Monday, 27 March, 2023
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‘We’re devastated, my wives cried’ — TikTok stars in Maharashtra village crushed by app ban

TikTok, one of 59 Chinese apps banned by Modi govt, had emerged as one of India’s most popular social media portals, even finding appeal in small towns and villages.

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New Delhi: Dinesh Pawar, a resident of the tribal village of Jamde in Maharashtra’s Dhule district, felt crushed Monday as the Modi government banned TikTok, the Chinese video app, in India.

Pawar and his two wives had gained a following of 30 lakh on TikTok with their dance performances on 1990s Bollywood songs. They claim to have earned no money from the social media platform, but it helped them get a taste of stardom. 

“We were devastated but we realised that it’s not only us. Both my wives saw the news and cried like anything. This ban hurts millions of people like us,” he said. “We have decided to move on to YouTube.”

Prakash Chavan, a partially blind Jamde resident who had also gained a solid following on TikTok, said the ban had spelt despair for not just him but at least 11 other couples in the village who had started posting videos on the app.  

“They have locked themselves inside their homes and have not come out for the shoot today,” he told ThePrint. “I myself cried. But I also saw on TV that TikTok was earning crores from India. We support the Indian government on this, but they should come up with apps like TikTok,” he said.

Also Read: TikTokers dubbed ‘Shudras of internet’: Indians didn’t spare even social media from casteism

‘A simple medium’

TikTok, where interactions are based on short videos that range from comedy to Bollywood jigs and lip-synced dialogues, had emerged as one of India’s most popular social media apps.

It had an estimated base of 12 crore active monthly users, with the app also striking a chord with small-town India and even within villages.

Viral videos from the platform over recent years have shown village residents dancing with abandon in farms, or celebrity doppelgangers mouthing some of their most famous dialogues. 

It became a medium that animated sections across society, bringing residents of remote villages on the same platform as major celebrities and earning them the kind of popularity that seemed out of reach earlier.

In Jamde, where the local school only offers lessons until Class 5, TikTok was an app that many found easier to use than its social media peers. They also devised their own lingo for the app’s various features. For example, they know a video is viral when it has the “suffix k” placed ahead of the video, which is their understanding of the number of views (230k, 430k).

“TikTok was easy and a home for marginalised sections like us. We felt like home on TikTok. Other apps like Instagram are complicated. Nobody cheers us on other apps like the users on TikTok appreciated us. We can’t imagine big people writing about us if it was not for TikTok,” said Chavan. 

Also Read: TikTok caught spying on iPhone users in India and around the world

A mini Bollywood

Located 350 km from “City of Dreams” Mumbai, Jamde boasts of numerous windmills, open farms and hillocks that form an attractive backdrop to videos. 

The residents of Jamde belong to a tribe called Pardhi, which faced extreme ostracism under the British rule that forced them into a life of displacement and discrimination.

The hut in which Dinesh Pawar lives with his family in Jamde village, Maharashtra | By special arrangement
The hut in which Dinesh Pawar lives with his family in Jamde village, Maharashtra | By special arrangement

Village sarpanch Gopi Sopan Bhosle said Jamde was “an extremely backward village”. 

“Only 4-5 boys and a single girl from this village have been able to study up to graduation level. Prakash is one of these graduates. The rest of us are either illiterate or have studied until the primary level,” he added. “There is a government school in the village, but it only offers lessons until Class 5. For further studies, one has to go to a school built approximately 20 km away.”

Pawar and Chavan, who is also known as “Shaka”, told ThePrint that they learnt the tricks of the trade from YouTube. 

Prakash Chavan dances with his wife for a video | By special arrangement
Prakash Chavan dances with his wife for a video | By special arrangement

“Our village has always been greatly influenced by Bollywood blockbusters. That’s why my grandmother named me after the character ‘Shaka’ from Ajay Devgn’s film Diljale. Even today, our village has people named Rishi Kapoor, Mithun, Sunny Deol and Shashi Kapoor,” Chavan told ThePrint. 

Also Read: This ‘swadeshi’ TikTok by IIT engineer has got 50 lakh downloads within month of launch

‘Will move on to YouTube’

Users like Chavan and Pawar, who make videos alongside their traditional occupation of farming and manual labour, went out of the way in their desire to start using TikTok.

