Bhojpuri Cinema

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1) First President Rajendra Prasad instrumental in first Bhojpuri film

PTI : Patna, Sun Nov 17 2013 IndianExpress

2) Bhojiwood losing its lustre

Sunday, 07 July 2013 | Utpal Kumar |

Daily Pioneer

Ganga Maiyya Tohe Piyari Chadhaibo, the pioneer

Ganga Maiyya Tohe Piyari Chadhaibo (1962): First Bhojpuri film

Bhojiwood began its journey quite accidentally — and in a dramatic way — with Ganga Maiya Tohe Piyari Chadhaibo. As the story goes, sometime in the late 1950s, actor Nazir Hussain met the then President Rajendra Prasad at a film awards function in Mumbai. “Are you a Punjabi?” the President asked Hussain. When the actor replied that he was from Ghazipur district in eastern Uttar Pradesh, Rajendra babu got excited and asked him, “Why don’t you make a film in Bhojpuri?” When Hussain said he was just a character actor and the venture would need a lot of money, Rajendra babu insisted by saying: “But you can do it.”

This inspired Hussain to make Ganga Maiya Tohe Piyari Chadhaibo in 1962. And thus was born a new film industry.

Noted actor Nazir Hussain's chance meeting with India's first President Rajendra Prasad resulted in the country's first Bhojpuri film, the timeless classic Ganga Maiyya Tohe Piyari Chadhaibo (1963).

"Despite being the President, Rajen Babu always spoke to people from Bhojpuri-speaking regions in his mother-tongue and when Nasir sahab met him, he expressed his desire to see a film in Bhojpuri language being made," says film scholar and critic Alok Ranjan.

For Hussain, who hailed from Ghazipur in eastern Uttar Pradesh, the chance encounter proved to be a catalyst that helped turn a dream into an obsession.

The film starring Kum Kum of "C.I.D" fame and featuring the voices of Lata Mangeshkar and Mohammed Rafi, in soulful renditions was released in 1963 to critical and commercial applause. The title song, sung by Lata Mangeshkar, was more popular than most the Hindi-Urdu songs of the year and rose high on the national Binaca Geet Mala charts

The film was eventually dedicated to President Rajen Babu at his post-retirement retreat at the Sadaquat Asharam in Patna on February 21, 1963 and released the next day for public at the Veena Cinema in Patna.

Colour films

"Dangal" was the first colour cinema in Bhojpuri. Other prominent films include "Dagabaz Balma" starring Padma Khanna, and "Hamar Dewdas".

The first phase: 1963-76

The Bhojpuri industry couldn’t really take off. Between 1963 and 1976, only 21 Bhojpuri movies were made.

The second phase: 1977-2001

Dangal (1977): First Bhojpuri film in colour

The year 1977 saw the rebirth of the Bhojpuri film industry with its first colour movie, Dangal, starring Sujit Kumar and Prema Narayan.

This second phase of Bhojpuri films lasted from 1977 till 2001 and about 140 movies were produced during this period.

2001-2012: dominance, because Mumbai forgets middle India

The “third wave”, as Ghosh calls the emergence of Bhojpuri cinema in the 2000s, was different from anything that had happened in the past. The gold rush this time brought all kinds of people willing to invest their money. Sadly, most of them neither knew anything about the industry, nor had they any knowledge of Bhojpuri culture. They were just eager to make a quick buck. In the process, the very character of Bhojiwood changed. Its earlier films were culturally rooted in the Bhojpuri-speaking area and filmmakers would go the extra mile to rightly paint the region’s customs and traditions. Ghosh tells us how scenes of weddings or even a tadikhana (drinking place), as in Ganga Maiya Tohe Piyari Chadhaibo, carried a degree of authenticity. The films in the current phase, in contrast, have no or very little stamp of Bhojpuri flavour.

It’s this development that has brought in crass vulgarity in Bhojiwood — incidentally, the roots of its decline can be found here. The newly-arrived filmmakers, in their obsession to mint money, would bring in glamour to make up for their ignorance of the region and its culture. Thus, one finds former Miss World Yukta Mukhi as an item girl in a Bhojpuri film. For the producers she was a big catch, but for most people in the qasbas of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, she was a non-entity!

