Bhojpuri Films Cross Barriers

Bhojpuri is a spoken dialect in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and the Uttaranchal. A mix of Urdu and Hindustani, it is also the language of the Indian immigrants in Guyana, Suriname, Fiji, Trinidad, Mauritius, Singapore, Poland, Maldives and Nepal to name a few. Perhaps, it is the only Indian language that one would hear across various continents. And this explains the immense popularity that Bhojpuri films enjoy today. The one name that is synonymous with the Bhojpuri Cinema is Manoj Tiwari aka ‘Mridul’. “Mridul” grew up in Benaras, began his career as a folk singer of kajris, chaitas and purabiyas. He has, since, added a list of successful feature films to his resume including the superhit Sasura Bada Paisewala (2004) which kick-started the revival of Bhojpuri films. His other hits include Daroga Babu, I Love You and Bandhan Toote Na.

Bhojpuri Cinema was revolutionised by Manoj Tiwari’s Sasura Bada Paisewala. Made with a budget of Rs. 30 lakhs, the film collected a gross earning of over Rs. 25 crore. Hereafter, there was no looking back for the Bhojpuri film industry. There have been numerous hits thereafter by Tiwari and his albums have created new records every time. He is one of the superstars in Bhojpuri Cinema and in a way, he can be compared to SRK or Big B in Bollywood. Nevertheless, if you thought that the popularity of the “gamcha” wearing star was confined to the small screen and centers, hear this. The Dutch government has acknowledged his contribution to the Bhojpuri Cinema and the language by issuing a postal stamp in his name. The stamp, costing 44 Euro Cent (Rs 35), has become a hit with the Bhojpuri Community in Holland within 20 days of its release. The official magazine of Holland Den Haag has put the postal ticket on its front page. This is for the first time that a Bhojpuri actor has been honoured like this in any country. Earlier, the Dutch government had awarded him with the “International Legend of Regional Cinema” award. 40 per cent of the population in Holland speaks Bhojpuri. These are the people who migrated from Eastern UP and Bihar during the British Rule. Tiwari has also visited Holland for his shows and has done extensive research on Bhojpuris’ roots in various countries. Even Sidhharth Sinha’s 21-minute Bhojpuri flick was selected for world premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival. The organisers of the festival selected his film Udhedh Bun (Un-ravel) for the Berlin Shorts at the festival’s 2008 edition.

Today, the domain of Bhojpuri Cinema is very large and is far ahead in comparison to any other regional cinema. The market is huge and is flourishing with Bollywood biggies like Juhi Chawla, Udit Narayan, Amitabh Bachchan, Hema Malini, Nagma and Saroj Khan to name a few. The mantra for the success of these films seems to be low investment, low risk and high returns. Bhojpuri gold rush is said to annually rake in more than Rs 200 crore, bringing unprecedented profits for producers, distributors and exhibitors. Part of the credit must go to the four million strong migrant population which ensures that even in unlikely places like Mumbai, Punjab and Haryana, Bhojpuri films now stand a chance of doing better business than many a Hindi film.

Rishabh Srivastava

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