’ from Vijay’s upcoming Tamil film, Master. To someone whose fans came for the relatable Reels and stayed for the South Indian humor, it can’t get more fitting than that. On December 17th, exactly two months after reaching the one lakh mark, she surpassed the milestone.
This places her in the elite bracket of 0.32% of users with this form of distance (according to the Mention x Hubspot Instagram Engagement Report 2020). YouTuber-turned-actor Prajakta Koli (@mostlysane, 3 million), content designer Kusha Kapila (@kushakapila, 1.5 million), and chef Ranveer Brar (@ranveer.brar, 1.2 million) are among other Indian influencers who have similar numbers.
The pandemic also helped accelerate its rise, as did guest appearances on Behensplaining, Netflix India’s social media show. To think of the people behind these figures can be a little overwhelming… If you start playing the number game, it is very easy to lose track of what you really want to do and what you are passionate about, which is not where I plan to go or be, says the 23-year-old Los Angeles-based content developer who is working on an MBA degree at the same time.
The social media scene is not new to Niharika. She started a popular YouTube channel with long-form sketches like ‘Types of Students Before an Exam’ and ‘Annoying Stuff That People Do’ back in 2016, in her second year of engineering college. It only began as a hobby, but it needed me to be consistent when the videos started getting a lot of publicity. I slowly fell out of the scene, she describes, not being able to combine scholars and content production. She chose the easier choice after moving to the US for her MBA when Instagram launched the Reels feature. “There was no other reason for avoiding content production. It’s also better to keep the attention of the audience for 15 to 20 seconds than for 15 minutes, she laughs.
Three to follow
- Liza Koshy: She has a charming and magnetic personality that keeps me engaged.
- David Dobrick: His vlogs are really fun and it makes me feel like I’m part of his friend’s community of friends.
- Jordindian: For them, I have a soft spot. I think they’re the funniest people I meet, absolutely unbelievable people.
Born in Chennai and raised in Bengaluru, “extremely diverse” is the taste of Niharika in comedy. Among her inspirations, she counts everyone from Jim Carrey to Rowan Atkinson and Brahmanandam to Vadivelu, as well as Vivek, Santhanam, and Vennela Kishore. “If everything else fails, I turn to my family and friends because they are all absolute clowns,” she says. “True to this, their content often refers to them, particularly their parents, whom she describes as “very traditional at the same time, but also cool. They caught her natural humour on camera from her childhood and are still very used to it. Everything I do, they are like, ‘Oh my God, we love it so great!’ ‘So, I just don’t trust their judgment, but I love them and they love me,’ she adds.
Repping the South
In her 30-second clips, the casual manner in which she throws around ‘da’ and ‘machan’ undoubtedly did more for Tamil and Kannada than Chennai Express did for mainstream South Indian languages and culture. She begins in a recent Reel by singing along to Megan Thee Stallion’s ‘Body’ and pivots to arguing in Kannada with a bad driver. In both western and Indian pop culture, it hits a sweet spot. How does she tread the line in a space where regional accents and acts can easily slip into offensive parody territory? I try not to generalize, but to remain in my path. This is why most of my videos start with ‘This is often said by my friend/mom’. I make sure that it is about my life so that others can relate to it instead of preaching what the experiences of others maybe,” she explains.” Her trademark way of saying ‘really’ still succeeds in inducing a chuckle.
Niharika looks at it more as a creative outlet instead of calling social media a beast that needs to be fed constantly. I just don’t push myself, because it’s not going to be organic, funny, or relatable. If I don’t feel like it on a specific day, I make sure I give myself a break to recharge,’ she says. There are, of course, inspiring days when more than one sketch is made. As for trolls, she largely disregards them and seeks to distinguish between fact and opinion. “I’m quite aware that I’m not everybody’s cup of tea,” she says. If that was the case, that would be strange, because comedy is so subjective! ”
Niharika makes it a point to check who is slipping into her DMs almost every day, considering the broad following. When people give me reaction videos of their parents watching my material, I absolutely love it. Then there was a girl who sent me screenshots of her best friend’s conversation, where each message was a line from my videos. It made me feel very important, for a short second at least,’ she recalls.
She compares being a producer of content to being an entrepreneur, where “you need to take risks to receive rewards.” She also suggests getting more than one revenue stream, so you have other sources of revenue if one brand restricts ad spending (especially in a vulnerable post-Covid economy). She has also produced supporting posts for Amazon Prime Video, apart from her work with Netflix. I feel that I am monetizing my talents to the best of my capacity. I would certainly use my MBA or my engineering degree to become an entrepreneur in the tech space if I was not a comedian or a content maker, only to be associated with the true spirit of Bengaluru, she concludes.