July 11, 2010

Bhojpuri cinema finds fans among Mumbai’s migrants

MUMBAI, India — An old man sits at a wooden stand slicing lemons for fresh juice as a group of movie fans gathers at a nearby gate. The collection of rickshaw drivers, taxi drivers and other migrants all eagerly wait to buy tickets for the latest Bhojpuri film. Bhojpuri is a Hindi dialect spoken in India’s northern states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh and among much of the city’s migrant workers.

One of the men at the gate, Rajaram Chauhan, moved to Mumbai from his village in Uttar Pradesh 10 years ago to earn money to support him and his family back home. Wearing an old orange button-down and loose polyester pants with a hole in the knee, he says he earns 9,000 rupees (US$195) a month working a machine. Every Friday he spends his free time by going to the movies, usually a Bhojpuri film in his language. Asked if the movies remind him of home, Chauhan says: “Why would you ask a question like that? Of course it happens!”

As Bollywood films have increasingly catered to a wealthy, cosmopolitan class of Indians here and abroad, regional cinemas have seen a growth in demand from Indians who can no longer relate to the Hindi movies, according to Kathryn Hardy, a University of Pennsylvania Ph.D. candidate in South Asia studies who is working on a dissertation on Bhojpuri cinema.

Regional cinemas have filled the hole left by Bollywood by producing movies that cater to a local audience through language, themes, music and settings that resonate with them. Bhojpuri films have been around since the 1960s, but the number of movies made each year has jumped in the past decade. About 100 films are now made a year, Hardy said.

Read more about Bhojpuri cinema or scroll down for photos at LINK