Saturday, July 11, 2009

crude or realistic: what is bhojpuri cinema?

often people slam cinema made in local languages as crude and technically immature, unless it is strongly patronised by cultural czars. More so if the maker has had training at one of the elite school of film making and then includes list of long shots with interspersed close ups and silent pauses ( did we hear art cinema?), the cinema is liable to be panned by critics and academics alike. One thing common in both of them is that they can not digest popular cinema. It is merely popular cinema meant to be discussed later in an academic paper to be presented at some conference at some western country, but in their public reading these films are reviewed badly. They are matters of amusement but not consumption. So films made in Bhojpuri, Garhwali, Nepali, Bundelkhandi etc. are subaltern culture with formula themes, garish colour and unreal fantasy. Bhojpuri cinema has long suffered from this kind of mindset. This is why despite having millions of cinema goers for Bhojpuri cinema in cities like Delhi, Mumbai and Amritsar or Ludhiana, Bhojouri films are never reviewed in popular dailies.
Bhojpuri cinema has often been derided as crude in story and also treatment, the camera work is jerky and acting loud. Even in Bihar and UP the elite and upper middle class never patronises Bhojpuri cinema. It is fashionable to watch a Bengali or Italian or Iranian films without subtitle, but never that respect is accorded to a Bhojpuri cinema. Now what most would call it crude, I would call it the main reason behind its stupendous success. The class profile of the Bhojpuri cinema goers is materially exposed to low income and low spending with very high saving and remittances. They are mostly who earn their daily bread after a long day of toil and hard labour. and many millions among them are living without their families and sexual partners. They miss all of them including their regional food. the 'crude' Bhojpuri films cater to them
The crudeness in treatment and production and post production reduces the cost of making these films and makes them affordable. The moment they have big stars, costly sets, foreign locales and hip post production( sadly all these are creeping in though) the films ticket will rise and go beyond affordability. Till now even a shoulder video camera and local artistes and cheap post production have ensured handsome returns. It is no one's argument that the quality of Bhojpuri films should remain poor, but definitely this makes them affordable.
techinally superior films are fantasy of elite. masses have always cherishes films that have simple story and have hardly gone in for slick, and technically well made films. Here I am talking of technical in the sense of hardware and software. They only make a film look slick and can be appreciated by a discerning critic like the colour scheme, smart post production and so on.
Bhojpuri films must develop its own economics and stick to them. Big stars and all that will blur the difference from mainstream Hindi films and lose audience. The economics of low budget, regional and local films must develop its own economic dogmas and must not fall prey to elitist, capitalist agenda of hardware and software sellers.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Bhojpuri Sholay

Bhojpuri cinema has done it again. It has notched a super commercial success where Hindi film maker failed. The Bhojpuri remake of Sholay called ‘Gabbar Singh’ is most intelligent adaptation with big stars and big names in it. It succeeded where Ram Gopal Verma failed. It created a classic with commercial success. The film tells the story of an army man going wrong and that explains why he wears army fatigue and is good at gun.
This film Gabbar Singh has been made by TV Czarina Ekta Kapoor and has her father the hero of yesteryears, Jeetendra, as Thakur Bladev Singh, now legendary role played by Sanjeev Kumar. And the Gabbar Singh is current Bhojpuri superstar Ravi Kissen with handle bar moustache! This is an interesting casting coup as for Jeetendra it is the first Bhojpuri film and for Bhojpuri film it brings the organized film making of the biggest TV software making firm Balaji and Ekta’s business acumen. Not surprisingly, it has met with huge commercial success. This is a big day for Bhojpuri film as more important than Amitabh Bachchan and Hema Malini acting in a Bhojpuri film as this marks the professionalization of the Bhojpuri films. The organized money and professional support will result in economic stability and weed out fly by night operator who have started making movies in Meerut style had held camera and laptop based editing software.
But more interesting is the fact that the comment made by a Bhojpuri film maker that only a film made by a Bihar/UP person succeed as they only understand the cinematic expectations of the region. Just by including a mandatory litti-chokha song and a buxom heroine one can’t ensure a success. Films are failing like anything. These overnight operators hire cheap equipment, less qualified technicians, compromise on sets and make up and ultimately depend upon locally available talent – all that do not conjure a workable solution. Just by sticking to Bhojpuri language one can’t ensure a commercial success.
The entry of big film makers (more than big stars) augurs well for the nascent film industry. But then the problem is low density of cinema halls and the very low entry fee to them in the state will always hamper the prospects of films being made and released exclusively for the region. The region loosely called poorvanchal has to wake up to the strong wave of local cinema and to cater to them must have their own version of multiplexes. The revolution in the way people of Bihar-UP watch films has to happen now. Governments of the two states have to realize that investments in more hall density will lead to massive rise in revenue. The limited prints (ten only) release of Bhojpuri Gabbar Singh has brought out this plight like never before. We must sit up and take notice.

Banke Bihari

Review: Banke Bihari MLA (Bhojpuri)
Producer: Ramesh Rao
Director: Babloo Soni
Writer: Babloo Soni
Music: Gunwant Sen-Raj Sen
Cast: Ravi Kissen, Rambha, Kunal Singh, Savita Prabune, Vijay Khare.
The film has a major star cast from Ravi Kissen to Rambha to Kunal Singh and it was a major commercial success in UP/Bihar and also wherever it was screened. The success of the film must lie in the star cast and its better production value rather than any strong story line. The film is usual fare with a rural India in the context. Not very imaginative story.
It is about Ravi Kissen being an unemployed young man whose father used to consider him a way ward but mother would pamper him. Village people thought that he was a nice person with no malice. He would generally play with small kids and get fooled by young women of the village.
Then one day while coming back from a marriage he found some goons trying to outrage the modesty of the heroine (Rambha) and fights with them to save her. The brother and his wife of Rambha were killed by the Thakur and she was lawyer at Patna High Court. Then once when the goons of Thakur attacked and hit his mother he went ballistic and hit back. The Thakur’s men came back and he had to run but his father was picked up and he was arrested by police. From jail he contests the assembly elections and wins the election against Thakur who was the sitting MLA. He then goes on to teach the Thakur and his men a lesson.
The film has all the ingredient of a typical Bhojpuri film: rural context, exploiting Thakur, voluptuous heroine, raunchy songs, fights and corrupt police. The presence of South Indian star Rambha in her revealing dresses is a major draw. Ravi Kissen is as it is the most popular hero of the Bhojpuri films. So it was the combination that worked.
The Bhojpuri films are made for a certain kind of audience in mind who has strong rural roots. They are nostalgic about the loss of their land, their imaginary fight with the local lord, their fantasy about fair maiden and the raunchy song and dance ritual so common in marriages in the Bhojpur region. But what seems to have attracted the viewers is the simpleton turned powerful MLA avenger- a dream shared many in politically charged Bihar. It is a state where people still think that politics must change the way we live in. Hence a common man’s fight becomes every one’s fight only when Banke becomes an MLA. He is a symbol of peoples’ faith in democracy and democratic institutions. It shows that despite all the failures faced by Indian democracy, the fait of people in democracy is not dead. Not yet!