Already watched and re-watched all of Lilly Singh’s and Dayan Shan’s videos? Looking for an additional fix? Well, ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you your newest YouTube obsession – Mona Choudhury, whom Thamarai had the pleasure to sit down with for a quick chat.
First of all, thanks very much for taking the time and also a massive congratulations on your recent success with your YouTube videos.
By way of introduction – for those who might not yet have heard of you – you are a German-based comedian and entertainer, who routinely and charmingly mimics your run-of-the-mill neighbourhood uncle and aunty and the “sh** they say”. And people seem to absolutely love it! It appears you have hit a note with your parody on the meesai mama and the superstitious amma.
But before all that happened – before the jokes, before the videos, before your “Ma Kinda Life” YouTube channel, your life looked completely different.
Yeah. It did. Before I moved to Germany and started making Youtube videos, my life was completely different.
Actually, I am a Chennai girl. I’ve lived my whole life in Chennai. While growing up, I was this hyper, energetic kid. I studied in Good Shepherd Mat. Hr. Sec School, went on to do my engineering in IT and then got transferred to Bangalore for training and then Hyderabad for work.
I worked for IT tycoons like Cognizant and Accenture.
During this phase, I realised I was working with no will. I would walk into office every day wondering when I’d be free to leave. I actually felt a bit like a prisoner.
The only thing that excited me at work was going with friends to the cafeteria, taking those tea breaks and that was it. Sitting in front of my desk, working on random IT stuff was just not my thing. It didn’t excite me, it didn’t make me feel alive. It was plain, monotonous and boring.
On one hand I was grateful I had a job, given the unemployment rate in India. But on the other hand, I was forcing myself to do something I had no drive for.
Moreover, I felt I was doing this for my parents to be proud of me. So they can say their daughter is part of a respected organization. The whole phase – right from engineering, the 9-5 shifts and everything around it… it all just suffocated me. Not to sound dramatic, but you know the dementors from Harry Potter sucking the soul out of people – that’s how I felt.
And then, during this “What am I even doing with my life?” phase, I met my husband. At work. We were working together on the same project. And while none of it was planned, we slowly became friends and, well, from there on, it sounds cheesy, but it was hard not to fall in love with his charming ways.
During our relationship, my husband always told me I wasn’t right for the industry and that he sees creativity and talent in me. I was like “Yes…but what do I do with it?”. I hadn’t the slightest clue.
One thing I DID realise was that I couldn’t continue working for someone else. I had to do my own thing. So I decide to take a break from work to figure out what it was that I wanted to do and who I could be. I made a list of random things. Things I wanted to do. Things I wanted to achieve.
Writing a book was part of that list. So I wrote one. About my love story. Though I am yet to find a suitable publisher.
Also on that list was also a desire to help people, do charity, make people smile….. And I guess that’s where the idea for my videos came about. That’s when things started to take shape.
So your YouTube videos came from a need, a desire, if you will, to make others smile?
As something of a YouTube addict myself, I always turned to online videos whenever I needed to be cheered up, felt homesick, or just felt like a laugh. And it would always make my day.
And now, when people watch my own videos – I can see that exact reaction, that exact sentiment. They would write me messages and comments saying how they found my videos funny and those videos made their day.
There is a very deep satisfaction in hearing that kind of response and feedback. I felt like I was giving back what I had been given.
Unfortunately, there still seems to be a theory floating around that women are inherently not as funny as men. God knows why. But luckily we now have more and more comedians and entertainers entering the limelight and the new media scene like Mindy Kaling, Lilly Singh, Aditi Mittal, and Neeti Palta who prove theories like that wrong.
But as a Tamil and female comedian and entertainer, do you feel any added pressure to live up to certain expectations or defy certain (false) assumptions?
I don’t feel any pressure. I enjoy doing what I do. Overall, I think that there is a tendency in mainstream media where women are subjected primarily to ideas such as glamour and beauty. So for me, I am keen on showing that women can also be funny and creative! We truly have so much more to offer than just a pretty face!
I was recently reading up on the concept of role models – the pros and cons that come with it. And I still remember one quote by Maya Angelou. “How important it is for us to recognise and celebrate our heroes and she-roes!”
Now, talking about fellow comedians and entertainers – do you have any? Role models, heroes, she-roes?
Yes of course, we all take inspiration from somebody. And for me, that somebody is, without a doubt, Ellen DeGeneres. She’s my favourite . She’s someone who I look up to as a role model in terms of comedy, drive and overcoming obstacles. She had it tough during her time and despite all those obstacles, she still achieved great success.
I want to be someone who can take any topic and make it naturally funny. I want to make people laugh. People take life too seriously at times and I just want to lighten the mood.
And so far, what I’ve been doing has gotten me good feedback. People message me thanking me for making their day. They tell me how they can relate to my videos and my characters. I feel extremely blessed to be in a position like this!!
Leaving your stable job and your steady income to pursue a career as a YouTuber – where did you get the courage and the initial idea to do that?
No one I know has entered YouTube thinking they would make it big. I guess it was all trial and error for them.
And the same applied to me as well. It was something I wanted to figure out for myself. Whether or not I could get the break I had envisioned in my mind.
To be honest, I was very aware the whole way through that I was taking a risk. Leaving what I was doing and turning towards a very unstable career. But at least, and finally, I was doing something I really enjoyed doing.
And all of this is not least due to the support I’d received from my husband. Without him hosting this platform of comfort for me, I honestly doubt whether I’d have even tried it.
It’s no secret that the cyber world can be a nasty place. Especially for women. And while I hope and wish that you have never had to deal with any negative comments, I am aware that that is sadly very unlikely. So how do you deal with negativity and online haters?
Hate is inevitable. Thankfully, the overwhelming response to my work has largely been very supportive and encouraging. But then there also those who criticise me, and to be honest, I’m ok with that. People are allowed to have their opinions and I respect that. It’s easier to hate than to love. But to me, Ma Kinda Life is a channel that will focus only on the good!
As someone who has risked everything to now do what she loves, as someone who has found her voice and identity in the YouTube scene, do you have any advice for budding YouTubers or digital content creators?
I’ve learned that success starts with doing something you love. I could have worked for 40 years in the IT field but I don’t think I would have ever been interviewed for it. But here I am, doing what I’m good at and it’s paying me back.
So I guess my advice to anyone who is looking to start their own YouTube channel is this: be consistently creative. There is so much content online that it’s hard to stand out. So try your best to make yourself noticed. Be different. And don’t blend in.
Last question. So far we have talked about your past and also your present. But what does the future hold for you? What can we look forward to?
Call me crazy, but I follow my gut. Just like how YouTube spontaneously clicked with me – my ideas and my creativity work according to those same spontaneous and unpredictable ways; unpredictable even to me.
So as of now, my focus will be on building my channel with a larger audience and to keep them entertained in the best way I can. I am also looking into getting my book published as soon as possible.
Everything else, we’ll let tomorrow decide.
Click here to visit MaKindaLife