Bhojpuri cinema in the first place. There was no film making culture in Bihar, there only were sporadic films in Bhojpuri that were made by producers from Bollywood who came from eastern UP and Bihar. Ganga Maiya Tohe Piyari Chadhaibo, Laagi Nahin Chhoote Raam, and Balam Pardesia are examples of that. Later on too, some decent films were made in Bihar like Dulha Ganga Par Ke and Ganga Kinare Mora Gaon and they did good business. Then came the era of downfall of Bihar. And I think the downfall of Bhojpuri cinema has a lot to do with the downfall in the image and content of Bihar. Politics, education and employment sector in Bihar started deteriorating and people started leaving the state.
These were the people who would otherwise patronize good cinema in Bhojpuri. The image of Bihar kept on deteriorating and Biharis living in other states would feel ashamed of declaring that they are from Bihar. Then not only those who lived in other states but also those who lived in Bihar stopped talking in Bhojpuri. Speaking in Bhojpuri in a public place was somehow considered to be below standard. People almost disowned the language to the extent that they would not speak to their children in Bhojpuri. In private, they would communicate in Hindi peppered with Bhojpuri words. And in public, the educated Biharis who lived outside the state did everything possible to hide their Bihari identity.
We can’t blame them though. All this happened because Bihar had gradually come to represent everything that an ideal society should not be. The great migration started. Those who couldn’t leave Bihar out of compulsion were the poor who had no resources to move out, the Bihar Government employees, and those who could not leave their land unattended for fear of illegal capture by local politicians or their goons. Anyone who could send their children out of the state for education/job, sent them. So, there was hardly anybody left in Bihar or outside Bihar to patronize Bhojpuri cinema. The only people who were still speaking to their children in Bhojpuri were those from the lower strata of the society – the poor, the uneducated. This was the class that would watch films just to forget their sorrow and not because they wanted to watch a film-maker’s perspective on a social issue inflicting the society.
Non-serious movies were still being made in Hindi, but they went out of reach of this class due to emergence of multiplexes and disappearance of the low-cost theaters. The entrepreneur in Manoj Tiwari identified this class and started making movies that suited their taste and pocket. The target audience started watching these movies and much more came. Manoj Tiwari never made these movies for PLU (people like us).So, it is clear that quality Bhojpuri cinema went through a declining phase for lack of patronage.
What is the way forward?
We need not worry about ‘Panditji Batain na Biyah kab hoi’ kind of movies at all. They are meant for a specific audience and such an audience does and will always exist in any society; so there will also exist film-makers who will make films for them. Ab in filmon ka dusprabhav saare samaj par na pade, iske liye humein apni lakeer ko unki lakeer se lamba karna padega.
It cannot be denied that Culture & Art play an important role in the development of any society. Cinema too is an apt medium to educate the society. A well-made and forward-looking Bhojpuri film will not only regain the audience that it had lost over time but it would also promote the Culture, Art & Music of Bihar outside the state. Bihar will gain respect through its cinema. It will help attract tourists to the state of Bihar which will generate employment for thousands. But the question is how do we sustain the culture of quality-film making in Bhojpuri.
One thing is clear, corporatisation will not help. There is a difference between our objective and their objective. Through our films, we want to reconstruct the Bihari society and promote Bihari art and culture, whereas all the investing corporate would be interested in is revenue. So that is out. The only answer lies in the theory of demand and supply. There is an unending appetite for good cinema in Bihari audiences. But there is no supply. So, if a good cinema in Bhojpuri is supplied, it WILL be watched. If it has a strong script to hold audiences from the beginning to the end, it WILL be watched. If patterns and treatments are not repeated, it WILL be watched and liked.
Even in languages such as Hindi, Bengali or Tamil, quality cinema is in short supply. Bhojpuri also has the advantage of numbers. According to a recent government estimate, some 15 crore people speak Hindi and Bhojpuri in UP and Bihar. So, I can only hope that our member Nitin Chandra’s work ‘Deswa’ will mark the rebirth of good Bhojpuri cinema, rather birth of Bhojpuri cinema that will establish itself over time as a genre. From whatever little I have heard about the subject it deals with, I hope it will taste decent success at the box office. Once that happens, more people will be attracted to making quality cinema in Bhojpuri. And when people will have a choice of quality over quantity, they will go for the former.
But good films will not come up just because there are good intentions. Something more is required to sustain this trend. One Nitin Chandra is not enough. We need more professionals from Bihar as Film makers. The current film makers in Bhojpuri Cinema are not trained professionals, that’s why they pay attention to making cheap movies.
Then, we also will need to improve the insecure conditions of the cinema halls in the interiors of the state which has also resulted in the decreasing rate of cine viewers. Bgrade theatres can afford only B grade movies. Here, the govt. needs to pitch in by giving them subsidies. It is the government’s responsibility to help in offering low-cost entertainment (as opposed to cheap entertainment) to its people; a deluge of cheap films will only corrupt and manipulate the youth who will determine the future of the state.
This will attract good filmmakers with meager resources to making films on socio-political issues in Bhojpuri that, in turn, will create jobs for locals. The most important thing is that a Film Training Institute somewhere near Patna must be set up. This should be followed by setting up of a film studio. It will launch a filmmaking culture in Bihar which will automatically result in production of good Bhojpuri cinema. Universities in Bihar too should offer subjects on film making, so that the young generation can become interested in this art. I am sure if these measures are taken, Bhojpuri cinema will evolve, sooner rather than later.
PS: Only last week, the UP tourism department has sent a proposal to the CEO of Gorakhpur Industrial
Development Authority (GIDA) to allocate 110 acres of land for setting up a film city and a film training institute for Bhojpuri movies near Sahjanwa town in the district. Is it a signal for Bihar Tourism dept. to act fast?
Author: Rakesh Srivastava (Rakesh works for a leading software consulting company in India and currently lives in New Delhi. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)