FOCUS: A rise to fame, six seconds at a time

It was a year ago Sunday (Sept. 14) when Kunwar Dodd posted his first Vine clip. That clip has 11 likes and 92 loops. Today, Dodd has an audience of more than a quarter-million people.

The Kwantlen Polytechnic University nursing student has become famous within the South Asian community thanks to the video sketches he writes and performs.

Dodd, who was named Mr. India Globe 2014, is a regular contributor to Punjabi Vines, a hashtag-turned-website collection of Vine videos that poke fun at the stereotypes of Punjabi people and their tendencies.

He said he was first introduced to the mobile application when he watched a few of the videos on Facebook.

"I saw the Punjabi Vines page, and I said, ‘Let’s take a stab at it.’ Then I made one Vine. It was featured. Then I made a few other ones," Dodd said. "People started to really like the stuff. From there on, I just continuously made them."

Vine is a social-media app that allows users to produce, edit and share sixsecond videos. Producers put their videos into categories, ranging from comedy to news, for the world to see.

However, it is the comedians who have been the most successful with Vine, which is one of the reasons Dodd created an account.

"I wanted people to laugh. I wanted people to enjoy watching me in whatever the scenario is," said Dodd.

His audience appeared to be enjoying Dodd’s work after Punjabi Vines featured one of his first videos.

"Seeing my first Vine being featured actually made me feel really good," he said. "Seeing all those likes, 2,000 likes, then 3,000 likes (on his video) motivated me to do more."

Just like Dodd, Punjabi Vines has had exponential success online over the past year. The group has more than 14,000 followers on Vine, more than 10,000 followers on Instagram, 1,200 on Twitter and more than 250,000 likes on their Facebook page.

Dodd, who grew up in Adampur, Punjab, has had no previous acting experience or lessons. However, being a Bollywood actor is a dream he has had for a while.

"As a child, I wanted to be an actor. Growing up in India, just watching the movies with Shah Rukh Khan, Akshay (Kumar), all of them, they are really good actors.

"For me, I see myself doing that. I believe that I can do that," said Dodd. "Vine was a great opportunity for me to do that."

Punjabi Vines

The Dodd family moved to Canada in 2004, which has been a challenge for the Viner, but it has also given him a unique point of view and is part of the reason for his success.

"It’s a different land, different country, different norms, different communication styles. (Because) I came here young, I was able to pick up the norms and the accent and all that faster in comparison to when I’ve seen people come here at an older age," Dodd said.

The Punjabi Vines page has such a broad audience base that it has raised its contributors to minor celebrity status.

"Even at Kwantlen (Polytechnic University), I was walking down the hallway and a person asked me, ‘Hey, aren’t you that guy who makes Vines?’ "I went to my friend’s brother’s engagement party, and I come home and see the Vine app messages and there’s messages that say, ‘Hey, I think I saw you at a party yesterday.’

"People recognize me. It’s not to a bigger level, but within the community," Dodd said.

He also mentioned that many of his fans send him Facebook messages that tell him he is really funny and that motivate him to continue making videos and pursuing his dream.

Javi Sidhu is a Viner with whom Dodd likes to collaborate. He said it is amazing how far their videos reach.

"I was in the mall in Chandigarh, (Punjab) and one guy came to me and said, ‘I know you. You make Vines.’ I didn’t know that people in India watched (them) too," Sidhu said.

The Vine page has 35 regular contributors from countries like Australia, England and the U.S., including Toronto-based YouTube star Jus Reign.

Sidhu, who moved to Surrey three years ago, said a few of the Viners have a WhatsApp and Facebook messaging group where they can collaborate and work on projects together.

When Dodd went to Los Angeles for the Mr. India Globe pageant, Sidhu was a part of the team that went with him. This gave Dodd and Sidhu a chance to team up with some of the Punjabi Viners in California to make some of their most successful Vines.

Sidhu was one of the people who sent Dodd a Facebook message saying he was a fan. At that point, Sidhu created a Vine account, but hadn’t uploaded a video clip.

The duo, now semi-famous for their episodes in which Dodd puts on a wig and the two play a couple, have worked together on 22 different Vines.

Dodd believes that one of the reasons his videos have become so popular is because the subject matter is relatable.

Punjabi Vines

If he makes a Vine based off of something that happens in his home, he said that there are more than a thousand people who can relate to it and have experienced something similar.

He said that this connection creates a bond between himself and his audience and it "brings people together."

Katie Warfield, a communications instructor at KPU, said Vine is a tool mostly used by comedians who can capture an audience in a short amount of time.

"For Vine, the people who are super popular for the most part are comedians," she said. "They are catering to youth audience. The users of Vine are young."

Warfield went on to say a majority of Vine celebrities are between the ages of 15 and 23.

Twitter acquired Vine five months after it launched in June of 2012, which Warfield says is another key to its explosion in the social-media landscape. "If YouTube is longer versions of video, and Instagram is social media based on photos, it’s like Vine is that midpoint that shortened the YouTube videos, but extended the Instagram photos," said Warfield.

Warfield, who teaches visual media, said the success of Vine and other social media apps can be correlated with how often we’re plugged in.

Rather than checking all of their messages at their lunch hour, people are constantly checking their phone and it breaks up their day, giving them less time to consume media.

"’I’m on the bus for two minutes, what can I do?’ Watch a Vine, read a couple tweets, these kinds of things," she said. "It’s the TV station you go to because you know the programing is going to be good."

Warfield said it is interesting how comedians have taken to Vine, just as they did with YouTube when the video-sharing site hit web browsers in 2005.

"YouTube started off as, ‘These are videos of my everyday life,’ to these are comedy sketches. The super early viral videos on YouTube were comedy-based.

"You had these comedians who basically used YouTube as their platform to become super popular. Now YouTube is basically just sort of like a secondary television," added Warfield. "(Vine) started as just being people messing around with it, but very quickly, it was the comedians who started using it again as a platform for celebrity."

These social-media celebrities use these tools to land record and TV deals, just like Justin Bieber did with YouTube and Andrew Bachelor, better known as King Bach, did with Vine.

Rather than having to "work their way up" to celebrity status, social media has created a "flip" to becoming a celebrity where it seems to happen overnight.

kyle.benning@gmail.com

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