Then, these producers wanted to cash in on the presence of a large number of ‘bhaiyyas’ (workers from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh) in different parts of the country. These were uprooted people. With nothing coming from Bollywood, and with their families living in far away villages, they preferred spicier Bhojpuri stuff. Back in Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh, the core Bhojpuri audience still wanted clean family socials. The new wave of Bhojpuri cinema, thus, alienated most families, particularly women, who had traditionally been its main audience. Such was their support that during a show of Ganga Kinare Mora Goan, the biggest blockbuster of the 1980s, on April 10, 1984, in Mirzapur, Uttar Pradesh, women formed 90 per cent of the audience. Thus, with the traditional family support gone, Bhojpuri cinema fell like a pack of cards when Bollywood reinvented itself in 2008.

The Bhojpuri boom began in 2004 with Sasura Bada Paisewala, which was made with a small budget of Rs30 lakh and went on to collect a whopping Rs9 crore. Soon many, finding it a profitable avenue, jumped in the fray to make Bhojpuri films. In the next eight years, almost 500 films were produced, transforming the “fledgling cottage industry of the 1960s” into a “bustling regional film industry”, as author Avijit Ghosh puts it in his book, Cinema Bhojpuri.

The audience would clap and whistle at ridiculously clichéd dialogues. The best was when rustic Manoj Tiwary, the hero of the film Sasura Bada Paisewala, took on the urbane, arrogant heroine for abusing his potter friend in English. “Hey, you shut up,” he retorted in the same language, adding: “On getting a little education, do you think that other people are insects?” Hearing this, most people were on their feet. The jubilation was explicable, coming as it was out of a deep-seated desire to cut the ‘Angrez’ Indians to size — something they could never do in real life!

2013: decline, because Mumbai rediscovers India

In the first decade of the 21st century Bhojpuri cinema seemed unbeatable. Not just in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, it was also getting good returns from centres as far away as Mumbai. Not anymore. Utpal Kumar looks at the reasons that led to its decline

The Bollywood turnaround can be traced back to as early as 2008 when Ghajini and Wanted marked the return of action flicks. Before that, Hindi cinema had taken almost a decade-long break from what we call middle India, creating films for the urbane, suave NRIs who preferred romance over action, New York over Nalanda, and McDonalds over makke ki roti-sarson ka saag. This created a dearth of mass-oriented movies, with which the inhabitants of the Hindi heartland identified. So, in search of old, rustic-style action-cum-comedy, the audience in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh turned to Bhojpuri cinema.

“With not-so-urban, action-oriented themes making a comeback in Bollywood, Bhojpuri films are facing a tough challenge in making their presence felt even in the strongholds of Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh,” says Rahul Mishra, a distributor in the north Bihar region. “Since 2010, Bhojiwood’s business has shrunk by almost half. Even the films of big stars like Tiwary and Ravi Kishen aren’t as profitable as they used to be a couple of years ago,” adds he.

Mishra recalls how Dabangg 2, despite being penned down by critics, saw hordes of people rushing to theatres in Bihar. “The film had got an incredible opening across the State, reminding us of good, old days. And it was not an isolated incident. Last few years have seen films like Son of Sardar, Rowdy Rathore, Singham, Bodyguard, etc, doing well in single-screen theatres. In the process, they have eaten into the profit share of Bhojpuri cinema, which in the last decade had a near-monopoly in this market,” he explains.

Come 2013, constant hawking, relentless spitting, loud phone calls, and non-stop coming and going of people — all these continue in single-screen cinema halls. Still there’s a perceptible change in the air: Today Bhojiwood, as we call Bhojpuri cinema, is not the sole entertainer of the masses of the Hindi heartland. Bollywood has struck back and the place of Bhojiwood stars — Tiwary, Ravi Kishen, Dinesh Lal Yadav ‘Nirhua’, among others — has been taken by Salman ‘Dabangg’ Khan, Ajay ‘Singham’ Devgn and Akshay ‘Rowdy’ Kumar. And, unlike their Karan Johar-ish avatar, these Bollywood stars don’t look down upon their core audience. Rather, their films celebrate clichés that the people of qasbas and villages enjoy: The rich-poor conflict, urban-rural divide, tradition-modernity differences — all this amid a traditional family drama.

