The Malayalam film Vikruthi and a lesson on personal branding

What would a movie about the impact of social media posts, written and directed Sai Par?njpye look like? Sai is 82 and I don’t think she’s directing anymore.

But do take a look at the recent Malayalam film Vikruthi (or Vikrithy, meaning ‘mischief’, in Malayalam) on Netflix.

The film has an innate, simplistic charm. The people in it are extremely real and mean well. Even the Police Inspector means well, as demonstrated in his hilarious introductory scene. There are no bad people in the film at all.

The villain is actually social media. Or, an addiction to social media/social network attention.

The film is based on a real-life incident. You may have heard about the incident (incidents, since it has happened multiple times, and keeps repeating!) about a man in a Metro being misunderstood to be a drunkard. The film beautifully builds on the after-effects of being mistaken for a drunkard and how it affects a person’s life.

Thankfully, the film turns the attention on the other side too – on how the otherwise good-natured and harmless person who took the photo and shared it first feels as things turn serious.

It helps enormously that it has phenomenally good actors. It’s also mighty interesting that Suraj Venjaramoodu played Soubin Shahir’s cranky father recently, in Android Kunjappan Version 5.25.

A very human film, about frailties caused by our obsession with the kind of attention we get on social media/networks.

There is another way to think about the incident and the film, however!

In the film, the man who is mistaken to be a drunkard in the Metro is unaware that he is being watched and judged. Now, imagine if he was hyper-aware of that – of being watched. How would he behave then? When you know that you are being watched, and hastily judged with limited, superficial information, you’d behave ‘properly’! In a way that you come out as decently or well as you could, in the eyes of others.

This is simply the reason why people behave largely decently when out in public. And let loose their inner beast when alone, when they think no one is watching them, online or offline. Of course, some behave badly even when being watched and that says a lot about their confidence in the lack of repercussions. There is also the relative anonymity that a crowd gives you – you are one among many in a group and even if you do something untoward, nobody can pinpoint you as the source. That eggs people to do horrible things too in public.

But, inside a metro, for instance, when the attention of a few is on you, you’d largely behave if you knew that fact.

The same could, and should, happen in the social media space too. This already plays out to some extent on social networks, which is different from social media. What’s the difference, you wonder? It was recently explained well by the CEO of Houseparty (I read it on the April 16th issue of Bloomberg’s Fully Charged newsletter).

On a social network, you largely know who is reading your content and you are slightly more guarded. A simple example could be your awareness that you are friends with your mother on Facebook, but not on Instagram. So, the kind of things you may say on Instagram may be slightly less guarded.

But social media is like standing on the road and talking to no one in particular. That perceived anonymity makes you say things that you’d not consider saying to a group of people who know you personally.

So twist that scenario to the other extreme – imagine even in a social media platform like Twitter everyone knows you. What would you say? More importantly, HOW would you say them? And remember – you cannot fake an image for long. If you do, because it is not the real you, and people from the channel may end up meeting the real you at some point, the facade will fall apart, to your own detriment.

Your behaviour online should be a reflection of your own self. Or, your best self. This is a performance, no doubt. But not a performance to someone else’s script as it happens in movies. This is a performance to your own script based on your real self.

And that is simply the essence of building your personal brand. The more you are aware that people are watching you, the more you get clarity on how to behave in front of others online using nothing but your real personality, thoughts, ideas and opinions. The more consistently you perform, the better it is for your personal brand!

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