On a hot noon of May, a bald man was sitting on a hog plum tree with a jackfruit in his hand in Ishwardebtwa, a remote village of Naogaon.
Next to him was a woman looking after a temporary shop set up in a van, selling nearly a dozen jars of water mixed with abeer – the bright coloured powders used during Holi celebrations.
The woman began calling for customers in a dramatic voice and with exaggerated gestures.
Before we could understand what was happening, suddenly, the bald man, wearing a smirk on his face, stood up and hurled the jackfruit at the woman. The fruit hit the van, shattered the jars, flooding the streets with a dramatic mix of colourful water pouring from the broken jars.
The woman started screaming on the street, flailing her hands and legs around.
People soon gathered around the duo and began cheering the "performance". Both the man and the woman were actually paid actors, shooting a Youtube video that showed people getting into all sorts of mischief with a jackfruit.
The entire video would soon be compiled with some added comical sounds and music, and uploaded on Youtube to make people laugh.
The man behind the lense is Motiur Rahman Mithon, the leader of the team, shooting in front of his house in Ishwardebtwa.
Mithon styles himself the "king of funny" content. Whether the comedic form appeals to all palates may be up for debate, but Mithon is truly the king of Youtube in Bangladesh.
His videos have more than 8 billion views on YouTube, and his channels – more than one, mind you – have around 30 million subscribers.
Only a handful of people, however, know him as the country's top YouTuber.
Mithon's name does not appear on the social media platform, unlike his more well-known contemporaries.
But even that is by design.
The escape from limelight
Although Mithon appears as a character in some of his sketches, he shies away from media attention. The limelight, he fears, would result in the "evil eye being cast on him".
Staying in the shadows, Mithon is more than happy changing his destiny and those of other villagers around him.
Nearly 70 people work under his watch, some as actors while some as security guards and some in logistics etc. He pays between Tk10,000 to Tk25,000 as monthly salaries to each.
"Most people who work with me aren't students. These young guys could become drug addicts if I didn't hire them," Mithon said.
His scenes are based on village settings, appealing to a majority in Bangladesh. But Mithon's fanbase isn't restricted by borders. Numerous comments on his videos are made by people living all over the world – from Portugal, the United States, India to Saudi Arabia.
His most popular video has nearly 400 million views alone.
"My videos hit close to a couple of million views on a single day. If a video gets less than one million views on the day uploaded, I consider it as a less performing content," Mithon said.
Mithon also hasn't put all the eggs in the same basket. Maha Fun Tv and Busy Fun Ltd, two of his main YouTube channels, have more than 25 million subscribers.
He also has others, but is reluctant to publicly disclose those.
Milking the absurdity
Mithon's content mainly relies on pranks and slapstick. Some border so much on the extreme that they are thoroughly laughable because of the absurdity.
Some are downright graphic, while others have an absurd script and amateur people overacting. It's a blend of slapstick, shock humour, pranks and cringe. His pranks, thankfully, are scripted, so it doesn't inconvenience people.
It isn't for everybody, but neither is any form of comedy.
But Mithon doesn't need everyone. From being a guy in desperate need of a job for survival just a few years ago, to now employing dozens, Mithon has already gotten the vindication.
Now, he is something of a hero to his people.
"I lost my father as a child. I started working for Mithon bhai when I was in class seven. Ever since I never let my mother work for our survival," said SSC candidate Sathi Akter who supports her family by working in Mithon's team as an actor.
Like her, Mithon has helped many other locals.
Zero-to-hero in three years
"Back in 2017 when I bought a smartphone, the phone company gave me 5 gigabytes of free Internet. I had to spend the data in seven days as it had a time limit," Mithon said. "Someone told me that watching videos on YouTube requires a lot of data. So I started watching videos and that is when I learned that I could earn by making YouTube videos," Mithon recalls.
"I can ask for my own expenses from my father. But when it comes to buying even a soap for my wife, it is really tough to seek money from my father," he said of his experiences of being married early.
When he learned Youtube could generate money, he decided to try his hand.
He recorded a few videos from Jatra, and one of them got 3 million YouTube views. These were, however, not his own content.
"I always wanted to become rich quickly. I saw that funny videos are the only content that could bring me a quick buck," Mithon said. "Pushing someone into a pond with funny music in the background was something I could do by offering my friends tea and other tokens.
"I told my friend that I had an idea to generate employment: Making funny videos! He said what is a funny video? I said you will stand near a pond and I will kick you into the pond. He said it was a stupid idea. I insisted that this is what people watch."
Mithon eventually convinced his friends to cooperate. He made a few videos and those actually got him over 4 lakh subscribers in a year and half and enough views to start earning. But he couldn't monetise the channel due to some copyright issues.
"My friends and the people who worked with me didn't know that I would earn money on YouTube. If they knew, they wouldn't cooperate the way they did back then. Back then, they worked only for pleasure."
In the meantime, the villagers, including his father and brothers, started to ridicule Mithon's pursuit.
Undeterred, in 2019, he bought a monetised channel from Rajshahi – Maha Fun Tv – one of his main channels at present.
"That year, YouTube shut down all the funny channels for some reason. But somehow Maha Fun Tv survived the purge for it was a very small channel with only 3,000 subscribers," Mithon said.
"When I started to upload my contents on Maha Fun Tv, my channel was actually the only surviving comedy channel and whatever I posted started to attract millions of views."
Pretty soon, Mithon gathered millions of subscribers on Maha Fun Tv. But he didn't stop there.
Taking lessons from 2019's purge, he opened many other channels to distribute his viewership and thus today he has become not only the top "funny" content creator, but in terms of subscribers and views, he is now the top YouTuber in Bangladesh.
Rojob Ali, his elderly father, is extremely proud of his son.
"I never thought my son would grow so big, that he would employ dozens of people. I couldn't imagine he could get so many things," he said during our conversation in a tea stall beside Mithon's office, which is on a vast field.
The elderly tea seller, while refusing to take our bills for tea, said that "my stall runs on Mithon's bill".
In the afternoon when we were about to return, several teams were at work beside Maha Fun Tv's office.
We asked Mithon if there was a bigger YouTuber than him in Bangladesh.
"I am the top YouTuber in Bangladesh, of course. No YouTuber has close to as many subscribers as I have…Somoy is a television channel and two of my channels combined have more subscribers than Somoy," he said.
"Mogul or not, I am the king of funny," Mithon said with a laugh. His manager Alamgir Hossain quipped, "king of everything!"