Indian mythology has been retold over generations but Epified, a first-of-its-kind video channel on YouTube, is adding a new twist to it. It has been making the retelling simple yet interesting for modern audience by creating small videos on mythology using whiteboard animation. The scriptwriter of these videos is 33-year-old Vijayendra Mohanty, who feels mythology is one of India’s greatest cultural exports. In its Facebook page, Epified has over a lakh members. On YouTube, it has 40,000 subscribers.
An initiative of Mumbai-based digital video content production house Culture Machine, Epified was started in 2015 to take mythology to the ‘Internet Generation’ through YouTube.
“Epics and their characters never really go out of fashion, though the method of dissemination for these stories changes with time, oral recitation, street theatre, books, comics, TV shows and now digital video. The present generation of Indians is no exception to the trend,” says Mohanty, who is the Story Head at Culture Machine. Epified’s most ardent followers are teenagers and grandparents.
From the downfall of the Nanda dynasty, the Mahabharata, Ramayana, Nabakalebara (rebirth) ritual of Lord Jagannath to the story of the divine craftsman Viswakarma, the author is bringing epic literature to life through Epified. The latest videos to be uploaded are ‘Shiva’s Secret’ and ‘Birth of Abhimanyu’. Epified is also creating episodes from history; revolutions, assassinations, and incidents from India’s freedom struggle, and a web series on the Buddha, his life and teachings.
Apart from mythological content, the venture also accommodates cultural and historical ideas. Recently, Mohanty worked on a video that focuses on how Indian villages function and the idea of local governance to mark the Panchayati Raj Divas on March 5. Prior to that, he worked on a brief video story on Siachen: World’s Highest Battleground. “At Epified, we aim to simplify cultural, historical and mythological concepts and try to present them in an accessible way. Whiteboard animation serves this purpose well,” he says.
Mohanty believes that mythology shares space with his love for stories and storytelling. He has co-authored a graphic novel Ravanayan, a 10-part series retelling of the Ramayana from Ravana’s perspective. “My association with mythology grew over a long period because of writings of authors like Neil Gaiman, Ashok Banker and Devdutt Pattanaik,” he says. Epified has adapted some of mythology writer Pattanaik’s works into videos.
Mohanty leads a team of writers and artists, who create and execute ideas. “There is a dedicated marketing team that spreads the word, a data analytics team that advises us on trending topics and the best times to publish videos. There is also the audience team that ensures the videos perform to the best of their ability and are optimised for online video platforms such as Youtube, Facebook and Vessel,” he says.
Stories are selected on two guidelines: popularity and importance. “We also see if our topic is something people should know about because it will make a difference to them. A lot of contemporary happenings can be contextualised with history and mythology. We take things in that direction with our choice of topics,” explains Mohanty.