By the mid-2000s, Bollywood filmmakers realised that their NRI obsession had reached a point of diminishing returns. There were no big hits like Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge or Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. They, thus, had no option but to return to their middle India roots, which they did with a bang with Ghajini in 2008. By 2010, the transformation was so acute that the hero had to be Chulbul Pandey, and not Raj or Rahul. In Dabangg 2, he generously uses rustic humour and introduces the villain as someone who uses Lifebuoy soap, brushes with Dabur Laal Dant Manjan, and puts chameli (jasmine) oil on his head! And if this were not Bhojpuri enough, one finds Bhojiwood-like songs in Munni Badnam Hui and Fevicol Se . So, for all practical purposes, Dabangg, Rowdy Rathore,Singham, Son of Sardar, among others, point towards the Bhojiwood-isation of Bollywood. Hindi movies have now become the new Bhojpuri.

While Bollywood’s rediscovery of the Hindi heartland has helped Hindi films hit the Rs100-crore mark way too often, it has surely dealt a body blow to Bhojpuri cinema. Today, Bhojiwood has not only squandered its share in Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh, it has lost its hold over a large section of territories in Maharashtra, Punjab, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh. “Till a couple of years ago, big films featuring actors like Ravi Kishen and Manoj Tiwary would fetch around Rs 50 lakh in Mumbai. Today, they just manage Rs15 to Rs20 lakh,” says Ratnesh Naik, a Pune-based distributor.

Delhi's Bhojpuri-oriented cinema halls fade away

Incidentally, the decline of Bhojpuri cinema has also seen the closing down of a large number of single-screen theatres like Moti, one of the oldest single-screen halls in Chandni Chowk, Delhi. Known for screening only Bhojpuri films, Moti — the third oldest single-screen cinema hall in the Capital after Regal and Plaza — was quite popular among Poorvanchalis.

Hans Cinema, in Delhi’s Azadpur area with a large population of labourers from outside, is still holding the fort, playing Nirhua’s latest Vardi Wala Gunda . But a visit there would be enough to indicate that even this theatre is on its last legs. And with this we would lose another single-screen theatre in Delhi which has shown us the wonders of cinema at Rs20-Rs30. You won’t even get a soft drink with this amount of money at a multiplex, but here it buys you the pleasure of watching Mahesh Bhatt’s Jism 2, Sanjay Dutt’s Policegiri and, of course, a Bhojpuri film. But for how long remains a big question.

The classics

Ganga Maiya Tohe Piyari Chadhaibo (1962)

Revolving around a widow's predicament, the film, being the first film in Bhojpuri language, was made for Rs5 lakh. It grossed Rs75 lakh. It was dedicated to Rajendra Prasad, the first President, for being the inspiration behind its making.

Dangal (1977)

The film marks the revival of Bhojpuri cinema in the late 1970s after a brief success in the 1960s. Sujit Kumar and Prema Narayan were the lead pair for the film which also saw Nadeem-Shravan, the top music director pair of the 1990s, making their debut.

Ganga Kinare Mora Gaon (1983)

Directed by Dilip Bose, a well-known Bhojpuri filmmaker, the film ran for 30 weeks in Patna's Apsara theatre. Biggest hit of its time, it’s an emotional tearjerker.

Sasura Bada Paisewala (2004)

This movie revived the Bhojpuri film industry after the dull 1990s. It was such a big success that it did better business than Bunty Aur Babli in Bihar. Made with a shoestring budget of Rs30 lakh, it went on to collect over Rs9 crore.

Panditji Batai Na Byah Kab Hoi (2005)

Directed by Mohanji Prasad, who has given several hits in Bhojiwood, the film turned Ravi Kishen into the star he is today. This movie, along with Sasura Bada Paisewala, saw more than 275 films being made in the next five years.

