India in the grip of video selfie craze

Employees of Indian technology company testing their video selfie app.
Employees of Indian technology company testing their video selfie app. PHOTO: AFP

Mumbai - Move over selfie, India is embracing the "velfie" with Bollywood stars, sports heroes and even politicians taking and posting videos of themselves online using a range of new mobile apps.

From lip-synching movie scenes and quizzing politicians to interviewing job candidates, Indian tech firms are betting on the latest craze to grip social media - the video selfie. It was launched in April.

"2014 was about selfies... 2015 is for #velfies!" screams the blurb for Velfie, a smartphone app similar to Dubsmash where users mime songs or quotes to pre-recorded audio before posting the clips online.

German-developed Dubsmash has become a global phenomenon since its launch in November and has been downloaded more than 50 million times across 192 countries, according to its website.

The craze is sweeping the Indian film industry, with stars entertain- ing fans with dubbed videos uploaded to Facebook and Instagram.

Actors Salman Khan and Ranveer Singh, and actresses Sonakshi Sinha and Richa Chadda are some of the Bollywood stars to have embraced it, lip-synching everything from Hindi film dialogue to lyrics from Western songs.

A clip of Khan and Sinha miming lines from a 1971 Indian movie has been liked more than 71,000 times on Instagram, while hundreds approved of Chadda's turn from controversial American hip-hop song Baby Got Back.

Velfie app co-founder Rammohan Sundaram said videos were a more entertaining way for Bollywood stars to engage with audiences.

"A selfie is only one picture but a velfie can speak of emotions that you can't render in a single photo," he said. "Selfies will remain because pictures will always be there, but we're creating a whole new space that's more exciting, more engaging and more social in nature."

Actor Akshay Kumar used the Velfie app recently to promote his film Gabbar Is Back by asking fans to dub their favourite line from it to win a chance to meet him.

Indian cricketer Yuvraj Singh is also a fan - his lip-synching of one of Bollywood legend Amitabh Bachchan's most well-known movie lines has been liked 12,000 times on Facebook.

The app - which is free and limits videos to 10 seconds in length - has been downloaded 200,000 times and is operating in about 140 countries, said MrSundaram.

Its pause-and-play feature and the fact many videos are accompanied by subtitles, differentiates it from Dubsmash, he said.

He said Velfie plans to expand to become a "video social network", essentially a Twitter-like timeline consisting solely of video selfies. Users can live-stream and he said he hoped that brands will use it to advertise, generating revenue.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 07, 2015, with the headline 'India in the grip of video selfie craze'. Print Edition | Subscribe