Bhojpuri Cinema Accountable for the Plight of Struggling Bihari Actors in Bollywood?

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There is not a single soul in this country who was not shaken on hearing the news about untimely demise of Sushant Singh Rajput. This was followed by a variety of response from various sides.

While for few, it has stressed the need to address mental health, for a vast majority of people this is about addressing the malice of nepotism and favouritism plaguing our Hindi entertainment industry.

Among this array of emotions and reactions, some are demanding a CBI investigation and some calling for boycott of stars' kids' movies. Another gentleman in Bihar went up to file a court case against leading directors and producers of Bollywood.

Among all these I witnessed an unique request on WhatsApp (apparently a forwarded one): A request asking the recipients to increase the social media following of actors from this region.

I think credit for this goes to some woke, liberal, confident emigrant youngster who is trapped here because of lockdown. Otherwise he/she would have been happy watching English web show in a far-off land.

Arousal of regionalist sentiments is the last thing that comes to our mind in reference to the people of this region. This may be because of the fact that people from this region constitute the primary group facing the wrath of woke regionalists across the country or may be because the impoverished region having large number of emigrants substantially dependent on remittances for keeping its economy in motion cannot afford this.

However, this is not the issue which I wish to raise here. My question is that whether the regional Bhojpuri cinema Industry has some accountability for fate of artists like Sushant. It is widely discussed that the Bollywood considered him as an outsider and was biased against him. But what did his own region’s cinema had to offer to him.

If we take a hypothetical example of Bahubali fame Prabhas, he is not dependent on the mercy of so-called gatekeepers of Bollywood for continuation of his stardom. If he feels isolated and discriminated in Bollywood, he can get back to his South film industry that that will offer him same level of work and cult status. For real example someone can track the career of Ram Charan whose Zanjeer tanked badly.

This facility seems unavailable to actors belonging to this belt.

One can always give a counter argument that Southern Film Industry is equivalent to Bollywood in many aspects compared to which Bhojpuri Industry is very smaller & It also has the disadvantage of having linguistic similarity with Bollywood content which brings them in direct competition for audience on every Friday. Yet I cannot digest this fact that in all these years, this culturally rich region has failed to produce a single movie that could be worthy enough for the likes of Manoj Bajpayee, Pankaj Tripathi.

However, it is not the stake holders of the Bhojpuri industry who are to be blamed completely. They are just the suppliers of the goods being consumed by audience. So, the real responsibility & accountability lies upon US – the real stakeholders of this region’s language and culture and the consumers of product delivered by this entertainment industry.

It is we who cheer for a derogatory song peeking in the private life of a celebrity about her marriage choices, and make that singer a star. Such examples act as compass for other artists eyeing stardom, who stoop to much lower levels of stupidity to create content on similar lines.

It is really very disheartening to see that the land of Valmiki, Vidyapati and Bhikhari Thakur offers utter crap in the name of music.

The land richly endowed with several dance forms offers sleazy, vulgar item dances in the name of dance.

The land of creators like Renu and Dinkar offers monotonous Hero v/s Villain sequences full of narcissism and abusive language in the name of storyline.

As if this low was not enough, now we are also witnessing the ill practices of Bollywood gaining foot here also. The nexus between mafia, politicians & industry is getting established. We have also seen the emergence of kith and kin of certain stars or directors in complementary roles in industry and this is about time only that flag of nepotism should fly high here also.

I know that by reading this you all might have grown pessimistic. For you, I have only one example to offer – that is of Punjabi film Industry which was in much worse condition few years back, but now produces some good quality content regularly. Insiders state that the return of stars likes Jimmy Shergil to regional cinema has a major role in this cleansing operation.

So, for now all we can do is to wait for some saviour. And I hope that with two flag bearers of this industry sitting in honourable Parliament this wait would not be longer,

Pranav Raj, M.A., Centre for Informal Sector & Labour Studies, JNU


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