June 2, 2010

Bhojpuri Cinema - Bhaiyya, O Bhaiyya!

Bhojpuri films deserve more than this earnest effort, says GAUTAM KAUL
CINEMA BHOJPURI Avijit Ghosh Penguin
297 pp; Rs 399

OUR FIRST President, Dr Rajendra Prasad lamented the absence of cinema in the Bhojpuri language, way back in 1956. he shared his concern with nasir hussain, well known character actor of hindi cinema, former soldier and a littérateur. hussain would never tire of repeating this to anyone who gave him ear. In 1962, the presidential dream found fulfillment with the release of Ganga Maiya Tohe Piyari Chadhaibo, the first Bhojpuri film to release in halls across Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. I joined the crowd of working migrants in my eastern Bihar hometown to share overwhelming moments in which you finally see characters speak and sing in your own dialect. The film went on to have silver jubilee runs in several district towns.

The trend caught on and by 1965 it was clear that Bhojpuri cinema was here to stay. Through the 1980s and 1990s its stature continued to grow. Avijit Ghosh’s Cinema Bhojpuri documents the birth and growth of a cinema in a language which the majority of its audience will not be able to read. The effort is laudable but the author is failed by his publisher.

The repetition of phrases, (for example, “Kirit Desai who runs Delhi’s Moti cinema” is repeated near half a dozen times instead of just ‘Kirit Desai’ in subsequent mentions) indicates that chapters have been written in isolation and not retouched by editors. The book does not include even a single working still from the discussed films. This is a big let down for the reader. a collection of miniature film posters used as illustration compensates poorly. an effort like this also calls for a limited hard cover edition in addition to the paperback to ensure a larger shelf life.

The book fails to reflect on contemporary issues confronting the cinema and how it has influenced its audiences in the past five decades. Bhojpuri cinema is no flash in the pan, and the material required a lot more discussion. The impersonal information in the book suggest the author conducted most of his interviews over the telephone. a critical analysis of key films and the circumstances they were made in is missing.

However, the book includes the complete filmography of Bhojpuri films from 1962 to 2008. The author acknowledges the industry’s pioneers, some known and many unknown. This is a particular asset in the absence of specific film journals dedicated to language cinema. The wealth of information about the earliest films in this category could get lost with time.

(Kaul is a film columnist with Super Cinema. He was awarded the Swarn Kamal for The Best Film Critic in 1992)