Published: 23rd August 2020
Gone in 99 seconds: How Sai Sethu tells you unheard stories from across India in under two minutes
Sai Sethu has been travelling across the country and telling stories of ordinary people in his 99-second videos on Instagram and Facebook. This is why people love these videos
What can you do in 99 seconds? You can take a very quick pee break, eat a few panipuris, run half a kilometre if you’re really fast or if you're really adventurous, make some Maggi. Or you can also sit down and watch one of Sai Sethu’s videos on Instagram. But why should you do that, you ask? Because Sai is telling you stories about people you've never heard of, from places you've never been to. He has travelled to over seven states in the country, interacting with and telling stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. And you can check all this out on his Instagram page @ontheground.99.
Sai has visited seven states and one union territory — Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Meghalaya, Maharashtra and New Delhi
Hailing from Coimbatore, Sai began his journey around a year ago from his home state of Tamil Nadu. He travelled across several districts, including Chennai, Madurai and Coimbatore, armed with his kit that included a camera, a drone, a tripod and a microphone. "I travelled to the remotest of villages using public transport to minimise the cost. Sometimes, there'd be just one bus that goes to a particular village just once a day," says Sai about some of the challenges he faced while shooting.
So, what prompted Sai to pursue this monumental task? "After completing my Mechanical Engineering, I decided to pursue Journalism. But after three years in the profession, I did not feel like it anymore. I wanted to tell stories from the ground, about people who are making a difference, making the world a better place. I quit my job over a year and a half ago and then, posted my first video just over a year ago," he says. Today, Sai's Instagram has almost 12,000 followers. He has another 6,800 followers on Facebook.
On Sai's channel, you'll get to see him talking to the camera, introducing you to the video of the day. The video then cuts to operations of the person or organisation he's highlighting, interspersed with comments from the subject. Sounds familiar? Yes, it is very much like a news report. Or at least how television news used to be once. And Sai does all of this on his own. "I decide on a story, ensuring that I do at least ten stories in any place I visit. Then, the entire shoot is done using my primary camera and drone whenever required. I am also responsible for the sound and editing the video and finally, uploading it as well," says Sai, explaining his process. "However, internet remains one of my biggest enemies, especially when I have to upload from the rural areas," he rues.
Sai ensures that he uploads twice a week but that has been disrupted during the lockdown. "But I got the opportunity to do some new stories related to COVID innovations and people going the extra mile to help others during the pandemic," he says. Now with over 100 videos under his belt, Sai plans to slowly release his remaining bank of videos and is hoping to travel to new states like Gujarat, Uttarakhand and the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir as soon as the travel restrictions are lifted.