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CHAPTER 5

THE BHOJPURI ETHOS IN MUSIC VIDEOS, CDS, TELEVISION


PROGRAMMES AND NEWSPAPER

This section attempts to study Bhojpuri song and dance sequences in the cinematic
texts selected, and also examines 25 music videos and CDs of the most popular
singers (Manoj Tiwari, Dinesh Lai Yadav, Pawan Singh, Kalpana and Sharada
Singh), to identify recurrent patterns in the subject matter, lyrics and iconography.
The songs selected are from the albums Bagalwali (2009); Purab ke Beta (2009);
Miss Call Mareli (2008) and Jaalidaar Kurti (2007). The rest have been accessed
through youtube. Thereafter, in the subsequent sections of the chapter, television
programmes that are most popular with the research participants are taken up for
analysis. Finally, the contents of a Hindi newspaper that is purportedly the
favoured one among the north Indian migrants in this locality, is analysed.

5.1 An Expression of Cultural Memory

Regional cinemas often include song and dance sequences that become an
expression of identity as they always retain some semblance of regional
specificity(Shresthova, 2004). Hence regional music and dances have the power to
evoke strong nostalgia among geographically dislocated people. Moreover, songs
and dances in popular Indian cinema are used as natural expressions of everyday
emotions and situations, not just to evoke the element of fantasy; in fact, this is in
keep mgr witftlhelngntfrcantTote^ptayedijymTiJSTc^rrdTianceTirthe-everyday-feahty-
of Indians, for music contributes a vital ingredient in the cultural reconstruct of
emotion (Chatterji, 1999). Film music also functions as a unifying factor,
expressing emotions and meanings across the language barrier. Film scholar Vijay
Mishra indicates how ... films become mediators of key translatable signs, that
are crucial in bringing the 'homeland' into the diaspora as well as creating a culture
of imaginary solidarity across the heterogeneous linguistic and national groups "
(Mishra, 2002, p. 237)

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Each of the films I have selected for analyses has on an average 8-10 song
sequences which are an integral part of the films, for such interruptions in the form
of songs and dances are crucial components of an alternative narrative system
(Gopalan, 2002). The dances, as in most Indian films, are influenced by the
performance traditions of folk dances, classical Indian dances and trends in
commercial films. In turn, they also influence stage and television performances,
since film dances are re-invented in the stage performances, allowing the
performers and audience members to share their experience of an imagined Indian
culture mediated through films. For instance, Bollywood dances help diasporic
Indians in the US and in South Africa to use their interpretation of the dance in
order to express their own hybrid cultural experience (Shreshtova, 2004;
Radhakrishnan, 2005). he similarity between the experiences of the Indian diaspora
in these countries and those of the north Indian migrant populations in Mumbai lies
in the manner in which music and dance become a form of cultural memory in
language specific cinema, and their stage or television performances become in the
process a medium that epitomises assertion of ethnic identity, facilitating an
expression of perceived cultural similarities, not merely diasporic nostalgia on
display (Shreshtova, 2004).

Tripathy and Verma (2011) cite the results of a pilot study at the Asian
Development Research Institute, Patna to indicate the centrality of vernacular
music in the everyday lives of the Bhojpuri speaking populace. While Bhojpuri
cinema with its fourth-fifth rank among regional cinemas in India is seen as the
public face of Bhojpuri, the Bhojpuri music industry forms its real muscle, blood
and bones...the Bhojpuri / Maithili / Magahi music industry is at least ten times the
size of the Bhojpuri cinema industry and the live show industry with the CD
technology at its core.... spread over small and big towns and the remotest villages
[is] at least ten times bigger than the CD industry... (p. 106).

5.2 Recurrent Patterns and Themes

Popular culture is a product that is collective. Thus we see that Bhojpuri films and
music videos represent the distillate of the social, cultural, psychological,
professional, political, sexual and moral values of the region, and reveal recurrent

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patterns of meaning. Bhojpuri cinema and music videos may be on the cusp of
change and may have modernized and adapted themselves in ingenious ways to
remain in tune with the sensibilities of the present, but familiar metaphors and
symbols embossed in the narratives consolidate the feelings of continuity with
tradition, subliminally establishing an immediate connect with the home state in
the migrants psyche. Like leitmotifs, certain situations, attitudes and behavioural
modes recur in the films, music videos as well as television programmes. The
reasertion of the Bhojpuriya roots is effected mainly through the selection of
recognizable themes and scenes, both secular and devotional, which delve into the
collective memory of the migrants. The song and dance sequences in the films,
music videos and CDs reveal the preponderance of the following themes which
embody the known and the accepted mores, and the core beliefs of the distinctly
Bhojpuriya sensibility:

Devar Bhabi dynamics

In her study of Nautanki theatre of north India, Kathryn Hansen (1992) explains
that the devar - bhabi relationship, that is, the closeness between the two affinal
relatives, the husbands younger brother {devar) and his sister in law (bhabhi), has
been termed by anthropologists as a joking relationship in North India. They are
each others confidants and the relationship often borders on intimacy. Generally
of the same age or a little younger, the brother-in-law in a patriarchal, feudal setup
is often the bhabis best friend. While the husband is away earning a living, the
young brother-in-laws meals are often provided by the bhabi who takes charge of
the kitchen. He teases her, banters endlessly with her, indulges her, willingly puts
up with her occasional tantraffl, ancf is siipposcd"'to Tespectiier, the wirv Prince
Rams brother Laxman deified his sister in law Sita. In everyday practice however,
if the age difference is negligible, the bhabi and the devar are close friends and co
conspirators against the elderly in the household.

