Starry dreams fuel Bhojpuri music in Delhi
Studios producing Bhojpuri audiovideo albums, featuring singers and actors, are mushrooming in the lanes of the city like never before.delhi Updated: Apr 23, 2018 17:26 IST
A budding Bhojpuri singer, Sanjit Singh, 19, is pretty unabashed about the kind of songs he sings. “I specialise in crooning raunchy numbers. You may even find them indecent, but that kind of stuff works quite well in Bhojpuri,” Singh says, as he plays a few of his songs — some of them have got over a million views — on his YouTube channel.
Dressed in a white shirt, Singh stands in sharp contrast to the deep blue interiors of the studio of Pyare Films Bhojpuri, a music label he owns with his brother. The 8X8 one-room studio is located on the third floor of a run-down house in a blind alley of an east Delhi locality; its brick walls are covered with thermocol sheets and a blue satin cloth for soundproofing and aesthetics.
Dimly lit up by a tube light, the studio has a desk with a computer and a harmonium, a recording room with a condenser microphone and a music stand.
“Many youngsters come here every day to record songs. In Bihar, every young man, including me, wants to be a Bhojpuri film star these days,” says Singh, his salt-and-pepper spiked hair neatly slicked back.
Singh is not the only one in this profession, there are roughly about 500 ‘Bhojpuri music labels’ in the city and about 200 recording studios. Most of them have been set up in the past few years —turning Delhi into ‘the Bhojpuri album’ capital of India. The studios are run from houses in places such as Uttam Nagar, Laxmi Nagar, Ganesh Nagar and Preet Vihar.
Every day, hundreds of young men and women head to these studios to record their songs—either written by themselves or hired lyricists —in their quest to become a Bhojpuri star.
Like in any touristy place, touts roam around in these localities, promising to get you the best deals.
“Everyone from a builder to a property dealer now owns a music label and a studio in the city. These people know nothing about music, they are in it for the money,” says Bipin Bihari, who runs Sanjivani Studio in east Delhi’s Ganesh Nagar.
Sanjivani is among the top Bhojpuri music labels with about 20,000 songs on its website. About 50 youngsters visit Bihari’s studio— an air-conditioned space painted in pink— every day, looking to record their songs to the software-composed music tracks.
“Some of them sell their property to become a singer, but not all have the right voice and the personality. Our record in producing some of the biggest stars in the Bhojpuri film industry is what brings them to us,” Bihari says, charting out the names of some well-known Bhojpuri stars. “It all depends on whether you can attract the attention of a Bhojpuri filmmaker through music videos, and that is where we help”.
As we talk to Bihari, a group of garrulous youngsters are waiting at the reception to record their songs. One of them is Anjali Mishra, 19, from Chhapra, Bihar. Dressed in a blue salwar-kameez, sindoor adorning the parting of her hair, Mishra wants to be an actor-singer.
She says she was inspired by the life of Khesari Lal Yadav, a famous actor-singer in Bhojpuri. “He was from a poor family and now he is a millionaire. His life is an inspiration for thousands of youths in Bihar and eastern UP,” says Mishra. Like Mishra, Yadav too hails from Chappra. “A lot of us feel that if he can do it, so can we,” says Mishra as she gets ready to record a song. She, like everyone else, addresses Bihari as ‘sir.’
A few metres away from Sanjivani is Raj Studio, located in a basement. It is 11 pm, about half-a-dozen youngsters, including Firoj Raja, are waiting to record their songs. Raja is from Gorakhpur and works as a tailor in Noida, earning about Rs12,000 a month. Aspiring to be a Bhojpuri actor, a large part of his income goes into getting his albums recorded and shot. A high-school graduate, he came to Delhi three years ago to pursue his ‘Bhojiwood’ dreams.
“I am not very educated, but I think I can make it big as an actor. I have a few music videos that are doing well on YouTube,” says Raja, who derives inspiration from Pawan Singh and Dinesh Lal Yadav, the other superstars of the Bhojpuri film industry.The mushrooming Bhojpuri music labels charge anything between ₹10,000 and ₹50,000 to make a music video album -- raunchy item numbers with a lot of skin show to titillate. They have a huge fan following on YouTube.
Sanjivani Bhojpuri, Bihari’s YouTube channel, has over 1 million subscribers, where he releases 6 to 7 videos every day. But he has a couple of bigger rivals such as Wave Music, which has over 10 million subscribers and releases about 12 videos a day.
There are many Bhojpuri videos on YouTube with 100 million views. No wonder then, there is a lot of fight over music compositions among these music labels. “Music labels routinely send copyright infringement notifications to YouTube against each other,” says Sanjit Singh.
While a lot of these Bhojpuri music videos garner millions of views, which translates into quite handsome revenue from YouTube, they do not share the revenue with the aspiring singers and actors, who spend money in producing the films. “It is a win-win business model for these music labels, but people who sing, act and invest money in the videos get no share in revenue,” says an industry insider, who does not wish to be named.
“If the videos are a hit, we promote these aspiring singer-actors and get them stage shows,” says Bihari. The walls of his office have many framed congratulatory messages from YouTube for achieving subscriber milestones.
Videos are shot in Najafgarh farmhouses that can be hired for Rs7,000 a day. The shooting begins at 10 am and goes on till midnight; sometimes through the night. The girls featuring in the videos —they are called models — are paid poorly. Most come with their own clothes to change for different dance sequences, where cameramen often double up as choreographers.
“They get about Rs3,000 for acting in 3-4 videos in a day,” says Ajit Giri, who recently started Bebo Music, a Bhojpuri music label. He already has debuted as an actor in a couple of songs of his own label. Curiously, one of the videos has a nattily dressed Giri prancing around with a svelte girl. The video’s catchphrase is a paean to him: “You may not have seen such a smart hero in the Bhojpuri film industry before.”
But when we meet him at his Uttam Nagar studio, he does not quite look like the man in the video. “You see I have just got my hair cropped,” says Giri, sitting inside his brand new music studio that will start functioning in a couple of days.
Giri, who also runs a staffing firm, is honest about why he got into the industry. “These days, it is easy to make a couple of lakh a month if you own a Bhojpuri music label and a studio,” he says.