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Welcome to the Bhojpuri films boom

By A Ganesh Nadar
February 17, 2006 20:05 IST
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Bhojpuri films have hit the big time. And if you don't believe it, here are some facts:

Sasura Bada Paisewala, a Bhojpuri film, did better business in Bihar than Bunty Aur Babli.

Recently, another Bhojpuri movie, Dehaati Babu, ran to house-full shows for one whole week in Hyderabad, far away from places where the language is spoken: Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and parts of Nepal.

Bhojpuri films are being released in Punjab and Bengal too.

In Mauritius, Surinam and Bangladesh, there is an increasing demand for Bhojpuri films.

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Bollywood producers like Subhash Ghai, Tinu Verma, Deepak Sawant (Amitabh Bachchan's make-up man) and Saira Banu are foraying into Bhojpuri films and so are Hindi movie stars.

What about the language barrier, you ask? "Those who follow Hindi will understand Bhojpuri, barring a few words," replies Bali, who has directed three hit Bhojpuri films.

"It's the lower costs that attract so many producers to Bhojpuri. When your initial cost is high, the chances of making money are less," he adds.

Even big Hindi stars are said to charge less for Bhojpuri films. The reason: The chance to win a whole new fan following.

But even in boomtown, there are hiccups. And they include star tantrums.

One brooding Bollywood star is said to have given dates for five days only for a Bhojpuri film. At the end of the five days, he demanded release rights for the territory of Mumbai. If the star takes Mumbai, the heroine takes Uttar Pradesh, the director will take Bihar and the producer will be left with debts!

N R Pachisia, the producer of Dehaati Babu, laments that he cannot take his hit movie to more parts of the country: "There are no distributors (ready to take on a Bhojpuri film)."

Straddled with low budgets and other hurdles, Bhojpuri filmmakers also often have to improvise.

When Ajay Sinha, the director of Sasura Bade Paisewala, fell ill on the first day of the shoot in Gorakhpur in UP, Bali (who was then a choreographer) directed the movie till Sinha recovered.

The makers of Sasura…wanted to make another movie, called Daroga Babu I Love You.

They chose Bali as their director.

Manoj Tiwari, a superstar of Bhojpuri filmdom, starred in Daroga Babu, and the movie was a smash hit. Ranjeev Varma, who played the villain in Daroga Babu, went on to act as the villain in the next five Bhojpuri movies.

Dharti Putra, produced by Tinu Verma, is also directed by Bali. The director – whose mother tongue is Punjabi -- says that if you keep in mind the cultural ethos of the Bhojpuri people, your film will succeed.

Hindi movies flop because they never show the local culture and ape the West, he opines. He also adds that Bhojpuri movies will flop if they are released in multiplexes. They have to be released in theatres where the rates are within the reach of ordinary people.

According to him, while people from other states have migrated all over the world, the Bhojpuri-speaking populace has migrated within India. And that is why Bhojpuri films run to packed houses even in Hyderabad, he feels.

Ravi Kishen is another Bhojpuri superstar. His heroine in Panditji Batayie Mera Byah Kab Hoi is none other than South Indian superstar Nagma.

Ravi Kishen and Nagma have starred in three movies together.

Varma, the hit Bhojpuri villain, is also from Punjab. He got his first break as a young bad man in Prakash Mehra's Bal Bramhachari. The movie flopped. A few television serials later, Bali gave him the Daroga Babu role.

The rest, as they say, is history.

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A Ganesh Nadar