x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Indian YouTube star wants to show debut feature at Dubai film festival

Simple Superstar was shot in various locations around Dubai and the UAE and is largely fan-funded.

The Indian YouTube star, Wilbur Sargunaraj, filming part of his latest work, Simple Superstar, in the desert in Dubai. Courtesy Wilbur Sargunaraj
The Indian YouTube star, Wilbur Sargunaraj, filming part of his latest work, Simple Superstar, in the desert in Dubai. Courtesy Wilbur Sargunaraj

DUBAI // India's first YouTube star has applied to bosses at Dubai International Film Festival (Diff) for permission to screen his debut feature film in the emirate.

Wilbur Sargunaraj, whose eccentric music videos such as Love Marriage have earned him more than a million viewers on the site, shot about a third of his film, Simple Superstar, in Dubai.

The largely fan-funded film, with a mostly volunteer cast, has already won the Golden Palm award at the Mexico International Film Festival for Best Musical.

A decision from Diff will not be known until November, Sargunaraj said. The festival takes place from December 6 to 14.

"We have a really big fan following in Dubai, so obviously we want to screen it there," said Sargunaraj. "It's in the hands of the film festival directors. We may not have the glitz and the glamour, but we do have a big heart."

Sargunaraj, from rural Madurai in Tamil Nadu, is famous not only for his catchy music videos but also for educational videos such as "how to use an eastern latrine".

Simple Superstar is based on one man's journey to become a famous singer. It features scenes in the desert village of Lehbab and an apartment in the Burj Khalifa.

The climax is set in a labour camp in Al Quoz and, while filming it, something unexpected happened - one of the Pakistani labourers delivered an impassioned speech about tolerance and peace between cultures.

"I was completely blown away because I wasn't expecting him," said Sargunaraj. "He basically summed up the entire movie for us."

Sargunaraj said he hoped to track down the man, who he knew only as Amjad, to show him the film.

Even if his film is not accepted by Diff he hopes it will still be shown in Dubai, possibly in a labour camp.

mcroucher@thenational.ae