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Welcome to the Dharnaverse: There's drama, there's jokes in Dharna Durga's world

Dharna Durga takes the top rank in the Forbes India-GOAT 2023 list of India's Top 100 Digital Stars for her engaging slice-of-life content

Naini Thaker
Published: Oct 30, 2023 12:20:09 PM IST
Updated: Oct 30, 2023 01:16:32 PM IST

Welcome to the Dharnaverse: There's drama, there's jokes in Dharna Durga's worldDharna Durga translates real-life situations into humorous content that keeps the audience hooked and
Image: Madhu Kapparath

‘Dramebaaz toh yeh bachpan se hai [she has been a drama queen since childhood]’, has been a standard line in Dharna Durga’s family when they talk about her love for acting. Over the last two years, the 23-year-old has transformed that passion into creating content for her 870,000 followers on Instagram and 245,000 subscribers on YouTube.

“I call it the Dharnaverse, the range of relatable characters she has managed to create and nurture through her slice-of-life content. Her acting talent, attention to detail to cultural nuances and the ability to translate real-life situations into humorous content keep the audience hooked and entertained,” says Hitesh Rajwani, founder and CEO, Social Samosa Network. Given the engagement and reach her content has, Durga has made it to Rank 1 of Forbes India-GOAT’s 2023 list of India’s Top 100 Digital Stars.

Her entry into the world of content creation began during the pandemic. Durga was a part of her college theatre group. “I missed acting, particularly during the pandemic when I couldn’t go to college,” she says. That’s when her friends suggested she start making videos at home to upload on Instagram. It started with IGTV videos, and then as reels came along, she tried experimenting with the short-video format.

Also see: Digital Stars 2023 List

Welcome to the Dharnaverse: There's drama, there's jokes in Dharna Durga's worldAfter a point, she started feeling that it’s not just her friends and family, but also others who like her content. “That’s when I realised that ‘content creation’ is also an avenue for me to earn money,” she explains. Over time, she started getting a lot of recognition from fellow digital creators like Komal Pandey and Kusha Kapila, and even Bollywood actors like Deepika Padukone. As her content got picked up, brands started reaching out to her.

“My family was enjoying my ‘new job’,” jokes Durga, “For some of my initial videos, my mom would send them on society and family groups, asking them to follow me.” Later, when they found out that one can make a living as a content creator, they were ecstatic. In fact, she says, “Now my parents think it’s the best career option. My cousin is into art, so she tells him to post those videos on Instagram and promote them.” In July 2021, she started working with IPLIX Media, where the team helped her get larger brand deals and helped her out with editing as well.

But Durga’s process for creating videos has remained the same over the years—observations from everyday life. “Lately, I have started understanding my audience better. So that has helped me improve my writing and editing,” she says.

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Though there are enough and more comedy content creators, Durga’s philosophy is to stick to what she does best: Focus on improving and learning what her audience wants. How much do the numbers matter? “They do matter because they help you understand your audience better. But I feel it is good pressure that helps you get better,” she says.

Even for branded content, her concept is to add a brand into a relatable and organic concept. “Her range of characters and staple of engaging content formats facilitate brands to be placed with ease and without any forced fits. The content is written in a way that you won’t anticipate an integration and a piece of promotion drops out of nowhere in the script,” says Rajwani.

Welcome to the Dharnaverse: There's drama, there's jokes in Dharna Durga's world

While working with brands, Durga looks at the creative freedom. “If the brand wants me to create a traditional advertisement, I don’t think I’ll be comfortable doing that,” she says. She has worked with brands such as Amazon, Google, Veet and Face Shop, among many others.

Content creation is not known to be a sustainable industry, particularly in terms of a constant stream of income. However, Durga believes that with constant reinvention, she can sustain herself. “But if I stick to a certain kind of content, not experiment and step out of my comfort zone, then my audience will start getting bored,” she says.

“If not a content creator, I would’ve definitely liked to give acting a shot,” she says. Going forward, she wants to look at acting opportunities—either in web series or films.”

(This story appears in the 03 November, 2023 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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