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Adnaan Shaikh: ‘TikTok is Just the First Step’

With over 10 million followers on the app, this Internet star is chasing big dreams

Rolling Stone India
Rolling Stone India Jun 27, 2019

An actor, rider and social media star. Whats next?

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“Two years ago, when my father and I were visiting Surat, I casually put up a story on Instagram which said that I would be at Safal Square at a particular time. I expected some 50 or 60 people to come. To my surprise, more than 200 people turned up.” This was the moment, the turning point that TikTok star Adnaan Shaikh had worked and waited for.  But it had still managed to sneak up on him.

The largely underestimated mobile media app TikTok has proved that its platform and over 120 million of its Indian users are not to be taken lightly. In 2019, the app garnered the most number of downloads in India – in spite of being briefly banned by the government. To Shaikh, however, the app is a platform to reach people and showcase his talents. He says, “TikTok gave my career the kickstart it needed. It has given me fame and so much love. But today’s world is constantly evolving, and I am aiming for something bigger.”

The sun won’t set on Shaikh’s entertainment enterprise anytime soon

Shaikh gives us a window into his boyhood when his recent fame was only an inkling of a dream. In the beginning, his parents weren’t the most supportive. “My father was not happy with me. I used to be up all night, glued to the phone and searching for content,” says the 24-year-old. Today, with 10 million TikTok and 2.9 million Instagram followers, the social media star’s iftar meal at the market turns into a public affair with at least 50 people trailing him as he frequents the food stalls. It’s safe to say that his father has come around to his success.

With the roles reversed, the TikTok sensation now commands a massive influence over a growing demographic of children and teenagers — all of whom, very much like his younger self, spend large chunks of time with their faces illuminated by content on social media. “The youngsters and children who consider us role models are inspired by our TikTok success and their parents are not happy about this which is justified. I set out to create only after my graduation and I would urge the youth to listen to their parents and prioritize their academics first,” says Shaikh.

Before the door to fame opened, Shaikh indulged his passion for motorbikes at Mumbai’s illegal road races, performing dangerous stunts and amassing a bit of a following along the way. But after a series of accidents that left him with serious injuries, he decided to quit racing. Co-incidentally, it was around this time that Shaikh got a chance to audition for a motorcycle commercial. Thanks to his acting prowess and riding skill—and by his admission, his teenage looks that belie his age – he was selected for the ad film, beating out older and more experienced competitors. He bore no doubt in mind after. This achievement would be the first of his many successes. And that was when a TikTok star emerged.

Shaikh’s plans for the future are at the tip of his tongue. “Today’s world is constantly evolving. For my career, I am aiming for something bigger,” he says when asked about whether TikTok is a stepping stone or a final act. The TikTok star’s words don’t come without reliable justification. He is currently working on a song to raise awareness against air pollution with Bollywood playback singer Shaan, among other actors and actresses. Shaikh and his TikTok circle are the only social media creators to star in the project. The song titled “Hawa Aane De” is being produced for state-based NGO Bhavna Foundation. “This is just the first step. I also want to contribute to society and become a social worker,” says Shaikh. 

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