In this age of technology and its various uses, social media influencers are quite the rage. While some showed early promise but have since fallen off the pedestal, others have only grown in stature and popularity because of the quality of the content.
Like any other job, content creation has also evolved from the confines of promoting products online, to becoming about actual influencers to creating videos that make people laugh.
"Thoughts of Shams" is one Facebook page we can associate with the latter.
Popularly known as Shams, Shams Afroz Chowdhury has built herself a fanbase with her humorous yet relatable content which she curates from real-life incidents we regularly encounter.
In her videos, Shams features herself playing multiple characters such as "amma" - the typical Bangladeshi mother, "Shamsu bhai" - the overtly masculine elder brother, "Kulsum" - the confidently annoying best friend who never gets tired of luring in Shamsu bhai into her romantic endeavours, and Shams herself, who strives to strike a delicate balance.
Apart from playing these characters, she also narrates everyday scenarios such as interventions of a nosey neighbourhood aunty, daily family drama, online class mishaps, and so on - things we live with in real-life.
"I am a very observant person. We have all seen many negative characters around us who do not think twice before interfering in others' personal matters. These people always try to drag others down despite not being able to reap any benefit from it. I try to portray such characters in my videos in a comical way," Shams said, while talking about how she creates her videos.
Although Shams has become a popular public figure now, her journey into the mainstream was not easy. She endured taunts from her relatives, friends and random strangers online, but managed to brush off the negativity and create a positive space for herself and her well-wishers.
"Most people were negative about what I was doing at first because they have little to no idea about social media content creation. Even my relatives did not support me at the beginning, but my initial fanbase was there for me," said Shams.
She added, "Those relatives of mine even went as far as saying that I have defamed my family by doing what I do. They had a hard time digesting the fact that a woman could appear online publicly and act out scenes to make people laugh."
Shams started her page "Thought of Shams" in 2018 on Facebook, where she began by posting statuses in the form of written content, which we now see as videos.
However, content creation is not the path Shams thought she would end up taking and falling in love with.
After graduating from Stamford University, she enrolled at Dhaka University's MBA program and started working at an English medium school as a part-time teacher. At the same time, she was on the lookout for bank and government jobs.
Shams started creating videos for fun and realised where her potential lay.
"One day I suddenly thought of making a video from one of my statuses in a humorous way. I started off by doing it only for myself but after a while, random people started commenting on the videos. This encouraged me to move forward with it," she told the correspondent while talking about how she was committed to full-time content creation.
In one of her videos, Shams is seen playing the role of 'Tuni'r Ma' and little 'Tuni' herself, where she tries to coax the child into having khichuri and chicken curry for lunch. The task is made diligently difficult by Tuni - as it is with most children refusing to eat.
However, after Tuni is force-fed, Tuni'r Ma takes Tuni to visit her neighbour 'Disco Aunty' and she rudely yells that she is hungry. This results in Disco Aunty frying up some pre-packaged chips for the little Tuni, which she effortlessly devours - enraging and embarrassing Tuni'r Ma.
Irrespective of how popular and well-accepted her videos are, Shams's content making process is surprisingly simple. She uses nothing but a smartphone to record and edit all her videos. Her biggest ally are the filters which Shams uses to portray the different characters she represents.
According to Shams, content is the primary focus, not the device or the camera. "If the story is engaging enough, any content or video will be likeable to the public," she said. On top of that, she rarely ever sits down to script a video. Instead, she turns on her phone's camera and freestyles whatever she has recently observed and wings them via her many characters.
She only invests time and effort on a video's script when the content is sponsored. Even then, Shams greatly enjoys improvisation.
Now, after almost three years of social media presence and widespread success, Shams has managed to find sponsors on almost all her videos, which she incorporates into the script for a more organic approach to product placement and endorsement.
Explaining how this happened, Shams said, "My videos and follower count blew up on Facebook all of a sudden and this sudden burst of 'fame' triggered a wave of sponsorships on my content. I get more sponsorship propositions every day than I can keep count of but as a content creator, it is my responsibility to only accept the brands I willfully want to endorse."
According to Shams, her content has been reaching more people than before since the countrywide shutdown due to Covid-19. Over time, she has become a known face in public as well.
"I think my videos reached more people during this time because people have been sitting at home with the internet as an escape, for some time now. And since I had not gotten out of the home much during the time, I was not aware of the real-life following, but now that I have experienced it to some extent, the feeling is unreal," Shams confided.
What may, however, come as a surprise to the readers is the fact that Shams is nothing like any of her characters in real life. Instead, she is a very calm, quiet, and an observant sort of person who likes to sit alone by herself and enjoy her time, Shams claimed.
"Thought of Shams" has already become one of the most popular public figures out there but what does the future hold for Shams and her brainchild?
Answering this question, she candidly voiced, "I am very poor at planning. I think I will continue doing what I am doing currently, but I will try and do it better because content creation is my full-time profession, and 'Thoughts of Shams' is what I will be pursuing for the foreseeable future."
Shams invests her efforts both on and off the camera to make her videos more appealing to her viewers. Along with scripting the videos and characters, Shams acts, shoots, and edits all her videos by herself, allowing her to hold her job as a content creator closer to her heart.