Bhojpuri film industry

The Times of India

by sophia ajaz 15 May 2009 on several websites including

LET ME make it clear at the very outset. The government of India considers Bhojpuri to be a dialect of Hindi. But they are now preparing to grant it statutory status as a national scheduled language. Bhojpuri is spoken in Bihar, Jharkhand and UP in India. Abroad it is spoken in Fiji, Guyana, Mauritius, Nepal, Netherlands, Surinam and Trinidad and Tobago. Wonder when the matters would speed up officially for Bhojpuri.

Some notable Bhojpuri personalities are freedom fighter Swami Sahajanand Saraswati, first president of India Rajendra Prasad, former Indian prime ministers Lal Bahadur Shastri and Chandra Shekhar, folk singer Bihar Kokila Padma Shri Sharda Sinha, actor Manoj Bajpai, superstar Ravi Kishan and singer/actor Manoj Tiwari Mridul.

Bhojpuri film industry is just 48 years old (first film Ganga Maiyya Tohe Piyari Charaihbo, 1961). But its growth has been phenomenal. And the credit for it largely goes to superstars Ravi, Manoj and Naghma. Singer Udit Narayan is producing hits in Bhojpuri. The lavish budgets now make it possible to shoot these flicks overseas.

It is the only regional cinema that has stood against Bollywood movies and made Hindi actors like Amitabh Bachchan, Hema Malini, Ajay Devgan, Jackie Shroff, et al act in it willingly. Subhash Ghai and other producers are willing to invest in it. It has beaten Punjabi and even Tamil cinema in coming close to Bollywood flicks. Cash rich and going strong, it is running parallel to Bollywood.

Made on small budgets, these films do bumper business and are lapped up by viewers even in Punjab and Maharashtra. Desh Drohi (2008) was a hit right from the day one since it dealt with Bihari/UPites migration to Mumbai and bias against them in jobs.

Bhojpuri actors are not only welcomed open armed in Bolly flicks, they are given meatier roles too. The prime examples are again Ravi and Manoj; more about Ravi later on.

Manoj was a struggling singer. He debuted in Sasura Bada Paisewala (2005). The film celebrated golden jubilee. Made with Rs 30 lakh, it did a business of Rs 12 crore. Rest as they say is history. In the last four years, Manoj has grown in stature. He charges about Rs 50 lakhs per film. That’s something for a regional new superstar.

And now for the pleasant surprise; Manoj has piped past maestro Pandit Hari Prasad Chaurasia to be the Indian face on the Dutch postage stamp. Priced at 44 eurocents, the stamp is selling big time in Netherlands, courtesy large immigrant Bhojpurias there. What bigger honour can a young man bring to his country and so early in his career? On May 22, 2009, he will be honoured in person in Netherlands.

Manoj’s clout has grown tremendously. On a recent visit to Mauritius, CM Nitish Kumar took him along for a political dialogue there. Film stars are not ‘pea brains’ anymore. They wield influence.

Born in Atarwalia village, Kaimur district, Bihar, probably Manoj (37) wouldn’t have thought that he would one day enter politics. Now he has contested elections from Gorakhpur (UP) on SP ticket. Considering his rising stars, he will win the seat hands down, no matter the stiff competition. Sky is the limit for him.

So these are regional superstars, who have risen much higher than the Bollywood superstars mainly on merit. They didn’t have influence or moolah power. Certainly there is no glamour quotient here. But look where they have gone and taken Bhojpuri movies. Most single screens in Bihar and UP would have been turned into malls were it not for these movies.

It is about time, Indian government awoke from its slumber and honoured the language and gave Bhojpuri movies the industry status. At any time, Bhojpuri is better than Bollywood. We run after a shadow (Bolly flicks) but the substance lies here (Bhojpuri flicks). Let’s give the credit where it is due. They deserve all success and kudos.

Coming to Aslam Sheikh directed Bidai, the movie was released in November 2008. It has already celebrated silver jubilee, a rarity nowadays even in Bollywood. The movie is still going strong. The story is about a young bride Sugandha (Rinku Ghosh), whose poor dad, a court clerk Shivdayal (Prithvi Singh), couldn’t provide adequate dowry. (And I thought dowry was streedhan gift for brides alone and not their in-laws!).