Folk theatre and music all across north India abound in references to this
relationship. In the popular Devar Bhabi Svang, written by Saguva Singh, the sister
in law teases her unmarried devar. The bhabi attempts to seduce her devar with
arch comments that use symbols such as river in spate (to depict her heady

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youthfulness), and a loaded pistol (a phallic symbol) - all very clearly indicative of
her desires:

Madh Joban ka Mrig khada hai, Bhar Pistaul maariye


Ishque nadi Mallah ban, Nauka paar Taariye
(The deer of heady youthfulness stands yonder, fire the loaded pistol,
Love is like a river, be the boatsman and steer the boat to the shore). (Warij, 1984,
P- 12).

This well known Nautanki, (supposedly the original story from which others drew
inspiration), has several variations. Nautanki Shahzadi, one of the earliest in this
genre, has a bhabi taunting and goading on the devar - challenging him to prove
his masculinity - hinting at her own unfulfilled desire - and eventually refusing to
serve him his meals; even as she dares him to go get himself a bride (Hansen,
1992).

The modem day representations of these folk songs are seen in innumerable music
CDs and music videos such as Kaanche Kasaili ke (The taste of raw betel nuts)
and Devra mud garam kare (Brother-in-law heats up my mood). Though
metaphors and analogies are more contemporary, and keep pace with the telecom
revolution, they are equally suggestive. The bhabi is either teased by the devar -
(often rather overt flirtation in the guise of banter), or herself acts as the eternal
tease, seducing the ostensibly reluctant devar. The context, the situation, the
enactment are in keeping with the ultimate male fantasies - being seduced by, or
seducing the other mans wife (read property), the forbidden fruit, (in this case the
adulterous relationship), being the sweetest. The underlying message is
unequivocal: the bhabi may feign anger and exasperation, but she is secretly
flattered, and more than willing. References to Bhauji or bhabhi abound: in one of
the songs by Guddu Rangila, the devar pleads with his elder brother to return from
the rajdhani (capital city), for his bhabhi can no longer stand the separation; in
another, the devar requests his bhabhi to get him married to her sister (FA
darbhanga bhauji)', while yet another has the bhabhi empathising with a devar
who claims he is suffering from lovlitis, not jointis or mengitis (sic).

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The Item Song

The badinage between the devar and bhabi may serve as an entertaining diversion,
but the item number, a stand - alone performance, is the crowd puller, the films
piece de resistance. It is a cine-segment comprising an item-girl / boy, a racy
song, a vivacious dance and a surround of erotic and immanent exuberance... [that
recreates]... the cinesexual in social life allowing the audience to override the
constraints of repressive societal injunctions, and take pleasure in transgression
and excess through the cinematic medium (Brara, 2010). Brara traces the
genealogy of the item number, showing how it reworks the performance traditions
of India such as the nautanki, which presents similar self contained song and
dance performances. She observes that the term item figures in the menu card of
eateries, and generally denotes a dish that is spicy and tempting; the kind of food
unlikely to be served at home. The dancer is thus commodified into an item to be
consumed, devoured with the eyes through the intersemiotic associations between
these domains of food and sex (2010, pp. 68-69). The item number draws from a
medley of dance forms, blending popular western styles with folk and classical, to
create a melange that is typical of Indian films.

In the Bhojpuri item song, as in its slicker Bollywood versions, a nubile,


voluptuous woman gyrates suggestively, drawing attention to her myriad charms,
while the hero (often with his band of cronies) watches, and often matches her
dance movements with his own. The credits of the film flash the words Item Girl,
and dancers like Sambhavna Seth can make the cash registers ring with their item
numbers (Chhapekar, 2011).

The locale varies - it could be the outdoors, with a fire smouldering in the
background, representing passions being awakened, or it could be an indoor dance
bar, a mujra like setting, a village Nautanki performance, a wedding celebration.
Curiously, item songs are often introduced into family dramas by taking recourse
to the societal sanction accorded to dance performances put up for the baraatis, the
grooms party (all male). The dancers, on such occasions, are sent for from
Banaras, or Lucknow, cities famed for their nautch girls. The audience
unsurprisingly, is always comprised of men, inebriated and slavering; if it is the

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hero, he remains supremely unmoved, his imperturbability reminiscent of the
disdain of sages, ascetics and men of superior moral stature like Vishwamitra
whose penance was sought to be disrupted by apsaras (celestial nymhs in Hindu
mythology) such as Rambha and Urvashi. The woman here is sexually aggressive,
the initiator, often clothed skimpily, and is increasingly being seen in western
apparel (e.g. Chumma se chali na kaam in the film Panditji Batai Na Biyah kab
Hoi).

