Bhojpuri Films: Global Markets With Local Themes


Trying to develop it as unique socio-cultural cum ethno-linguistic brand of India’s cow belt --- Bihar and Eastern parts of Uttar Pradesh --- the makers of Bhojpuri films now are going global with different foreign nations including Mauritius, Fiji, British Guyana, Maldives, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and South Africa being major target areas.

Making its presence on the silver screens with “Ganga Maiya Tohe Piyari Charhaibo” many decades ago, the latest buzz of Bhojpuri cinema world is to sprawl beyond the frontiers of India by making the films at par with those of the Bollywood technologically cum production-wise but with themes revolving round the cow belt only, to maintain “originality”.

What is most newsy, the makers of this particular genre of films also have embarked upon consolidating what they described as the “Pollywood”: the Bhojpuri film industry localizing in Patna with tentacles being spread in Muzaffarpur, Bar, Ara, Varanasi and Allahabad.

The Bhojpuri films are in great demand both in India and outside the country where a large segment of Bhojpuri speaking people exists.
With low investment and localized themes of the cow belt, the Bhojpuri films enjoy very large market globally. The total number of Bhojpuri speaking people spread all over the world would not be less than 32 crore.

Feeling that the opening up of Indian economy, regular holding of international meet of Non Resident Indians by the Indian Government, announcement of “Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas” and accordance of dual citizenship to the people of Indian origin have brightened up the prospect of Bhojpuri films globally.

A strange fact of the Bhojpuri film industry is that though it happened to be the language of the vast strip of eastern part of Uttar Pradesh, no government there ever tried to consolidate it in that state. Since 1962, Bihar practically became synonymous with the Bhojpuri films though their major viewing-area happened to be Varanasi, Mirzapur, Allahabad, Bhadohi, Ballia and almost entire eastern part of U.P.

Bihar had produced as assortment of top heroines like Kumud Chhugani and Kumkum in the yester years. To top it, from 1969 till now, the state made a vigorous presence in the silver screens with a large number of actors including Shotgun Shatrughan Sinha, Manoj Vajpayee, Sekhar Suman, Liliput and Pyare Mohan Sahai.

Except Shatrughan who made the film “Bihari Babu” in Bhojpuri, none of the heroes tried to promote the films in the main regional language of Bihar.

It was virtually the lone efforts of Vishwanath Sahabadi to give birth to the Bhojpuri film industry through the super-hit “Ganga Maiya Tohe Piyari Charhaibo”: it showed, even in regional language, a cinema can be as commercially successful as any dhamaka Bollywood movie.

Dwelling on the highly sensitive socio-religious subject of widow re-marriage, Sahabadi’s celluloid venture had posed a very serious question with extreme tranquility: if a male widower remarries without any qualms, what is wrong if a widow lady embraces a “new” husband?

The overseas demand of Bhojpuri films is more for “sentimental reasons” and “urge to know the roots” than for entertainment or recreation. Lucky said most of the past and present films in Bhojpuri are commanding demands in foreign markets and the demand-curve can be shot up by at least 30 percent with proper marketing strategy revolving round the projection of such films as a “ethno-social cum linguistic brand” of Bihar-UP pocket.

The makers of Bhojpuri films now are planning to market their films in two different ways in foreign nations:
1. direct marketing in selected countries where the Bhojpuri speaking people migrated as labourer in plantation and agriculture sector over 170 years ago
2. and / or try for global distribution rights of different films, music cassettes and video song albums.

Though “commercialism” has set in the world of Bhojpuri films, the overseas advertisement or media blitz is yet to be launched by the directors and producers. Both the “old classics” and new films can be easily marketed through bilateral efforts at the “government-to-government level”.

The governments of Bihar and U.P. together with the Centre should hold talks with Surinam, Mauritius, South Africa and Fiji for organizing Bhojpuri film festivals regularly to promote the Bhojpuri films. He said the era of global marketing of Bhojpuri films now has dawned and it must be cashed effectively.

Fact File: I

Bhojpuri Viewers: worldwide

i. Total Population (world-wide): 46 crore in different countries of the world including India

ii. Primary Bhojpuri speaking belts in India: Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Siddhi-pocket in Madhya Pradesh

iii. Bhojpuri speaking people outside India (major zones):
i. Nepal (14 districts)
ii. Mauritius
iii. Fiji
iv. British Guyana
v. Maldives
vi. Singapore
vii. Mayanmar
viii. Jamaica
ix. Thailand
x. Trinidad and Tobago
xi. South Africa
xii. Surinam

Fact File: II

The History of Bhojpuri Diaspora

Dateline Yanuka Port of Fiji, May 14, 1879: an amorphous mass of nearly 500 Bhojpuri speaking people from Bihar and Central Province (now Uttar Pradesh) arrived in a terra incognita with three possessions only---- copies of “mool gutka” of Ramcharitmanas of Goswami Tulsidas, leaves of holy tree “Tulsi” that had dried due to the long journey and earthen tumblers filled with “Ganga Jaal”.

That was the small beginning of the Bhojpuri diaspora: today’s most vibrant, cash rich and diversified community of NRI’s at least in 12 nations. Extremely loyal to their Bhojpuri language and culture of “Ganga Paar” (bank of river Ganga), this particular community of NRI’s showed their keenness to “get back to roots” during the Prawasi Bharatiya Diwas that took place in New Delhi on January 9, 2005.

After the coup d’etat in Fiji in which the Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhari was house arrested at gun point, the Bhojpuri-NRI’s tried to come closer to their socio-cultural roots.

The toppling of Gen. Timoci Bavadra’s Government, launching of “Fiji For Fijijians” movement by Gen. Sitiveni Rabuka and coup d’etat--- three violent events--- had not only shaken the Bojpuri people the world over but also caused a psycho-ethnic complex that propelled them to search for their roots.

After the Fijian crisis, there had been a massive rise in the demand of Bhojpuri films, men’s wear “Dhoti”, women’s traditional dress of “Ganga Paar” (Bihar-U.P. zone) Saari and Hindi literature in different primary Bhojpuri pockets dotting the world over.

Even after becoming cash-rich, socially elite and politically influential in different parts of Afro-Asiatic zone, Caribbean pocket and Oceania, the Bhojpuri NRI’s still are nostalgically attached to the ship “Leodinas” that carried the first batch of migrant labour from Bihar-Central Province (U.P.) to Yanuka Port of Fiji.

No wonder, Fiji’s most popular politician-philogopher-poet Satendra Nandan’s famous four lines summarized the mass sentiments of Bhojpuri-diaspora in particular and the NRI’s as a whole:

“yet homeless, nameless between earth and sky
a race without a place must forever die
uprooted, transplanted lives grow in pain
to live, must their generations die again”?

It is here where the overseas success of Bhojpuri films lies.

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