|Manoj Tiwari with the Bhojpuri Academy Award in Patna on Friday and (right) Malini Awasthi. Pictures by Deepak Kumar and The Telegraph
Bhojpuri actor and singer Manoj Tiwari on Friday returned his Bhojpuri Academy Award over folk singer Malini Awasthi’s appointment as brand ambassador for Bhojpuri.
Awasthi became brand ambassador on August 7. Tiwari told reporters, “It is an insult to Bhojpuri actors and singers that the academy has appointed as brand ambassador a person who is an Awadhi singer.”
Bihar governor D.Y. Patil honoured Tiwari with the academy award during the International Bhojpuri Mahotsav, on July 22. Even Awasthi was honoured on the occasion. Bhojpuri folk singer Bharat Sharma Vyas, honoured at the same function, has also returned his award over Awasthi.
Tiwari clarified, “I have no personal grudge against Malini Awasthi. Awadhi is very good language... even Ram Charit Manas is written in Awadhi. But, I object to an Awadhi singer being appointed brand ambassador for Bhojpuri. I wouldn’t mind if Shardha Sinha were appointed instead.”
Tiwari sought chief minister Nitish Kumar’s intervention. “If an Awadhi singer can represent Bhojpuri, I don’t think I deserve the academy award. I feel Bhojpuri Academy chairman (Ravi Kant Dubey) is to blame.”
But Dubey accused Tiwari of making an issue to gain cheap publicity. He told The Telegraph: “He has already made a joke of himself by proclaiming Denmark would issue a stamp in his name. It never happened. Then, he contested Lok Sabha polls from Gorakhpur, UP, in 2009 and lost by a huge margin. He is now looking for a turf in Bihar to contest on a BJP ticket.”
Dubey even said: “During the award function, he had sought a huge fee to perform on stage. He left when we expressed inability to pay him.”
“If Gujarat has made Amitabh Bachchan its brand ambassador it does not mean there are no talented people in Gujarat. Tiwari must understand the true sense behind this decision… he must respect women.” Dubey justified not giving the post to Sharda Sinha, saying the Padma awardee was too big for the post and herself backed Awasthi.
But Tiwari said, “I must point out that during the award function, of 21 participants only Awasthi was given a chance to speak on stage.”
Awasthi was surprised. She said from Delhi: “Manoj Tiwari is saying I am not a Bhojpuri singer. He must check my record over the past 15 years. He will know how many Bhojpuri songs I have sung. He is doing all this because he did not get the post. I did not ask the academy for the post.”