Chavan, who uploads two-three videos daily on TikTok and other video apps like VMate, Vigo, Likee, and Kwai, purchased a phone for Rs 14,000 after selling his mother’s gold earrings. A relatively new TikTok content creator, he currently has over 2 lakh followers. 

He took the leap after Pawar, 32, found his stardom growing on TikTok. Pawar, who works at a saloon in the village, had sold some of his goats to purchase an Android phone worth Rs 17,000 before he could begin shooting TikTok videos. 

Initially, he used to make comedy videos but they did not get much traction. Then he and his two wives started uploading dance videos based on hit Bollywood songs of the 1990s. In no time, around 30 lakh users started to follow Pawar on TikTok. Now, his videos have started to spread from TikTok to other social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Chavan, who has shot more than 700 videos to date, earned a sum of Rs 35,000 from VMate, a Hong Kong-based video app, in approximately two months but claimed he had not earned money from any of the other four apps where he posts content. 

However, he added, several strangers he has met on various apps have helped him with his three-year-old daughter’s education and his wife’s medicines. Pawar, meanwhile, claims to have earned close to Rs 1 lakh from the VMate app, also over a two-month period. 

While they have dabbled in other apps, TikTok, with its vast user base, offered them the kind of audience that other apps didn’t. The ban on TikTok has shocked him, but Pawar isn’t ready to give up. “We will now move on to YouTube,” he said.

Also Read: TikTok, WeChat were banned by armed forces much before Modi govt blocked them


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  1. my sympathy for everyone but dinesh pavar. why the hell does he have two wives? and why the hell is he not in jail?

  2. I cried too after reading this article.
    The print comes up with hilarious articles, keep them coming 🙂

  3. Here come a bunch of people of privileged people chilling on their couch making a mockery of people in tiktok. Few days back they were crying of mental health when SSR committed suicide and BLM. This pseudo and selective patriotism is really annoying.

  4. Indian IT professionals should make an APP ten times better than tiktok with more features. They can earn through adv. to pay for the APP. We Indians have the potential, it is only the communal divide by the political parties and media that put our people down. India belongs to all Indians Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Jains, Buddhists and many other religions. We are one as people, there is no majority, no minority but just Indians. We dont need CAA, NRC or NRP.

  5. There is alternative to this Chinese app “Mitron” can be used by them. Please do not promote Chinese apps.

  6. One the wire and Print are mourning the news of tiktok ban. I wonder why? Is it because they are so busy blindly hating modi and BJP that now they can stoop to this level of foolishness?
    Tiktok promoted sexism, vulgar videos, hate, rape culture and it was passing on all the data to Chinese govt. If that’s not enough reason to ban it, I wonder what is? A bunch of unemployed and misguided youth are weeping over their so called stardom, I just can’t bring myself to feel sorry for them.

  7. i feel sympathy for talented uploders
    but not for a person who dances on Bollywood songs with 2 wives
    lypsync videos and skinny or fat peole dancing and get millions of followers

  8. Oh, so TikTok is more important than personal data bring mined by the Chinese?, what’s the point in holding anti china protests, If you’re going to use their products?, It’s amusing to see how people are so sensitive to some stupid app, I have heard reports of a man cheating on his wife with a girl on the TikTok app.

  9. Why the print state the current government as modi government not as Indian government in every single article of yours. Reading your article feel like India has two government one is modi/BJP government and one is indian government. And according to you the real indian government sits in opposition.

  10. It is tragedy that India inspite of having so many IT professionals are unable to make such App.

  11. They can use share chat..and its really silly…how can people cry for tiktok..they just love to post stupid videos..
    Japan has stopped buying or using any products from US after the Nuclear Attack..that shows the patriotism..
    And we indians are crying for TIKTOK..shame..

  12. It is really disappointing that we are snatching away the opportunities from stars like Prakash chavan. Govt should have banned it after providing alternate platforms, not many will realise the pain of these stars, the way they struggled to learn technology and spent money by selling their valuables. It’s really emotional story, I was really happy watching them in the interview with Jyoti Yadav ma’am. I hope they continue learning new apps like Instagram, YouTube and try to get what they really deserve in this inequality world.

  13. They should opt for other versions, preferably Indian versions, if not available now then wait.
    Other wise be ready for a GPL.

  14. I might be wrong to say so but someone who sells his mother’s earrings to buy a phone for tiktok and earns no money out of it is completely insane. Theprint should report other news than this kind of manufactured hypocrisy.

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