Bollywoodâ€™s trying to read Bhojpuri
Till three years ago, Manoj Tiwari of Arrah in Bihar made a living belting out Bhojpuri numbers, as he had for more than 10 years. Till Sasura Bada Paisewala, a tale of a resident son-in-law caught in the clutches of a rich father-in-law hit the theatres in UP, Bihar, and Delhi and stormed the box office.
Sasura scored a golden jubilee on May 20 and brought in no less than Rs 6.5 crore besides a fan following for Tiwari, especially with Daroga Babu I Love You and Bandhan Toote Na, films that make him hot property for Mumbai bigwigs who are looking eastward.
Suddenly, Bhojpuri films are a sound business proposition; Boney Kapoor has Mathruboomi lined up for a July 1 release. Meanwhile, Subhash Ghai, Nitin Manmohan and Tinu Verma are looking at what Bihar has to offer; actresses Juhi Chawla and Nagma are brushing up their Bhojpuri. Even Columbia Tristar briefly toyed with the idea of getting one of its films dubbed in Bhojpuri.
â€�â€�I guess it makes good business sense as Bhojpuri has a huge mass base in not only Bihar, but UP, parts of Punjab and Maharashtra and is an untapped source of revenue,â€™â€™ says Kapoor.
Says Narayan, whose debut Panditji Bataaein Kab Hui Gauna Hamar is running for the last two months in theatres in Punjab and Delhi, â€�â€�The success of the film has prompted me to produce another film, which will be shot in London,â€™â€™ says Narayan. The film goes back more than 150 years, capturing the plight of Biharis who were cheated in Mauritius.
Much of the success, say distributors, is due to the change that Bhojpuri films have undergone in the past three years. â€�â€�Gone are the double entendres, thin story lines and poor technical quality. Films have been slick and producers are willing to put in close to Rs 80 lakh in a film because the returns are not bad,â€™â€™ says Tiwari.
Also, he says the films have a story to tell even if it is the rich- girl-meets-poor-boy main plot â€” they donâ€™t forget aam admi issues. â€�â€�In fact, now there is a band of scriptwriters, choreographers who work on the scripts,â€™â€™ says Tiwari.
While stories are being worked out, the traditional territories of Bhojpuri films are also expanding to West Bengal, Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra.