Singaporean author Sudhir Vadaketh experiments with video, hoping to create non-partisan content

Author Sudhir Vadaketh is making his foray into the world of videos. Announcing on his website, Sudhirtv.com, that he will be experimenting with videos now – he’s published two videos on his Facebook page so far, discussing the issue of race in Singapore – Mr Vadaketh said that while writing remains his first love, his experimentation with videos will be part of his own “professional growth, reskilling, continuing media education” as he hopes to start his own media business.

Mr Vadaketh singled out three video personalities that who became the catalyst for him to start down this new part: Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam, Singaporean influencer Michelle Chong, and Isreali-Palestinian vlogger Nuseir Yassin aka Nas Daily.

Mr Vadaketh says these three individuals have “contributed to an increasingly ideologically-biased video landscape”.

Starting with the Law Minister, he explains, “Shanmugam is a constant video presence on big issues, for instance commenting on Preeti and Subhas. I am told, among other things, that those “interviews” are often scripted, staged, and re-shot if he doesn’t like something. There is no pushback. Nobody would dare, for example, ask him whether the government made a mistake in publishing the Brownface ad, something journalists in any other developed country would feel comfortable doing.”

Mr Vadaketh stresses that this isn’t journalism or authentic reporting, describing it as ‘Shanmugam TV’, and lamenting that he’s not sure viewers understand thing.

As for Michelle Chong and Nuseir Yassin, Mr Vadaketh says that while he likes their style and some of their works, they have “knowingly or not become part of the PAP’s band of useful idiots”. Specifically, he notes Michelle Chong’s works for the government, which he agrees is ‘great’ but he also expressed shocked at her video interview of Shanmugam about the fake news law.

“The interplay between truth and fiction is a key tenet of any art form. Imagine my surprise, then, that a Singaporean artist would willingly help politicians take away that power,” he said.

He added, “I’ve met Michelle Chong once, briefly, she seems like a lovely person, but I’ve also been told that she’ll say/perform anything for money—which is troubling for all sorts of reasons.”

Mr Vadaketh also noted that her video didn’t mention that it was sponsored by the government, an omission which he asserts is unethical. “But this appears to be the way of the influencer world, take money and keep quiet about it.”

Turning his attention Nas Daily, Mr Vadaketh notes that the videos are ‘gross oversimplification of complicated problems’ which he believes do a disservice to the world.

“His superficial commentary on Singapore is proof that one can’t parachute into a place and understand it. There are a million critiques to choose from, but I’ll give you just one: it is absurd for a Muslim-Arab to call Singapore, a country with institutional discrimination against Muslims, an “almost perfect country”. But that’s what happens when you observe the veneer of multiculturalism and are wilfully ignorant about real problems,” said the author.

However, Mr Vadaketh conceded that Mr Yassin’s move to Singapore is great for the country.

Still, Ms Chong and Mr Yassin’s dependence on government funding hinders their ability to act and speak freely, Mr Vadaketh pointed out.

“And that is why I worry that the video world is increasingly ideologically-biased. Unlike say the written word, for which Singaporeans can now access a whole range of views online,” he lamented.

First steps into video

Mr Vadaketh then went on to address a few mistakes he’s spotted in his first couple of videos including the choices in background music, delivery, and typos in the subtitles as well as the race-related jokes he made in his post-credit scene and the lack of balance when he didn’t include at least one opposition politician in his criticisms.

On the last point, Mr Vadaketh emphasises that he is not affiliated to any party and has in the part openly criticised both the PAP and WP. He reiterates that his political preferences remain the same.

“My political preference has been unchanged for the past ten years: happy with the PAP in power, but it needs to be cut down to size, we need a lot more opposition parliamentarians. We must deny the PAP its two-thirds majority because it keeps recklessly toying with our sacred constitution (like recently with the reserved presidency),” he clarified.

As such, he pointed out that while he called out several PAP politicians in his video, he made the mistake of not including even one opposition politician. “There is an obvious reason for this—the PAP ones have a much bigger responsibility to deal with all these issues,” said Mr Vadaketh but also conceded that he could have included a comment to better reflect his non-partisanship.

What’s next for video and Vadaketh?

While this is an avenue he is keen on experimenting with, Mr Vadaketh specified that he’s not sure it would be a regular thing as it is “terribly nerve-wracking and a big distraction from writing.”

However, he adds, “If it ever does become so, I would love to try and emulate The Daily Show or Patriot Act, knowing of course that I’ll never ever be half as good as Hasan or the rest. But even that might be good enough for Singapore/South-east Asia.”

Mr Vadaketh notes he would want to tackle a range of issues from politics to technology, food, sports and more.

To that end, Mr Vadaketh says he’s having discussions about building a video team and tapping into funding sources such as the crowd-funding membership platform Patreon.