There are perhaps only a handful of people in this city, who really go the distance when it comes to following their passion. Our interviewee for today, Sri Vidya features prominently in this list. But then who is she? You know her but can’t place her. The image above reminds you of a face which is highly familiar.Of course, you know her (Hint: What strikes your mind when we say Bisket Vidya). Yup, see now you remember. She is one of the most highly followed writers today in the city, courtesy her work on the successful online media house, Chai Bisket. How many of you knew that Vidya (or as we’d like to call her Sri Vidya) is an accomplished singer as well. Oh, and before we forget, she is a talented actress with a recurring role in web series called Girls Formula too. Yeah, no literally, this lady basically can do everything creatively. So, then we decided to talk to her, and bring her story to you. I’m sure you’ll find rekindled admiration for Sri Vidya right after you finish going through the excerpts of our conversations as they follow..
When we say Sri Vidya, the most usual moniker that comes to mind is Bisket Vidya. That is indeed an interesting name. Could you tell us what the name stands for and how did you go about ending up with it?
It was a happy accident actually. Around the time Chai Bisket was still getting its shape, I accidentally referred to one of my fellow writers, Sai Prem as Chai Prem. And he instantly retorted with Bisket Vidya and the name stuck. So did the concept. Going further all the in-house writers of Chai Bisket got pseudonyms … Rusk Raghu, Masala Sandeep, Samosa Uday, Single Siva… you see?
Continuing the thought, you are super famous across the Telugu states, for being Bisket Vidya in your works. Many aspiring writers in Telugu, especially women, consider you admirable. Now, as a content producer what is the care that you take towards bringing forth responsible content. Also, what are the major differences between Sri Vidya and Bisket Vidya, that you feel define them?
Quite frankly as Vidya, I don’t really relate to Bisket Vidya. Bisket Vidya is silly. She acts/writes impulsively and panders to the taste of her audience. Having said that it has also become an alter ego. I am Bisket Vidya when I write comedy. I am Palaparthi Srividya in my newspaper bylines. And I am Sri Vidya on the credits of my music albums. None of these worlds overlaps.
You’ve been a reporter across various platforms, be it online web space, or newspapers and more. Now, as a curious observer, we would like you to briefly define each of your stints and also what are the differences you find across these platforms. And between the two of us, which of these platforms truly excited your inner creator?
I haven’t done much of reporting on online platforms as much as I have in newspapers. I started off working in a community newspaper as a fresher. No one really read that paper but we worked directly with colony residents and cleared their issues by coordinating with the concerned officials. So it was grassroots level journalism at its best. Later I briefly worked as a copywriter for First Show Digital. That gave me a little insight into advertising. And I was one of those snooty people who thought working in advertising made me a sell out. But well, I grew up and realised money matters. Chai Bisket happened right after. I wrote for it full time for a few months but then I finished my Masters in Journalism so I wanted to get into mainstream print.
I joined Hyderabad Times. Worked Tollywood news. (Between us, I hated it. Both the paper and the beat) And then a year later I shifted to Indian Express which is where I am now. Chai Bisket, however, has been in the background. Although I always had my main job, I have had a certain emotional attachment towards Chai Bisket which makes me keep hanging around and staying in the loop directly or indirectly. I even dubbed for their web series, Nenu Mee Kalyan for the female lead!
Coming to what truly excites me is certainly journalism. Writing in itself for anything is a pleasure and a privilege. But journalism and writing for the paper feel like home.
Moving to your other talents (of course it’s plural), let’s talk about your ban, Dhyayadi? That’s a rhythmic sounding unique name. Care to explain what that means? Also, what does Dhyayadi as a music band stand for? We’ve noticed that it is a two-member collective with another musician Aditya in it? How do you two produce music and is there a specific genre of things? What’s the story behind?
Dhyayadi was a result of boredom. Aditya Arthas is a graduate who lives close by my house, a good friend. We would jam randomly and we ended up doing a video out of nowhere. We wanted to name it a variation of “musing” and in sanskrit dhyayathi is the verb for musing. we mashed it with both of our names: ViDHYA and Adi and Dhyayadi happened. Usually, We just use a voice and a guitar try variations and put it up. People loved it but we know it wasn’t the best work both technically and artistically. We are thankful for the reception though! Right now the channel is dormant. We haven’t made a video in over a year. I am to blame I could not make time. But I hope we revive it soon.
