Go surfing with Shahrukh Khan

Updated: Sep 30 2007, 06:34am hrs
Kamla Bhatt is a researcher and a technology trend watcher. She is also the host of a popular Internet radio show: http://kamlabhattshow.com

Recently I did a Google search on Farah Khans yet to be released film Om Shanti Om, and surprise, surprise, there were a Wikipedia and YouTube link. I clicked on both the links and got a quick backgrounder about the film and watched the Dard-e-Disco clip on YouTube. Within a span of 15 minutes I was able to get a pretty good idea about Farah Khans new film. Wikipedia and YouTube links are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Bollywood in the online world of social media, web 2.0, virtual reality, blogs, vblogs, etc.

Earlier this year when Anupama Chopra released her new biography on Shahrukh Khan, she interacted with a bunch of international bloggers and managed to create a big buzz in the blogging world. Anupama was game and readily agreed to do a short video clip for my YouTube site. She now has a MySpace page that is studded with video clips, links and all the bells and whistles that MySpace provides on her new book.

Over in Germany, a die-hard Shahrukh fan emailed me recently to say that she has started a MySpace page on Shahrukh Khan and if she could use my YouTube clip of Anupama Chopra. I was pleasantly surprised by the request and realised that in this world 2.0 of interactive and collaborative efforts, physical boundaries are fast becoming non-issues and people are mining for Bollywood-related information from all over the world. I am no longer stunned when I get emails from Bollywood fans in different parts of Europe asking for some clarification or information about the Hindi film industry. Eros Entertainment, the international distributor of Indian films, has realised the potential of the new online medium also dubbed as the new media. A few months ago, Eros launched a Bollywood channel on YouTube that has turned out to be a huge hit.

Blogs, YouTube and MySpace content are not the only places buzzing with Bollywood. There are social media and the virtual reality world that have jumped on to the Bollywood bandwagon. Bollywood is a great brand name and everyone associates with it, says Siddharth Banerjee, founder and CEO of Indusgeeks, a Mumbai-based startup.If we had used India we would not have created the buzz. Bollywood is Indias soft culture, he adds. Indusgeeks is the creator of possibly the first Bollywood-theme application for Second Life, the popular virtual reality game that has 10 million users around the world. Bollywood Island premiered on Second Life two months ago, and lets the users of Second Life experience India in a 3D virtual world.

Chakpak, a slang Hindi term meaning doing something cool, is the name of a Bangalore-based startup that is building a social media network around Bollywood and Indian cinema. We found a lot of sites on Hollywood, but found that Bollywood was severely underserved, says Gaurav Singh Kushwaha, co-founder of Chakpak. Gaurav and his colleague founded Chakpak last year when they were still working at Amazon in Bangalore. Earlier this year Gaurav quit his job and came onboard to rework and revamp their site and re-launched Chakpak a few months ago.

While Indusgeeks and Chakpak appear to have clearly spotted a trend in the online world for a richer and collaborative effort around Indian cinema and culture, what about revenue streams Both Siddharth and Gaurav point out that they have a pretty strong user base. Chakpak gets about 3,00,000 unique visitors a month, while Bollywood Island is ramping up and gets about 2,000 users a day. The folks at Chakpak are experimenting with different models to generate revenue and are confident that they will be able to generate a strong revenue stream. Indusgeeks plans to generate revenue through their Bollywood premier and by selling ethnic clothes online at Second Life.

Clearly, the tech geeks have recognised that Bollywood is a strong brand name that can be leveraged in this vastly networked world. The question is: are the good folks in Bollywood and other regional cinema listening in If they are, do they have any plans in the social media and virtual reality space I am curious to know.