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Bhojpuri films signal pack-up from Laloo land

Patna, March 3: The Bhojpuri film industry has packed its bags and is ready to go from Bihar despite Laloo Prasad Yadav’s patronage of the language.

Producers of Bhojpuri films are shifting to neighbouring Uttar Pradesh after its government offered a host of incentives to promote these films, creating scope for greater employment.

Bihar has the largest Bhojpuri-speaking population. But the film industry in the state has been in shambles. A rather hostile set of state policies on films has forced the producers to look for greener pastures in Uttar Pradesh.

According to industry sources here, production of Bhojpuri films had been brought to a complete halt. The industry has had one of its roughest patches since 1990 and the new millennium did not bear any good news.

But the end of 2002 brought a ray of hope to one of the oldest regional film industries, when the Mayavati government in Lucknow offered a helping hand.

Ashoke Jain, a leading figure in the Bhojpuri film industry, says films are now being made with renewed enthusiasm — four of them are in the final stages of production. Filmmakers find it a lot more convenient to go to Uttar Pradesh to produce a film, he said.

The Uttar Pradesh government has also granted industry status to the Bhojpuri film business and with that has come a series of incentives, Jain added.

“This is in sharp contrast to what we have in Bihar,” a producer said, adding that the “promotion of the Bhojpuri language by Laloo Yadav and its present popularity are in sharp contrast to the lack of any government initiative to encourage films”. “Lalooji seems to be turning to Mumbai instead,” said Rabin Singh, a Bhojpuri scriptwriter.

Nant Kumar Damani, owner of Damani films, believes that given the present scenario in the state and its law and order situation, it is madness to land a film crew there. “But some film producers would even dare to venture here had there been incentives like tax-free shows of regional films for a certain period and compulsory shows on some days of the week in some halls.”

Industry insiders recall the trauma that Ram Babu had to go through to organise a show of his film Mai. He had to deposit Rs 60,000 as security to hall owners in addition to the rent to release his film in Bihar. Even a film like Mahua, in which Laloo Prasad’s street fighting days was part of the theme, went through to a lot of trouble.

In Bihar, hall owners are asked to pay a fixed sum as tax irrespective of their collections, making them hesitant on taking Bhojpuri films, which often do not ensure great box office returns.

What has further come as a damper is the collapse of state government institutions like the Bihar State Film Development Corporation set up in 1983 for promotion of the regional films.

The corporation got an allotment of a paltry Rs 1 crore to help the industry. Since 1990, it ran into losses after failing to recover loans it had allotted earlier.

Bihar’s small-scale industries minister Ravindra Charan Yadav says his government has been urging the film producers to visit Bihar but they always talk of government incentives and patronage.

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