That becomes a causa majoris in her in-laws’ home. As expected, she is ill-treated and is sent back to her dad’s home. While in college, Sugandha was in love with Suraj (Ravi Kishan), who belonged to a different caste. So, she gets married in her own caste to Rahul (Avinash Shahi). Rahul is a security guard for MLA Jagdamba Prasad (Mohan Joshi).

When Suraj sees Sugandha’s ill-treatment, he decides to act. In comes Jagdamba. A tug of war goes on. Will Sugandha fight for her own cause? Some of you may have guessed the ending. Good for you!

Frankly, this movie is not my cup of tea. I thought dowry, etc were a thing of the past. But you know what, in rural India this and other evils still exist and fill the village gossip corners. I had a hard time keeping awake despite the viewers’ seeties (whistles, claps) around. I wanted to kick myself. But I had decided to watch it and if I suffered for a few hours, that’s my fate.

I can’t write any further on this. The movie is a hit and there ends the matter. The village gauris are ineffective against dowry. Matters have gone awry. Can anything be done to save these pyari, dulari, nyari, sansari.

Let’s end on a happy note and that is the movie’s hero Ravi Kishan (38). He is a phenomenon, whose reach remains unmatched. Belonging to Jaunpur, he has seen a rapid rise in Bhojpuri cinema. He is the Shahrukh Khan there. His popularity has reached such levels that foreign media courts him.

Hindi movies are offered to him on a platter. He will soon be seen in Mani Ratnam’s Raavan (2009). He has acted in about 30 Bollywood flicks and countless Bhojpuri runaway hits. He makes a hit pair with Naghma. He is the only actor to have a film named after him that was a super duper hit.

Earlier he was written off and had no work. Later his rise was meteoric. He didn’t forget his earlier times and now actively gives back to the Bhojpuri community. Recently he walked the ramp at IITC Fashion Show 2009. In his case I must quote, “whom God chooses, nobody disposes”.

Watch Bidai for Ravi. He is the movie’s saving grace.

Bhojpuri film industry II

September 11, 2010 The World of Bhojpuri Cinema Divya Bajpai Jha talks about Avijit Ghosh’s book Cinema Bhojpuri. She teaches at University of Delhi and is currently pursuing her PhD from School of Arts & Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. This review appeared in The Asian Age on September 5, 2010. She can be contacted at

Divya B Jha Cinema Bhojpuri Author: Avijit Ghosh Price: Rs 250 Publisher: Penguin

Cinema Bhojpuri by Avijit Ghosh displays a happy union of his love for this regional cinema and the adroit journalistic doggedness of approach in writing what, in my view, is one of the most comprehensive and authentic accounts of the history of Bhojpuri cinema. As a cinema scholar, I am acutely aware of the utter lack of authentic information about our films. Yet, Ghosh manages to trace the entire history of Bhojpuri Cinema – right from the Dr Rajendra Prasad-inspired first Bhojpuri film in 1962, Ganga Maiya Tohe Piyari Chadhaibo (O Mother Ganga, I will offer you the yellow cloth), to 2007. Writing in a lucid, layman-friendly style, he summarises the major trends of Bhojpuri cinema’s history in three periods:

The first period, 1962 to 1968, had such gems as Bidesiya, Laagi Nahi Chhute Ram and Hamaar Sansar, apart from the epoch making first film. The second period, 1977 to 2001, saw Bhojpuri cinema gaining momentum and superhit films Balam Pardesiya and Ganga Kinare Mora Gaon belong to this period. The most prolific and commercially successful period of Bhojpuri cinema is the current one, 2002 onwards. Of the total 475 films released between 1962 and 2008, 275 were produced between 2004 and 2008 alone. The Manoj Tiwari, Rani Chatterjee starrer Sasura Bada Paisawala, which created box office history by grossing over Rs 9 crore even though it was made on a meagre budget of Rs 30 lakh, belongs to this period. No mainstream Bollywood film had ever posted such a huge margin of profit till then.

