Bangladesh saw the rise in YouTube celebrities much after it had become the mainstream entertainment source in other parts of the world, but when it did, it saw a whole lot of it. Everyone started making “how-to” videos and lists of “10 things” to do this, to do that – and it was working! A whole generation stopped depending on televisions, car radios, iPods and torrent downloads for some light fun – it was all down to hours of laughter and increased screen time on the famous network.
YouTube has everything, from music to movies and interviews to general knowledge, you name it. Nobody realised Bangladesh was full to the brim with so many talented people who knew how to sing, make people laugh, make music, edit videos and earn simply by uploading their work to the rest of the world. And in no time it had become the new Bangladeshi trend – “what do you do?” “I’m a YouTuber!”
Inevitably, it also became the new go-to thing for brands. They quickly caught on to how good a marketing strategy it could be to use these YouTubers and advertise their products. It was a smooth sail on the rising fame graph for these talented young kids. But it begs the question – so much exposure and so easily, at what cost really?
Salman Muqtadir would probably be able to answer that question very well, having seen all sides of the YouTube star life within just a few years. Some of his earliest videos date back to eight years ago. He began with making funny videos that included his friends and his family – the ones featuring his mother got particularly famous – and now he’s had the experience of being a brand ambassador and the judge on a reality show, and also has a music video to a song he made, out of many other things. He knows what it’s like to have your private life turned into public property and be subject to nasty and scandalous rumors – the other rather unfortunate side of fame.
Salman Muqtadir considers his peak was around the year 2015 to 2017. After 2017 he had a rebirth, he realized that people like him for who they are. So he confessed and made peace with himself and it has been 3 years since the real brownfish.
Salman never wanted to take it to the next level. He saw his friends very closely and realised that there is so much that he can explore in real life. So one day he tried looking for entertaining Youtubers in Bangladesh. “I used to watch a lot of Youtube videos from abroad. And the ones that I found from Bangladesh were so cringy that no one would be able to watch it. I found a few videos in Bangla outside of Bangladesh, but nothing promising from here.”
Well there is a very stupid reason behind it. His teacher back in Sydney used to call him as she once humorously said, “If you are a brown guy then you should call yourself Salmon the brownfish”. That’s how the name came.
Salman doesn’t think being stupid is considered to be sexy among this generation. He doesn’t know why but a lot of people from Bangladesh think the content they make needs to be funny. “Many people even think that I’m a comedian but I’m not.” There are many videos that he made that were not funny, but people would always find the funny ones more entertaining. “In terms of comedy in Bangladesh, the standard is so low. If you search for Bangla comedy videos on Youtube you will find a lot of inappropriate videos. That’s not humor. Humor is sexy. We try to be funny, but most of them are not.”
Salman doesn’t entirely feel like comedians are looked down upon but he feels that people are very sensitive. According to him, education and our surroundings play a major role in this. “We are a nation where we are taught to stay quiet. Everywhere we are taught to not express our feelings. And comedy is an expression. It’s just our taste. We like tacky things. We see content like ‘dhele dei’,’khub tes’ and we feel superior to them and enjoy laughing at them.”
Salman has been following the stand-up comedy circle of Bangladesh for a few months now and he genuinely feels there are few comedians who are really good and also trying to do their best but probably not getting enough exposure. “I am not being negative but the reality is that there is no future of stand-up comedy in Bangladesh in the next 5 or 6 years. The sensitivity and environment have a lot to do with this.”
Initially it was very hard for Salman to have very strong opinions about certain issues. “We live in a society with so many norms and restrictions. I was feeling very depressed and I realized that someone has to speak up.” Since he had the platform to speak up, he decided to use it. “Even though it brought me a lot of criticism and financial losses, I still wanted to bring up these topics and spread awareness. I still had a belief in this that maybe many people feel the same way as me, but they probably don’t have a platform to use. I happen to have one, so I used mine.” When he wrote the book, he received a lot of negativity. “After reading the book many people told me that they hated me before and thought I was unethical, but after reading the book, they found me to be quite logical and became my fans.”
Salman thinks we talk about the mass and everyone wants to impress them because they are large in numbers. “In order to gain the credibility of the audience, people start to follow their belief system to impress them which I find more depressing. They follow them even if it’s wrong. There are so many things we are missing out on.”
Salman isn’t troubled with the negativity anymore as much as he would when he was around 21 and newer to this industry. “I actually gathered a lot of courage and been through so much I know no one could sit with me and have a debate on whether or not I’m doing something wrong. This is where I’m strong. I feel people who are negative are actually people who are bored.”
Salman doesn’t really have a statement on people’s opinion unless they come to him and talk about it face to face. “People mostly do not even have an argument and I don’t say anything. But if they would, I would love to debate with them.”
“People say that celebrities should have thick skin.” Salman did not know that being a celebrity would actually bring him close to hatred. “It’s not written anywhere that you can’t reply to a bully. So when someone attacks you, you must stand-up for yourself, and if you are strong enough then you should stand up for other people too.”
Salman feels that the whole part of the fame game is about the glamour. Even though he thinks that’s how it is in other countries of the world unlike Bangladesh. Salman deems that the showbiz in Bangladesh is not as glamorous. “I get VIP treatment, people give me discounts, I get invited to things, all good. But when I come back home, I’m still sad and depressed. Words do hurt you sometimes. At the end of the day, I’m a human. The glamour is nice, but I want to be a normal human being,” he shares.
Salman does not believe in the norm of a celebrity being picture perfect and saintly. He believes we can do whatever we want as long as we are not harming anybody else.
Salman believes in admitting his mistakes unlike others in our society. “People’s ego trips are so big. There is no harm in accepting our mistakes. Just admit and apologise. People will understand.”
If he wasn’t a celebrity, he assumes his future would rather be dark, with consistent Fs in his graduation and a depressing corporate job. But he is a celebrity after all, and even though he has achieved so much success in so short a time, he would not recommend his path to others. Nobody should take their life’s decisions based on someone else’s decisions of course.
“I GET VIP TREATMENT, PEOPLE GIVE ME DISCOUNTS, I GET INVITED TO THINGS, ALL GOOD. BUT WHEN I COME BACK HOME, I’M STILL SAD AND DEPRESSED. WORDS DO HURT YOU SOMETIMES. AT THE END OF THE DAY, I’M A HUMAN. THE GLAMOUR IS NICE, BUT I WANT TO BE A NORMAL HUMAN BEING”
When asked about people who think they can be just like him by doing the things he did, Salman says, “I did not drop out of college because I was sure I’d be someone famous and successful soon. It worked out for me because even though I know dropping out of college would make me struggle more, I decided to not have regrets and work hard instead. I put in a lot of effort day and night into my vision and that is how I have been able to fulfill my bucket list. Have your own plan and stick to it instead of blindly following someone else’s path to success.”
But there will be more Salman Muqtadirs, or at least people who aspire to join his line of work. Salman’s advice for all of them is to come up with better content instead of just humiliating others – “it’s not funny,” he says.
Salman Muqtadir concludes thoughtfully by suggesting that it’s time we all learn to speak up for the right things – let’s hope this inspires the current generation like his videos always have!