Bhojpuri Cinema Encyclopedia of Bhojpuri Cinema The introduction of Bhojpuri cinema in India

Bhojpuri Cinema

History of Bhojpuri Film

भोजपुरी सिनेमा का इतिहास

The introduction of cinema in India

1896 - 1910

Cinema was introduced to India on July 7, 1896. It began with the Lumiere Brothers' Cinematography, unveiling six silent short films at the Watson's Hotel in Bombay, namely Entry of Cinematographe, The Sea Bath, Arrival of a Train, A Demolition, Ladies & Soldiers on Wheels and Leaving the Factory. The Times of India carried details of the "Living Photographic Pictures in Life-Size Reproductions by Lumiere Brothers". In the same year, the Madras Photographic Store advertised "animated photographs". Daily screenings of films commenced in Bombay in 1897 by Clifton and Co.'s Meadows Street Photography Studio.

In 1898, Hiralal Sen started to film scenes of theatrical productions at the Classic Theatre in Calcutta, inspired by Professor Stevenson (who had brought to India the first bioscope to India's film presentation alongside the stage production of The Flower Of Persia; his debut was a contribution to this presentation. He continued making similar films to complement theatrical productions, which were shown as added attractions during intermission, in private screenings for high society households or taken to distant venues where the stage performers could not reach.

Harischandra Sakharam Bhatavdekar alias Save Dada, who had attended the show, imported a cine-camera from London at a price of 21 guineas and filmed the first Indian documentary, a wrestling match at Hanging Gardens, Bombay in 1897. In 1901, he recorded the return from Cambridge of "Wrangler" Ragunath P. Paranjpe, who had secured a distinction in mathematics from Cambridge University, and M.M. Bhownuggree, considered the first Indian news film. He also filmed Lord Curzon (Viceroy of India)'s Delhi Durbar that marked the enthronement of Edward VII in 1903.

The commercial potential of cinema was also tested during the time. F.B. Thanewala's Grand Kinetoscope Newsreels is one successful case. J.F. Madan was another highly successful film producer, who released hit films like Bilwamangal; also, he launched Madan Theatres Ltd., India's largest film production-distribution-exhibition company and the biggest importer of American films after World War I. His films were marked by a high degree of technical sophistication, facilitated by his employment of experienced foreign directors like Eugenio De Liguoro and Camille Legrand. This expertise was complemented by grand sets and popular mythological storylines which ensured good returns.

Cinema houses were set up in major Indian cities in this period, like one in Madras (in 1900 by Major Warrick), the Novelty Cinema in Bombay (where newsreels from the Boer War were shown) and the Elphinstone Picture Palace in Calcutta (set up by J.F. Madan in 1907). Apart from these, a number of film shows were arranged in tents; examples are: shows arranged by two Italians, Colorello and Cornaglia, in tents at the Azad Maidan in Bombay, J.F. Madan's tent cinema at the Calcutta Maidan. Another popular mode of broadcasting films was the touring cinema. In 1904, Manek Sethna started the Touring Cinema Co. in Bombay and a year later, Swamikannu Vincent, a railway draughtsman, set up a touring cinema in South India. Pathe, the famous film production company set up an Indian office in 1907.


The first feature film made in India was a narrative named Pundalik, by N.G. Chitre and R.G. Torney. The first full-length Indian feature film was Raja Harishchandra (3700 feet as compared to 1500 for Pundalik), made in 1913 and released commercially in May that year, by Dadasaheb Phalke. Phalke had attended a screening of The Life of Christ at P.B. Mehta's American-Indian Cinema and was inspired to make films himself. He was convinced of the possibility of establishing an indigenous film industry by focusing on Indian themes. In this regard, he said Like the life of Christ, we shall make pictures on Rama and Krishna. The film was about an honest king who for the sake of his principles sacrifices his kingdom and family before the gods, who are impressed with his honesty and restore him to his former glory. The film was a success, and Phalke went on to make more mythological films till the advent of talkies, and commercialization of Indian films lessened his popularity.

