Your awareness of the current Indian pop culture scene could come under scrutiny if you haven’t heard of Jordindian. Started by a Jordinian and Indian (hence, Jordindian — get it?), Vineeth Kumar and Naser Al Azzeh, the YouTube channel with over 1.6 million subscribers is among the country’s most popular in comedy.
When asked about Jordindian’s origin, Vineeth deadpans, “It all started with my father meeting my mother, Naser’s father meeting his mother. Then we were born…”
But at least in Naser’s case, his parents’ meeting seems momentous. His father travelled over 4,600 kilometres, crossing the Arabian Sea from Jordan to study engineering at MS Ramaiah Institute of Technology in Bengaluru, where he met Naser’s mother.
“Dad’s side of the family is Jordanian. Mom is from India. Basically, we moved here from Kuwait during the [Gulf] war in the 1990s when things got a little heavy,” says Naser. He can speak with an Arabic accent, he understands “the gelf [gulf]” culture, which is evident in Jordindian’s most watched video (over 10 million times), ‘Smoke shisha play FIFA’, where he and Vineeth rap about Middle-Eastern cliches — shisha, luxury cars, hummus, halal and more. But Naser, who spent most of his life in India, says, “We both grew up around Lingarajapuram and Cox Town. So, we have this proper Bangalore boy mentality.”
Screengrab from ‘Ghosts from our childhood’
Most of Jordindian’s videos are a reflection of Vineeth and Naser’s observations of the people and situations around them. “It’s just monkey see, monkey do,” says Vineeth, “We have a lot of Tamil and Malayali friends. And, the way we speak in our videos is how they speak. Also, we make fun of our families. Every stereotype you see in our videos is present in our families.” Vineeth could be referring to the ‘Ghosts from our childhood’ video, in which, a mother upon seeing a ghost in her son’s room, after a minor initial shock, strikes up a conversation with it. “How do you get your clothes so white? This fellow, I don’t know where he goes, he just rolls in the mud and it’s so dirty,” she tells the spirit as the son stares at them in horror and confusion.
Vineeth and Naser were college buddies, who were into films and hip-hop culture — the former was a beatboxer, known as Beep [it was his nickname in school for not using swear words — he’d say “what the beep?”] and the latter a breakdancer known as Nas. Both were busy with their respective work after college.
The crassness Vineeth and Naser observed in many Indian comedy channels is what led them to start one of their own. “There was unnecessary swearing and profanity aimed at people and abuses at women especially,” says Vineeth. “Yeah and there were videos that try to force laughter with sound effects,” adds Naser, “Because he and I studied films, we thought we would take a filmmaking approach to this.”
Jordindian’s videos are free of obscenity; they are self-regulated. “It’s simple. If we can watch it, our parents can watch it and if we would let our young nieces and nephews watch it, then we publish the video,” says Vineeth.
They showed their first video to some friends and family members. Once they found it funny, they went ahead with the Jordindian plan. “There are a lot of people who will tell us that we are funny even if we are not. But these guys are on our wavelength and call a spade a spade. Naser’s mom is one of the first ones we showed. She is brutally honest and that’s what we need.”
Naser and Vineeth name Dave Chappelle, Richard Pryor, and the duo of Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele as their influences. “If you see, most of these African- American comedians base their comedy on what they see in real life. That’s how we have been as well,” says Naser.
Apart from Jordindian, Naser and Vineeth do live shows and other events. Social media, they say, is now a serious source of revenue but can’t always be relied on. “Things like TV and radio and stuff are slowly taking a backseat. Whereas stuff like Instagram, YouTube and Tik Tok are in the forefront. So, there is definitely a career for a lot of people in this, but probably not long-term. So, it’s better to have some sort of a backup,” says Naser.
Vineeth adds, “We are aware that we have a shelf life. But we don’t get scared of it. Because we take our ideas from our experiences, we always keep getting them. And, whether we like it or not, our videos are relatable to everyone.”
The numbers lend credence to Vineeth’s relatability claim. Their latest video, ‘Annoying friends we all have’, posted two months ago has garnered close to 2.5 million views.
But when Naser floated the idea of Jordindian a few years ago, Vineeth thought it wouldn’t work.
“Clearly, I was wrong,” Vineeth smiles.