“If you look closely enough, you will see that it’s very easy to find and read stories around us,” says Bidhya Chapagian, one of the founders of the YouTube channel Herne Katha. The channel exclusively uploads videos that make up a web series – that is also titled Herne Katha – that features gripping stories of Nepalis living ordinary lives.
Started 16 months ago, Herne Katha is Chapagain’s and her co-founder Kamal Kumar’s brainchild. Both of them were previously involved in the televised debate program by BBC Media Action, Sajha Sawal – where Chapagain was the presenter and Kumar worked in the capacity of a producer. But the two of them have been friends for over 15 years – even before they joined forces for Sajha Sawal. Kumar mentions that even though they enjoyed working for Sajha Sawal, as the years went by, they felt restricted by the show’s format and wanted to bring stories beyond what media conventionally covers.
While working together (at their previous job), both of them picked up the skills needed to create and tell stories through video. “Storytelling through videos comes across a lot more strongly than through any other means of media because it incorporates words, audio, and visual components all at once,” says Kumar. The two of them also figured that since a lot of people watch YouTube videos daily and producing videos for YouTube can be low budget, creating a YouTube channel and uploading the stories they wanted people to hear through this medium is just what they needed to do.
Till date, Herne Katha has uploaded over 30 videos on their YouTube channel. They upload a new video on the first and 15th of every month and all of their videos showcase a raw and original insight into a story that hasn’t been heard before.
“Our working process is very free and unrestricted and we’re flexible regarding the content of our videos,” says Kumar. He, along with Chapagain, travels to a part of Nepal every month or so and get the content for a few videos in a single journey. Chapagain adds that even though the two of them are pretty spontaneous regarding both – the people and stories they want to feature in their videos, and where they travel to find them – they do vaguely plan out the places they want to visit and brainstorm the kind of stories they might find before they leave.
Once they are on the road, the Herne Katha team takes every chance it gets to converse with locals and get to know their life stories. Kumar claims that the two of them talk very casually and uninhibitedly so that people find it easy to be open and honest with them. When they come across someone honest who has a compelling story to tell, they immediately ask the individual to feature in their video.
Surprisingly enough, no one has refused being featured in a Herne Katha video to date. “The thing I’ve noticed is that only people who live in cities and have been surrounded by different forms of media throughout their lives feel conscious about being recorded. But those who rarely indulge any kind of media don’t think being filmed is that big of a deal and present their true selves in front of the camera,” says Chapagain. She further explains that Herne Katha team follows (and films) all of their characters from the moment they wake up till the time they go to bed – trying their best to avoid disrupting the individual’s everyday life – to get the required footage for their video.
It takes them anywhere between 10 to 15 days to edit a single video. Sometimes, they end up scraping a video at the last moment – after completing all the filming and editing – just because something about the story doesn’t sit right with them. Other times, they have to revisit the character a few more times to get the details of their story correct before re-editing and uploading the video. The two of them also admit that they can’t pick a favorite story even if they try because every story they bring touches them in a special way. Chapagain also reveals that she and Kumar don’t release a video until they’re fully satisfied with the way it has turned out.
To date, Kumar and Chapagain have invested their own money for every video made by Herne Katha. And they claim that even though they aren’t actually earning a single penny through it, they immensely enjoy what they are doing and that’s what matters to them the most. “But having no financial back up sometimes restricts us from getting the kind of stories we want to tell,” says Chapagain adding that a few organizations have shown an inclination towards sponsoring Herne Katha in the future but nothing has been finalized as of yet. However, a few weeks ago, Herne Katha started a Patreon account where interested viewers can donate any amount they want to support the team in their future endeavors.
Like any organization, Herne Katha is gradually growing – both in its YouTube subscriber count (which is currently over 160k) and its team members. Beside Chapagain and Kumar, Asha Thapa (producer), Enuma Rai (intern), and Arati Rahapal (intern) are the other members who form the Herna Katha team. Kumar mentions that after getting a lot of requests from their viewers about wanting to work with Herne Katha on various projects, they recently decided to hire interns. For this, they select individuals who are passionate about storytelling and make it a point to change interns every two months or so. Jiban Rijal has been Herne Katha’s cinematographer since the very beginning but he isn’t an official member of the team.