In a narrow alleyway in Jharkhand’s industrial city, Jamshedpur, upcoming singer Sweta Mitra, a Bengali, is recording a new music album in Santhali. Her second album. Music director Dashrath Hansda, watching from behind the glass wall in the studio, isn’t satisfied with the results. “She has a melodious voice, but she needs to work on her pronunciation,” he says ordering a retake.
In eastern India, the Jharkhand entertainment industry or Jollywood, is emerging as a force capable of challenging the regional monopoly of the Bengali film industry, or, Tollywood. And local directors are calling the shots.
After Bhojpuri, Bangla albums have long dominated Tollywood. Forty-two percent of the state’s population speaks Bangla, according to Jharkhand Bangabhashi Manch, an NGO. Most of the actors are hired from neighbouring West Bengal cities such as Asansol, Purulia, Durgapur and even Kolkata.
“These days, we are hiring fewer artistes from West Bengal,” says Hansda, a popular actor-director, adding that actors from Jharkhand are getting offers from Orissa, Assam, and even Nepal.
Hansda, who has also sung for 25 popular musical albums in the Santhali language, released his film Seede Nala Re Sagun Supari (Let us run away) to rave reviews in Nepal’s International Adivasi Film Festival last year.
So move over Rituparna Sengupta and Prasenjit. Gangarani Thapa and Ritesh Tuddu are here. Thapa and Tuddu are established actors from Jharkhand who are making the cash registers ring. While Bollywood still rules, albums made with local talent have captured 30-35 per cent of the market share.
As for Tollywood, Bangla numbers of the 60s such as Runa Laila’s ‘Bodo Loker Beti Lo, lomba lomba chool (Girl from a big family, her long hair)’ are no longer the rage. Santhali albums such as Malibaha (local flower) and the Nagpuri Shaadi Karai De, Jodi Jamai De, (Get me married) are doing well. “These two are selling like hot cakes. Malibaha has sold 50,000 copies,” says Sawan Bhagat, a music studio owner.
Thanks to the boom, Mumbai music labels such as Wave Music has set up an office in Ranchi. T-series has already produced two albums with an eye on the market potential.
According to a film guide released recently, Jollywod has on its rolls 439 actors, 162 actresses, 121 singers, 48 directors, 29 producers, besides 52 models, 25 choreographers and dozens of lyrics and script writers.
Filmmakers Ankan, Prashant Prem and Prem Mardi, however, rue the state government’s neglect towards the industry. “Several fly-by-night producers have brought disrepute to the industry by financing a number of vulgarly titled albums that are low on aesthetics,” says Ankan. How Jollywood meets these challenges, only time will tell.