Sunday, 23 May 2010



Can Bhojpuri cinema ever reach out to the non-Bhojpuri audience who watch quality Iranian or Latin American or French movies? “Why not?” asks back senior journalist Avijit Ghosh whose book Cinema Bhojpuri has been recently published. But it's not about the language, he adds. “Everything depends on whether someone wants to make Bhojpuri cinema that suits the sense and sensibility” of that category of audience. As of now the Bhojpuri films are catering to the core audience, and “some films have been dubbed in Chhattisgarhi,”

In the 297-page book, Ghosh tells us about Bhojpuri cinema's journey --- from the first film Ganga Maiya Tohe Piyari Chadhaibo that was made in 1962, the lows of 1980s, to the recent high-paced spiced-up flicks. The pioneers, and the major and not-so-major players of the Bhojwood make their appearances across the chapters.

The current phase, Ghosh says, is “exciting”, even if the Bhojpuri films are making loses. The budgets are increasing, and the horizons are expanding --- be it the foreign locations for the shoot, or the techniques, or the artistes and producers who are joining in from other parts of country and beyond.

Growing up in the small town of Arrah among other places, Ghosh first came in contact with the Bhojpuri cinema in 1979. And it certainly cast a spell on him, as is evidenced by this book for which the author ploughed through the old documents and magazines (like the Rambha from Benares) on Bhojpuri cinema, and interviewed about 70 people who matter. All of that required a lot of travelling. But it has been a labour of love for Ghosh who hopes that the film buffs will love the book.

Cinema Bhojpuri also navigates through the transformations of the on-screen characters --- from being village simpletons to the slick tribe who wear sunglasses, jeans trousers and short skirts. The music too has changed --- from the folksy melodies to disco beats, the 'item' dances being the crowd-pulling add-on. There are lot of actions too. All of that bring in comparison with the Bollywood: actors get dubbed as Shah Rukh or Helen of Bhojpuri cinema.

It's “merely a way of recognising a person's talent”, maintains Ghosh. “While the new generation Bhojpuri films have partly emerged out of a reaction to Bollywood’s indifference, they are also consumed by its attraction and allure,” Ghosh explains. “Bollywood imitates Hollywood, Bhojpuri gets ‘inspired’ from Bollywood. That’s how it goes”. He ascribes the trend to globalisation and an aspirational society.

But, how much of the recent Bhojpuri films reflect the social realities? “Many Bhojpuri films are family dramas. To some extent, they represent an idealized, and often exaggerated, form of what we want our family to be,” replies Ghosh. And these films often “recreate the sight, sounds and lifestyle of a village in east Uttar Pradesh or west Bihar”. For a migrant labour, who watches Bhojpuri films in places like Ludhiana or Bhiwandi, these images “bring back memories and yearnings” of the land they left behind. “Psychologically, the movie acts as a healer,” says Ghosh. “For them, it is also a matter of regional pride”, though “the educated middle-class prefer Hindi films”.

When asked about the challenges faced by the Bhojpuri films, Ghosh mentions the need to restore the cinema halls in the qasbahs and mofussils in Bihar and eastern UP. Moreover, the plan to set up a state-of-the-art film studio in Bihar must be materialised, he adds.

Ghosh is planning his second novel now. His first novel, Bandicoots in the Moonlight, is, not surprisingly, based in a fictional town in Bhojpur.