In 1916, Universal Pictures set up Hollywood's first Indian agency. The first South Indian feature was Rangaswamy Nataraja Mudaliar's Keechaka Vadham, released in 1918. The following year, he made the film Draupadi Vastrapaharanam, featuring Anglo-Indian actress Marian Hill who played the role of Draupadi.

1930s & 40s

•           Alam Ara (The Light of the World; 1931), directed by Ardeshir Irani, was the first Indian sound film.

•           Chandidas(1932), directed by Debaki Bose under New Theatres banner, contained background Music for the first time in Indian Cinema. Music Director was Raichand Boral, also known as R.C. Boral.

•           Debaki Bose's Seeta(1934), made under the banner of East India Film Company, was the first Indian talkie shown in any International film festival. It was shown in Venice Film Festival, where it won an Honorary Diploma. He was the 1st Indian director to receive any international award.

•           Nitin Bose's 1935 film Bhagya Chakra, produced by New Theatres, was the first Indian film to use playback singing. The singers were K C Dey, Parul Ghosh and Suprabha Sarkar. The movie was remade in Hindi with the title Dhoop Chhaon, which was the first Hindi film to use playback singing.

•           Neecha Nagar (Lowly City) (1946), directed by Chetan Anand, bagged the Palme d'Or (Best Film) award, (then known as 'Grand Prix'), at the Cannes Film Festival in 1946, and became the first Indian film to get major recognition in international film festivals.


Regional film industries

India is a large country where many languages are spoken. According to the 1991 Census of India there are about 10,400 'raw mother tongues' in India. If closely related and mutually comprehensible dialects are grouped, the number can be reduced to 1576 ‘rationalised’ mother tongues, or with even more consolidation, 114 main languages. These 114 languages are the ones surveyed in the Indian census. Indian film producers have made films in thirty of the largest languages. However, only the very largest language groups support major regional industries. These are: Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Bengali, Marathi, Kannada, Odiya, Malayalam. Official statistics categorise Indian films according to the languages in which they are distributed.

There is a great deal of mobility between the regional industries. Many workers in other regional industries, once their talent and popularity is established, move on to work in other film industries, nationally as well as internationally. For example, A. R. Rahman, one of the best known film music composers in Indian cinema, started his career in Tamil cinema in Chennai but has since worked in Bollywood, London, and New York. Similarly, films that succeed in one language are often remade or dubbed in others. Films like Padosan and Roja, for example, were re-made or dubbed from their original Bengali and Tamil versions respectively, into Hindi.


The Bhojpuri (Purvanchal) film industry

भोजपुरी फिल्म इंडस्ट्री - भोजपुरी फिल्म उद्योग का शुरुआत कैसे हुआ

Bhojpuri, often considered a dialect of Hindi, originates in western Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh in northern India. Speakers of it and its creoles are found in many parts of the world, including Brazil, Fiji, Guyana, Mauritius, South Africa, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago. During the late 1800s and early 1900s, many colonizers faced labor shortages due to the abolition of slavery; thus, they imported many Indians, many from Bhojpuri-speaking regions, as indentured servants to labor on plantations. Today, some 200 million people in the West Indies, Oceania, and South America speak Bhojpuri as a native or second language.

Bhojpuri film history begins in 1962 with the well-received film “Ganga Maiyya Tohe Piyari Chadhaibo” with Sujit Kumar and Padma Khanna in lead roles, which was directed by Kundan Kumar. Throughout the following decades, films were produced only in fits and starts. Films such as “Bidesiya” 1963, directed by S. N. Tripathi) and “Ganga” 1965, directed by Kundan Kumar) were profitable and popular, but in general Bhojpuri films were not commonly produced in the 1960s and 1970s.

