He's the uncrowned emperor of Bhojpuri cinema. Right now, Ravi Kishan is shooting a remake of Mahesh Bhatt's Naam. "It's called Purab Aur Paschim and stars Suman Ranganathan with me. The director is Jai Prakash, who did Manisha Koirala's Market," says the actor.
Kishan has also just shot with Amitabh Bachchan for Deepal Sawant's Ganga. "It was an unreal experience. He works so hard. When people call me the Amitabh of the Bhojpuri experience, I feel my chest swell with pride."
Now, in the era of remakes, when other filmmakers are re-doing Don, Sholay and Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam, Kishan plans to rework Goutam Ghose's off-beat 1984 film Paar. "I'm going to produce this purely aiming at the National Awards," he says. "My name had been sent for the award for Best Supporting Actor in Tere Naam, but I missed it. This year, for the Bhojpuri popular awards, Dilip Kumar gave me the Best Actor award, which whetted my appetite. I'm going to get into the role of a low-class pig-tender in Paar, cut my hair, and wallow in mud, just like Naseerbhai. For my female audience, I'll wear a flimsy dhoti and remain bare-bodied and wet throughout."
Nagma, the survivor
Ravi will sign Konkona Sen-Sharma for Shabana Azmi's role in Paar. "I will be shooting it in June or July. Amol Shetge -- who directed me in Ravi Kissen, where I play the double role of Ravi and Kissen -- will direct Paar."
Is he flattered to have a film named after him? "It makes me happy, but reminds me of my responsibility. I had touched rock bottom in my career. People said I should pack up and return to Jaunpur," Kishan says. "My first film was Udhar Ki Zindagi with Kajol in 1990. My last appearance was as the priest in Satish Kaushik's Tere Naam. I must have done 25-odd films and TV serials like Hello Inspector and Hawaayein. This was when I was almost jobless. Then, Bhojpuri cinema changed my life."
He has competed 17 Bhojpuri movies in four years. "I was the only one who believed there was hope for the Bhojpuri film industry," he says. "I worked hard in every department -- sitting on scripts, music sittings, casting, etc. I used all my contacts in Bollywood, and convinced them to work at a discount. It wasn't easy, but it happened. Gradually, Nagma came into the picture. Our first film, Panditji Batayeen Na Biyah Kab Hoyee, became a major hit. The song Lenga uthai remote se was a rage."
He adds, "In Bhojpuri cinema, we can't show cleavage and kisses. But we can play with words. Middleclass women in Bihar and UP love my antics. They find me very hot. My wife gets insecure about it, but now she understands I have no appetite for the naughty stuff. I love cinema like a madman."
So, how does this 34-year old with three kids cope with Bhojpuri-speaking women propositioning him? "Firmly, respectfully and with no hard feelings," he smiles.
He continues, "The credit must go to Mohanji Prasad, godfather of Bhojpuri cinema. When I was at my lowest ebb in Hindi cinema, he offered me a film called Saiyyan Hamar. To everyone's surprise, it became a silver jubilee hit. Six months after its release, I had no work. Then, the offers started pouring in. All my Bhojpuri films were hits. I have seen my darkest days. Now, all my dreams are coming true."
Kishan shoots five scenes a day, and has 12 films on hand. "We shoot generally in Bihar and UP. But now, with the industry doing well, we've started shooting abroad. We shot a film produced by Udit Narayan in Mauritius. Then, we shot in Britain. I even did a Bhojpuri film with a British co-star! Purab Aur Pachchin will be shot in Portugal. We now have Bhojpuri films going to 54 countries, including West Indies, Surinam and Fiji. Only one of my films, Gangaji San Pawan Pritiya Hamar, about widowhood, wasn't a hit. It was experimental. I suppose one needs to do something different once in a while, like Paar."