You seem to have a learned poise in the way you sing. Do you owe this to any formal training and is there an ambition of becoming a YouTube singing star somewhere hidden inside? Your first stint with singing in Telugu films was in Tripura. And then came around Guntur Talkies. Could you let us know how these happened? Where do we listen to your songs next then?
I did train in Carnatic basics as a school girl. I never had any dreams or ambitions of being a singer ever. However, I just liked to sing. to myself to my friends to my family. That’s it. Mostly because I never thought what I knew was ever enough to be a professional. I still don’t think so. I’m groping my way around the technicalities. But what I sing is just what I’ve learnt by listening to hundreds of songs by some of my favourite singers and spending hours trying to perfect them. Just for the joy of it. Tripura happened when one of my friends a lyricist heard that a newbie music director, Kamran was looking for a new voice. I went over for a track recording. (Track is when you sing the first draft for the shoot) I hear the producer liked it and so suddenly I realised that I’m going to find my name on a movie album.
That was an honour for me because I never considered myself a singer. Later in the same month, Sricharan Pakala the music director of Guntur Talkies contacted me through his associate who knows me through common friends. He checked out my Youtube videos and asked me if I’d sing Suvarna. And then that happened. Sricharan at the same time was working for Naruda Donoruda and offered me another song Theerame from the movie. Ever since we have been working together on the music front. There is a lot more interesting stuff coming up not just in movies but independently too. Stay Tuned! 😉
Moving of course to the Girl Formula. We regularly watch an episode of Girl Formula which tackles with modern day situations and what if situations in a hilarious manner. We understand from our research that, You and Prapulla Maddi wrote the initial skeleton of Girl Formula. Were you at that time looking at a particular genre to address. Also with all women presentations like TVF Qtiyapa in the north really being appreciated, how do you want to drive your content in future?
Girl Formula actually came about because there is so much scope and so much content that has been untouched so far. Particularly relating to women here in Telugu web content. It wasn’t Prapulla’s or my idea, in fact, all the girls in Chai Bisket put their heads together for the idea, topics, the look of the video, punch lines, the works. And obviously, Sharath and Anurag, the founders, needed to push us a little to get this up and running by ourselves. We are still a developing team. We intend to have a lot more girls even in the technical crew someday. But right now we have a stylist, Visrutha, full-time actor and cutie, Anupama, Sruthi, the line producer, while Prapulla and I are the writers. Sandeep and Raghu help in scripting and directing because they are more experienced in it with Chai Bisket. Pavan Kalyan our editor does an incredible job. He’s the tadka to our dal.
Coming to how we intend to drive the content is, we know that there are a few topics that are a taboo for our crowds. But it is important to get the point across to our people. So we find a way to say things that are taboo without making our conventional consumers too queasy or uncomfortable. We need them to watch and understand what we are trying to say. And if slapstick, sappiness and sarcasm make them come back again then so be it. We want to push the envelope and start making Telugu web content consumers more comfortable with women’s issues.
There are women presentations in the national level and they are doing an incredible job. We look up to them in their processes. We do hope we are able to make that impact at least at a regional level.
Lastly, Sri Vidya is pretty much everything creatively. A singer of incredible talent, a creative writer, and a suave actor as well. More importantly, Vidya is a journalist. How do you manage to take out time to do all these many things? And of all these areas, which one is the closest to your heart.
Now that you put it this way, it does sound overwhelming! But I make time. You make time for things you love. For people you love. Time was never a problem. I could be shooting a video in the morning at Chai Bisket get to the Express office to finish my articles/pages and then get to a recording in the evening. And then be home in time enough to get a good night’s sleep. Having said that sometimes you have to let some things go. Dhyayadi falling behind is an example. I couldn’t make time for it anymore. But if you prioritise, schedule and hold the things you enjoy close, it isn’t tiring at all. All of these things gratify me in their own way. So I don’t mind working even 20 hours a day.
And what is closest to my heart? That’s a tough one.
Writing, whether it is journalism or Girl Formula is me applying everything I studied as a Mass Comm student. It gives you a certain contentment when you see the fruit of your hard work through all these years taking shape. But again singing is my happy place. It’s what I do to keep myself sane. Getting a byline, seeing your name in credits, hearing your voice in studio sound – all of these are addictions. I’ll keep grovelling for it.
To sum it up let’s just say… I write for a living and I sing to feel alive.
So that was Sri Vidya, with all her talents and magical works. Keep following her and the band of girls from Girl Formula, for more superlative stuff which caters relevance to the world we live in. More power to you..!!