Listening to the sexism and misogyny in a cookery show on a television channel made Gayathri Babu fume in silence. A month ago, she decided to break her silence and speak up through a YouTube channel ‘Get Roast with Gaya3’, which has won over 85,000 subscribers in a month’s time.
“I am appalled by the content one often watches on the small screen and how there is hardly any discussion about the matter that is watched by families in many homes. But I am also aware of how women expressing their opinion or speaking up about misogyny and patriarchy are often trolled in a sickening manner by armies of trolls. I wondered if I would be able to handle the negativity and the backlash,” says Gayathri in a zoom call.
Based in Dubai, the former radio jockey with an impressive following found herself without a job when the radio station she was working with closed down following the pandemic. “I was at a loose end and that is when I decided to take the risk and begin a YouTube channel, The Gayathry Official, which touched a million subscribers recently. It is an educational channel. The ‘roast’ channel was begun just a month ago. That is where I would discuss those issues and topics that often create outrage but would still be a staple on our small screens and a part of our lives,” says Gayathri.
Her first episode on May 26 was on the cookery show anchored by a former film star. Celebrities would be invited to the show and a cookery demo would be blended in with an interview of the guest when the hostess would hold forth on the importance of being a good cook to be a good homemaker, on why make-up and glamour are musts for any celeb and why a wife would have to “learn to cook to suit her husband’s tastes” and so on and so forth.
Gayathri’s “roast” of the show in fluent English and Malayalam was viewed by 7,67,747 people, many of whom had problems about the anachronistic attitude of the actor-turned-cookery show hostess. Gayathri says she herself was astonished by the viewership and the number of positive comments about her show. That came as a morale booster and she decided to go ahead with her channel.
Another one she did was on the content of Malayalam serials, almost of which have no connection with reality. With convoluted plots, strange characters and a mix of outlandish, outdated and comical storylines, most serials are a comedienne’s goldmine. “Since the lockdown had stopped shooting of all serials, I had hoped that the time for introspection and the break would have given the writers time to update their content and take a look at what was being churned out by production houses. But I was disappointed. There is no difference in the storylines, pre- and post-lockdown. What was being passed off as themes 10 years ago continue to be made with new faces and characters,” she says.
Gayathri’s take on the serials pointed out the staples in Malayalam serials: whether with faces caked with greasepaint and weighed down with jewellery or wearing those sad cottons, the women in several of them are either characters in tragedy porns or Machiavellian household dons. The men are still playing roles that were popular in Malayalam cinema decades ago.
Her latest one is on the content that is passed off as comedies on television. “In addition to misogyny, there is so much of ugly jokes on complexion, physical attributes, homophobia, disability…it is a long list. What makes it worse is to see people who should know better rolling on the floor with laughter at some of the remarks that are so not right. There is a sad disconnect that they have with all the current happenings in the world,” she says.
Gayathri has not limited her shows to television programmes. She has focused on irritating questions that celebrities get asked about, the matrimony ads on different media, the craze for ‘fairness’ among Indians, pointless discussions on prime-time television etc.
She agrees with a smile that the lockdown could have had more people logged in and thus adding to the viewership. But having made a mark with her channel, Gayathri is looking ahead. “I would like to create content for OTT platforms and perhaps think of a web series and a show,” she says. Till then the “roast” will be on.