When Bhojpuri film ‘Pyar Mohabbat Zindabad’ was released in 2013 in Patna, more than 70 MLAs, across party lines, turned up at its launch. It wasn’t the love story that drew them, but an extraordinary cast of the film, which boasted 11 politicians, the highest number ever to appear in a single, big screen production.
This isn’t the first time the line between politics and cinema has been blurred for Bhojpuri audiences. The Bhojpuri movie industry has always been fascinated by politicians, and filmmakers have found in the lives of their netas all the drama, action and colour that a blockbuster demands.
Bhojpuri film connoisseur Anup Kumar gives a few examples: ‘Nirahua Rickshawalla’, a film about a rickshaw puller in love with the sister of an MLA; and ‘Banke Bihari MLA’ in which a poor youth is implicated in a case by some musclemen of an MLA and is sent to jail from where he contests election and becomes an MLA too. Both films became big hits.
Bhojpuri films have reflected the politics of rural Bihar, Kumar says: “A few years ago, mukhiyas (village heads) and darogas (policemen) used to play a dominant role in the life there and so there were films and songs based on them. Now the focus has shifted to MLAs, who can now be seen as protagonists.”
Despite the fact that most Bhojpuri films depict MLAs and politicians as villains, they’ve proved to be an irresistible draw for politicians looking to invest or just to make an appearance.
Back in 1968, the then Congress leader Satish Prasad Singh, who was already an actor, became CM for five days. But the trend truly caught on after RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav, whose oratory has always been wildly popular, was offered a role in ‘Gudari Ke Lal’, a film inspired by his rise in politics.