Avijit Ghosh

Ghosh’s book has brief biographical sketches of the people involved in this industry – actors, directors, producers and writers and it talks of the princely state of Rajpipla — a favoured destination for location shoots — and how Bhojpuri cinema and Rajpipla have contributed to the growth of each other. In the book’s last section, Ghosh talks of the evolution of Bhojpuri film music, from the soul-stirring lyrics of Sonwa ke pinjara mein band bhayeel hai ram chirayi ke jiyara udaas (Ganga Maiya tohe piyari Chadhaibo), to ribald atrocities like Gamchha bichai ke (Sasura Bada Paisawala).

The book, complete with an impressive filmography that includes an unverified 2008 list, is a treasure trove for any Bhojpuri cinema aficionado. Popular culture acknowledges subjective versions of history like reminiscence, memoirs, autobiography and anecdote as valid sites of enquiry. Ghosh, too, largely builds his impressive account of Bhojpuri cinema on interviews with numerous people like Kumkum and Padma Khanna, who acted in the first Bhojpuri film, to the 80-year-old Munnu Prasad Pandey, editor of a weekly Hindi film newspaper published from Benaras. Had he included some more anecdotal reminiscences in the book, especially about on-location misadventures, scandals, brain-waves and good fortunes, it would have given the reader a glimpse of the masala and magic of this colourful young cinema.

Throughout the book Ghosh projects Mumbai’s mainstream cinema as the norm and pits the regional Bhojpuri cinema against it to judge the latter’s merits and demerits. Bhojpuri cinema itself seems to underscore this relationship of admiration and imitation as time and again successful Bollywood films are remade in Bhojpuri — Mother India as Dharti Maiya and Judaai as Saiyan Se Solah Singaar are two such examples. However, the reasons Ghosh ascribes for the resurgence of this regional cinema in the last decade are problematic.

According to Ghosh, Bhojpuri cinema of the last decade is a reassertion of the local, the rural and the moffusil against the Hollywoodisation, uber-sophistication and cosmetic character of what he calls the “feel-good, upper-class, urban-centric cinema” of Mumbai. But then, Bhojpuri cinema, right from Ganga Maiya Tohe Piyari Chadhabo, was just that — a celebration of the local and the rural. The milieu was rural, the themes and idiom also decidedly so. Be it the constant reference to rural concerns like land reforms, farming, festivals, caste system, the endless loop of misfortune between the local liquor shop and the wicked money-lender or the untold miseries in the name of family pride, honour and virtue — all resonated with the rhythms of rural India.

Something changed post 2001, when the more successful and commercially-viable Bhojpuri cinema, that ostensibly celebrated the same local, lost its cultural moorings and became a form of entertainment not meant for family viewership. The current crop of Bhojpuri film-makers blame two factors for it. Firstly, the advent of what they call the “outsider”, i.e. the non-Bhojpuri speaking film professional in Bhojpuri cinema who only has an eye on profits with no connect or regard for Bhojpuri culture or ethos. Though Ghosh refutes this charge, he seems to be in agreement with the second reason given for the changing character of Bhojpuri cinema.

The viewership, certainly the dominant viewership, of Bhojpuri cinema today is perceived to be the young, uneducated, male, migratory labour class from Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh living in various parts of the country.

This viewership frequents the single-screen theatres of industrial towns, cities and fringes of metros. They cannot connect with the multiplex cinema of size-zero figures and uber-rich angst – the kind that is made by the Karan Johars and Farhan Akhtars of Bollywood. They want their heroines well endowed and they want to see their underdog heroes win against insurmountable odds. Music for them is more about rhythm and less about melody; lyrics more about double meaning, lewd words and less about rustic flavour. In fact, to them goes the credit for whatever is commercially right and aesthetically wrong with Bhojpuri cinema. They have saved many single-screen cinema halls from imminent closure.

They have managed to create the triumvirate of Manoj Tiwari, Ravi Kishen and Dinesh Lal Yadav ‘Nirahua’ – the super stars of Bhojpuri cinema who command a price that is only a little less than the budget of the entire film!

Tags: avijit ghosh, bhojpuri cinema, bihar, bollywood, divya jha, film

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