BOLLYWOOD, the Indian film industry, churns out nearly 900 films a year (NRIs feel a vicarious connection to India through watching its cinema). Bollywood, primarily refers to Hindi cinema, but in a country as vast and as diverse as India, it is but natural that a section of films should cater to speakers of regional languages (Tollywood, for instance, covers the oeuvre of Bengali cinema). But there is another kind of cinema that caters to a very different kind of populace and has grown in popularity over the decades-Bhojpuri cinema.
Bhojpuri language is spoken in parts of north-central and eastern India, specifically Bihar and swathes of Uttar Pradesh. The author, Avijit Ghosh, says that in the 1950s and 70s, the audience of Bhojpuri films covered eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, but with migration, its influence now encompasses cities like Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Amritsar and towns in Gujarat and Rajasthan. Its colourful journey spans three phases. The first, from 1962-68, gave rise to one of its biggest blockbusters-Ganga Maiya Tohe Piyari Chadhaibo (1962). The second, lasting from 1969 to 1976,saw the release of only one film, while the third phase, a more robust and confident period, began in 2004. Its success can be gauged by the fact that between 2004 and 2008, over 275 Bhojpuri films saw the light of day. Nowadays it is routine for big-budget Bhojpuri films to be shot in such exotic locales as London, Mauritius and the Middle East.
A veritable treat for Bhojpuri cinema lovers, Cinema Bhojpuri explores all aspects of the phenomenon that is the Bhojpuri film industry today. It also analyses the impact that TV, Bollywood and the Internet has had on Bhojpuri films, which are trying to become more urban-centric, eschewing their earlier rustic themes in an attempt to reach out to the urban populace. Filled with anecdotes and packed with solid research, this is a book that should appeal to all cinema lovers, whether they see Bhojpuri films or not.
(Penguin Books India Pvt Ltd, 11, Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi-110 017)