“I don’t think there is any Nepali interested in dancing who has not heard of The Cartoonz Crew. I have been following them since 2015,” says Pooja Khati, 24, who has tried to emulate the moves of the Cartoonz Crew on many songs. Countless Nepalis have danced to the beats of The Cartoonz Crew since their rise in 2016 when they published their dance video to “Funtastic”.
Their fan base is not limited to Nepal. They have fans in many countries like Syria, Sri Lanka, India and Myanmar. Their dance to “Funtastic” has 39.58 million views on YouTube. Writes Htet Aung Hlawn from Myanmar in its comment section: “I heard this song while I was traveling in Nepal 3 years ago and since then it’s my top favorite song!! Love from Myanmar!” Another Syrian fan writes, “Love you guys from Syria. I wish I could understand the meaning but I am totally happy… Awesome dancing.”
In their popular YouTube channel with 1.56 million subscribers, they have uploaded many dance videos. The crew charged around Rs 300,000 to produce a music video and upload it to their channel. If the singer wants to upload from their channel, the charge is around Rs 400,000.
But this dance group is not without controversies. According to Saroj Adhikari, he founded the dance group in 2009. Ram Gurung, Lakpa Lama, Aashma Biswokarma, Sajan Adhikari, Subin Chauhan and Sabin Karki joined later. The biggest controversy arose when Sabin who joined and led the group since 2012 left in 2017. Under his leadership, the group released many popular music videos and it was in this time that it started getting noticed.
Using “Sabin Karki-Beest” channel, Sabin now uploads his own funny and dance videos. His first dance video since the split, “Viral Bhaidiyo”, published in November 2017, has 31.71 million views on YouTube. Numerous dance crews such as “Dynamite Production Nepal”, “Shining Dance Gangsters” and “Chow Dance Crew” have since released dance covers to the popular song.
The Cartoonz Crew, with the rest of the members, then went on to produce dance videos which they uploaded via their YouTube channel. But this month, four of them—Ram Gurung, Lakpa Lama, Sajan Adhikari, and Subin Chauhan—released a video about why they left the Cartoonz Crew. In this video, they speak about how there was no transparency over money, how they felt like back-dancers, and how they were discouraged from certain projects while the two other members, Saroj and Aashma, did what they liked while controlling money and contacts. They alleged that even though they had pointed out these issues to the two, their complaints had fallen on deaf ears.
This sparked a social media debate over Saroj’s leadership as well as over the group’s future. Following this controversy, APEX spoke to the four crew members who left the group recently. Subin Chauhan says that they had invested so much of their time, money and energy in the Cartoonz Crew, but now have to start everything over again. The four crew members said they did not want to leave the group after years of working together but that they had no option when they were given no chance to grow.
They said they were tired of dancing behind Saroj and Aashma; all of them should have gotten equal exposure and opportunity to shine in the videos. The four are currently working on a new dance video, where they say they will explore their own creativity. The video will be released within a month through their new venture ‘Team Cartoon Crew Dance Academy’.
Ram Gurung says, “Even though we have been in this industry for so long, we are kind of starting from the bottom. This is a new studio and a new beginning for the four of us. We are excited and a little nervous too about how the video will turn out.” He adds that the group will also help new talents shine.
APEX also reached out to Sabin Karki, who wishes the four ex-members best of luck. When asked about the future of the past and present members of The Cartoonz Crew, he says he has seen the best of the best fail and not-so-talented people succeed, and he can’t say who can flourish in the industry. But he believes that “if you can do it once, you can do it twice.”
“I just wish Crew members can move on from this and learn from their mistakes. In the long run, your work will speak for you,” says Sabin.
APEX also tried to reach Saroj and Aashma, the only two crew members left in the group, for their comments, but our repeated attempts at contact failed.