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Bhojpuri films go international

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Mumbai (UNI): Riding on the box office successes, the Bhojpuri flavour, which has always been part of the Bollywood dictionary, is now transcending foreign territories. Although not technically superior like Tamil, Telugu or other regional films, Bhojpuri movies, however, have their own charm with a thrust on home-grown subjects that focus largely on emotions, family ties and relationships. Whether they are movies of yesteryears like ''Ganga Jamuna'' or in hit songs like ''Chalat musafir'', ''Nain lad jae hai'' and even ''Kajra re'', Bhojpuri words have always been part of the Bollywood lexicon. Deepak Sawant's ''Ganga'', starring Amitabh Bachchan and Hema Malini which is scheduled for a September release, is bidding for a price of Rs one crore for overseas territory. Sawant is superstar Amitabh Bachchan's make-up man. The bid by Bhojpuri films to woo foreign audience began last year with noted playback singer Udit Narayan's film ''Kab Hoii Gawna Hamaar'' being the first such film to be shot abroad.

Generations of labour class families, who migrated to countries like Mauritius, Fiji, Surinam and Holland, have preserved their roots and Indian culture, says Udit. Talking to UNI, he said, ''Despite exploitation during the British rule, the labour class families who migrated to other countries, have zealously gaurded their Indianness.'' Udit's film was released with 13-14 prints in India, and at a few theatres in Mauritius and Holland. It will be shown in the US and Fiji as well, he informed. The fledging Bhojpuri movie industry, which caters to a target audience of about 10 crore people has managed to survive mainly because of providing a rural flavour. Singer-turned-actor Manoj Tiwari says the Bhojpuri film industry's boom time began in 2004 with ''Panditji Bataai Na Biyah Kab Hoyee'' and ''Sasura Bade Paisewala'' which starred Ravi Kissen and Manoj Tiwari respectively.

Tiwari says out of the 50 films released, about seven to eight movies recover their costs and one or two are hits. Out of about 220 movies made in Hindi annually, less than 10 manage to recover the costs and become box office successes. ''This does not stop people from making Hindi films,'' he says. ''Rural people relate to the stories and emotions in the movies. They like it when the actors speak their language and the music contains their folk songs'' says producer Shivlal Damani. According to him, about 50 Bhojpuri films are released every year and producers have to distribute the films themselves. About 200 films remain in the cans and do not see the light of the day for want of distributors. ''Making regional films is a gamble,'' he says.

Damani, who has been producing Bhojpuri movies since 1986, says the budget for producing these films range between Rs 80 lakh to Rs 1.25 crore. However, not all producers recover the money, he adds quickly. ''A good run is a maximum of two to three weeks in theatres,'' says Damani while recalling that in 1978-79, his ''Balam Pardesia'' had a silver jubilee run in Patna, Banaras and Gorakhpur.

Actor Ravi Kissen, who is considered a top Bhojpuri film actor, charges about Rs 20-25 lakh per film. Talking to UNI, Ravi says Bhojpuri movies are doing well in urban cities like Mumbai which has 40 lakh North Indian population, especially migrant labourers. Bollywood hits are being dubbed in Bhojpuri. Ravi says ''Tu Hamri Hau'', a remake of Yash Chopra's ''Darr'', will hit theatres this week. The film stars Kissen himself and Shah Rukh Khan, Nagma and Manoj Tiwari are the other lead actors. However, not everyone is carried away by the rosy picture painted for Bhojpuri films. Distributor Alok Kumar Singh says, ''If you see in practical terms, filmmakers who venture into making Bhojpuri films sitting in Mumbai have no knowledge of the ground realities.

Infrastructure for film production and distribution is lacking. Only those films will work, where producers distribute and market the movies themselves.'' Producer Kishen Khadariya says the recovery percentage is very low. ''The rosy picture, created by actors and technicians, is all wrong,'' he says, adding throughout his career, only five films recovered their costs. ''I have decided to stop making Bhojpuri movies'' he adds. But, Udit says the success of the films depends on how the product is marketed. ''I may be a good filmmaker but a bad businessman,'' he says.

Bollywood action director Tinnu Verma, who entered Bhojpuri industry with ''Dhartiputra'' and ''Ghar Dwar'' and now ''Pandit'' says ''If you keep in mind the cultural ethos of the Bhojpuri people, your film will succeed.'' Bhojpuri films are attempting to fill the space left by multiplex-bound Hindi movies that target sophisticated urban audiences. Bhojpuri producers says their films cater to the masses whose heart still resides in villages. According to filmmakers, if the governments in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar take steps to build film studios, they will not have to shoot in Maharashtra and Karnataka. This will make Bhojpuri films more authentic, they argue. But for now, the Bhojpuri film audience isn't complaining. ''All we want is clean, good entertainment and stories with which we can identify,'' says Ranjan Prasad.

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