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Is Bhojpuri cinema heading the Bollywood way?
Bhojpuri film industry has become a buzz among movie-watchers in India and abroad. Catering to around 200 million people across the globe, the industry has started wooing several Bollywood biggies.
AMITABH BACHCHAN, AJAY Devgan, Mithun Chakraborty and Nagma; they all have something in common. Treated as demi-gods in a territory explored in recent times, Bhojpuri cinema, these actors are put on a pedestal that can be equated with some kind of hero-worship.
 
Bhojpuri is a spoken dialect in the states of 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 one would hear across various continents. And this explains the immense popularity that Bhojpuri films enjoy today. I will analyse this ‘brand’ of regional arena.
 
Gone are the days when only those who failed to make it in Bollywood trudged to this domain of regional cinema. Today the market is huge and is flourishing with Bollywood biggies like Juhi Chawla, Udit Narayan and Saroj Khan to name a few.
 
The success stories of Dharti Putra, Sasura Bada Paisawala, Saiyaan Se Neha Lagaibo and not to mention Firangi Dulhania, which boasts of a Ukrainian actress, Tanya in the lead role, can throw a stiff challenge to many in the mainstream cinema.
 
Among the recent ‘joinees’ in the Bhojpuri cinema, are celebrated choreographer Saroj Khan, with her directorial debut Dil Deewana Tohar Hua, actresses Hrishita Bhatt, Preeti Jhangiyani, who failed to impress the audience in Bollywood flicks, and singer Udit Narayan who produced Kab Hoyibe Gauna Hamaar and Kab Kahbaw Tu I Love You.
 
Fighting with the common perception that Bhojpuri cinema is down-market and cheap or ‘C’ grade, Bhojpuri films are now transforming the fortunes of younger – and sometimes newer aspirants such as Ravi Kishen, Nagma, Manoj Tiwari and Rani Chatterjee, who are as busy as any acclaimed mainstream cinestar.  
The mantra for the success of these films seems to be low investment, low risk and high returns. The budget normally ranges around Rs 30-40 lakh, with the bigger ones getting made in about Rs 60-80 lakh. The production also gets wrapped up in three-six months flat. There are no starry tantrums. Complete discipline expedites the whole process of filmmaking.
 
Meanwhile, the theme of these movies, generally quite close to rural India, endears them to the target audience even more. The thrust is towards homegrown subjects like relationships, emotions and family ties and not techni-colour fantasies. Much like the family dramas of the 1960s, the concerns are largely to do with marriage and family.
 
So, who is the target audience? It is the people who don’t ride in cars or who don’t stroll to the nearby PVR on every weekend to catch the latest release. Bhojpuri films seem to fill the space that mainstream Hindi cinema has left in its wake.
 
This leaves most of us thinking if Bhojpuri cinema is going to give a tough time to Bollywood? Well, the fact that the movies Sasura Bada Paisawela and Daroga Babu I Love You were not only mega hits of 2005 but also did more business in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh than the A-list Bollywood releases, Bunty Aur Babli and Mangal Pandey - The Rising, could be an eye-opener.
 

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ajay devgan
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amitabh bachchan
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