Rayon: The Onion for Bollywood

Salva Mubarak's comical fake news website has earned both applause and boos
Last Updated 31 January 2020, 11:47 IST

The Rayon website, a just-for-laughs fake news portal, is run by a one-woman army. Salva Mubarak, who started the website in 2017, did not think it would have many takers. Today, it has 28,000 followers on Instagram.

Her hesitation was well-founded. While websites such as ‘The Onion’ and ‘Reductress’, which crack fake news jokes, have fans among some English-speaking people in India, these websites deal with western content.

Rayon’s content, on the other hand, while just as provocative, is about the Indian celebrity culture.

A typical joke on Rayon would read something like: ‘Vicky Kaushal belongs to the small, but vocal, community of people who believe that Urmila Matondkar doesn’t really exist’.

Another reads: ‘Love Aaj Kal’ trailer shows the story of how Kartik Aaryan remains undateable across different time periods’. Or yet another : ‘This curtain is fed up of being mistaken for Ranveer Singh’.

Asked if she was influenced by ‘The Onion’, she says, “I was definitely inspired by it, but more so by ‘Reductress’. And they parody women’s magazines. A feminist Onion, of sorts. I didn’t see anything like that in our space.”

But people don’t always get Salva’s brand of humour. A joke on Katrina Kaif saw the actress’ fan clubs hound her quite a bit. “I think some people are a bit slow. It is not as mainstream as I would have liked it to be, but people do get it,” Salva says.

But there have been positive responses, some right from Bollywood. Salva says Arjun Kapoor often responds to Rayon posts. But the most explosive response yet was Vicky Kaushal’s, who got mad about the Urmila Matondkar post.

Salva laughs as she tells this story: “He thought that we are saying he doesn’t like Urmila Matondkar. I don’t know what went through his head, and he tweeted to me saying, ‘Oh, you guys are so jobless’.

Then I told him it was a joke and he felt really embarrassed and deleted the tweet. Someone later said that Vicky was upset about it till much later.”

Recently, after sticking just to Bollywood for the longest time, Salva strayed into politics and made a post on Amit Shah and Narendra Modi.

“7 simple ways to improve communication skills with your partner (in crime)”, the caption to the post read.

Asked if there was backlash, she says, “Obviously there has. Even if it is a random person tweeting something political, you get a negative reaction. I did have a lot of people unfollow me because I went political. They said they don’t appreciate it because they come here for the memes.”

“You can’t be a satirical website in 2019 or 2020 and not talk politics. It can’t happen. So, I got a lot of negative reactions and the thing with me is that I just block them. There are also people who supposedly come with good intentions and tell me that I should not do it. You have to ignore them and do what you have to do,” Salva tells Showtime.

Three years after inception, she handles the website all by herself, though she is looking to form a team.

And though Rayon has been a time-consuming hobby all this while, advertisements are coming in, although she makes a living freelancing.

“It is starting to be sustainable on its own,” she says. She still ends up spending a lot of time on Rayon because she needs to be up- to-date on what is happening in the world.

“The thing about being on the internet is that we have to stay relevant. And that takes up a lot of time. Even if I am not physically involved in creating a post, I am thinking about it. That is going on 24X7 in my head,” she says.

(Published 31 January 2020, 11:47 IST)

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