In the 1980s, enough Bhojpuri films were produced to tentatively make up an industry. Films such as “Mai” 1989, directed by Rajkumar Sharma) and “Hamar Bhauji” 1983, directed by Kalpataru) continued to have at least sporadic success at the box office. In This dacade Kunal was the leading actor and super star of Bhojpuri films. His films “Ganga kinaare mora gaon” was a superhit film. “Piya Rakhih senurwa ke laaj” was also a very successful film. However, this trend faded out by the end of the decade, and by 1990, the nascent industry seemed to be completely finished.

Yet the industry took off again in 2001 with the super hit “Saiyyan Hamar” directed by Mohan Prasad), which shot the hero of that film, Ravi Kissan, to superstardom. This success was quickly followed by several other remarkably successful films, including “Panditji Batai Na Biyah Kab Hoi” 2005, directed by Mohan Prasad) and “Sasura Bada Paisa Wala " 2005). In a measure of the Bhojpuri film industry's meteoric rise, both of these did much better business in the states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar than mainstream Bollywood hits at the time, and both films, made on extremely tight budgets, earned back more than ten times their production costs. Sasura Bada Paisa Wala also introduced Manoj Tiwari, formerly a well-loved folk singer, to the wider audiences of Bhojpuri cinema. In 2008, he and Ravi Kissan and Dinesh Lal Yadav Nirahua (Nirahua Riksawala) are the leading actors of Bhojpuri films. The extremely rapid success of their films has led to dramatic increases in Bhojpuri cinema's visibility the production and release of Bhojpuri films are now over one hundred films per year. Many of the major superstars of mainstream Bollywood cinema, including Amitabh Bachchan, Hema Malini, Mithun Chakrawarthy and Ajay Devgan,  have also recently worked in Bhojpuri films.

Now Bhojpuri film industry has got proper recognition and many of the corporate companies are producing and distributing bhojpuri films.

A Brief History of Bhojpuri Film


The first Bhojpuri Film was 'Ganga Maiyya Tohe Piyari Charaihbo'  which was released in 1961 by Vishwanath Shahabadi. Other films like 'Jekra Charanwa mein lagal paranwa', 'Lage Nahi Chhute Ram, 'Bhauji', 'Bidesia', and 'Loha Singh' came later and did reasonably good business.

Later on in 1978, Ashok Jain gave a much needed fillip to Bhojpuri Film with Sliver Jubalee Film 'Dangal'. The respected actor Nazir Hussain also produced a very memorable film 'Balam Pardesia' 

The 80's showered the Bhojpuri people with many notable as well as run of the mill film like 'Bitia Bhail Sayan' ,  'Chandwa ke take Chakor', 'Hamar Bhauji', Ganga Kinare Mora Gaon' - A very Popular Film, 'Sonwa ke Pinjra', 'Senur', 'Ganga Ghat', 'Saiyya Tere Karan', 'Dharati Maiyya' - Again a super success, 'Ganag Maiyya Bhar de Ancharwa hamar', 'Piya Nirmohiya', 'Sampoorna Tirth Yatra', 'Bhaiya Dooj', ' Bansuriya Baje', 'Ganga Ke Tir', 'Bairi sawan', 'Dulha Ganga par ke', Ganga Mare Laheria etc...


Data not available but the production of Bhojpuri Film is not encouraging in this decade.


Ashok Jain is the leading producer of the Bhojpuri Films. Vishwanath Shahabadi, Nazir Hussain, Mohan ji Prasad, Dilip Bose, K Pervez, Akabar Balm, Prem Kumar Dutta are very notable and successful Bhojpuri film maker.


To know more about nature and culture in hindi cinema read भारतीय सिनेमा का लोकशास्त्र, and भारतीय संस्कृति में रस की अवधारणा articles written by Dr. Amit Kumar Sharma who teaches Sociology of Hindi Cinema in India's premier university Jawaharlal Nehru University New Delhi.