The choreography is typically that of Indian films dances. Groups of dancers


cavort in the background, while the hero / heroine gyrates in the foreground. The
moves are a melange of folk, western hip hop and break dancing (popularised by
Michael Jackson), and gymnastics, modelled on the style that has gained currency
in Bollywood, although the influence of the southern studios is increasingly
evident in the choreography, since dance directors and junior artists are common to
several regional film industries in India (K. Khaderia, 2011).

Avijit Ghosh (2010a) makes a significant observation that the audience for
Bhojpuri films, music videos and CDs enjoys ribaldry as it is a part of the folk
tradition, particularly the Nautanki tradition which is replete with double
entendres. But the essentially conservative viewers are uncomfortable with nudity
or explicit scenes. This accounts for the abundance of titillation, but the surprising
absence of open depiction of physical intimacy. In Nirahua Rickshawala, Dinesh
Lai Yadav created shockwaves by appearing to kiss the heroine (he had his back
to the viewers); but most films songs do not go beyond the hero / heroine
demanding a kiss (Ego Chumma de da Rajaji), although the camera does play
voyeur and there is a considerable degree of exposure of the female anatomy:--------

Eve Teasing

In a reversal of the seduction scene, there is the eve teasing song sequence, in
which the hero / the singer (who is often different from the hero - being both the
detached viewer and the appreciative male; see songs by Pawan Singh, Manoj
Tiwari, Guddu Rangila), sings of the powerful impact of the womans charms on
him. The earthy metaphors of the folksongs, particularly those in the Nautanki and
Svangs, often veer towards the martial (phallus symbols such as the bow and

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arrow, loaded pistol); today, the analogies are drawn from contemporary, even
topical themes, a quirky, ingenious amalgam of the old and the new. In keeping
with the tradition of the Nautanki, the lyrics wax eloquent at the beauty of women.
Fulsome praise is given using the most ingenious and innovative imagery.
Particularly while describing in detail the feminine form, the lyricists resort to
metaphorical language in which the analogies are often risque. Double entendres
are used liberally to convey the intensity of the womans impact on the beholder.
So the nymphet looks like a delectable lollipop as she shimmies (Lollipop
Lagelu), her nose ring that is cut in the manner of Sania Mirzas, is to die for;
and she gives the hero a missed call, blowing a kiss into her mobile phone (Missed
Call Mare). The mobile phone is of course, almost a constant - having entered the
far reaches of rural India. Indicating that the lyrics of the songs reflect the concerns
of the common man, Tripathy (2012) states that the success of a song based on
missed calls spawned a series of songs woven around small-town romance in the
context of cell phone technology. The picturisation is often shockingly explicit, the
gestures leaving little to the imagination. These music CDs and music videos are
an immense hit, and are played over and over again at weddings and other
functions. T h M U

Ravi Kishen croons to Nagma, his lady love, Navka yug ke hain deewana, Tohar
lehenga utha dem remote se (I am a lover of the new age; I shall use a remote to
lift your long skirt). The lady loves lipstick can shake up the distik (district); she is
as savoury as Haldiram Ke Namkeen (Pawan Singh), she whizzes past on a moped,
this Saher ki Titli (the city butterfly), lightning strikes wherever she goes; the
girlfriend is in a class apart from other nymphets hence she is like a Safari jeep or
a Ranger bicycle and looks like danger (from the album EFPinky by Ajit
Anand); the nymphets beauty is like Gangaji ki Leheren(from the song Jeans
dhila kar).u Several songs speak of the states of UP Bihar {UP Bihar Hilela, Goli
Chal Jaei UP Bihar) being rocked under the powerful impact of the womans
charms. This is an interesting variation of the original folk song, Kashi hile Ara
hile; whereas earlier only towns and districts were referred to, now the two states

11 Ghosh (2010) points out that Ganga is the most common word in Bhojpuri film titles, having
figured in over 25 movies; a clear indication that the sacred river that flows through UP and Bihar
has a special place in the Bhojpuri psyche.

- 1 LI 100
/ UJ
are mentioned, taking within the ambit the entire stretch from which the Bhojpuri
speaking migrants are drawn. The differences in dialect from one district to another
are ironed out as north Indians who migrate from the Hindi heartland are subsumed
under the bhojpuriya identity.

Then there are songs peppered with English words - all reflective of the desire to
be with it and an indication of having arrived on the metro scene: the hero rues
having said I love you to his beloved (Tiwari - Uparwali ke chakkar mein)', the
newly wedded bride pines for her husband who is away in the city, fondly
remembers the way he used to address her as darling (Vishnu Ojha - Bulawa
kahin ke darling saiyan hamar); Tiwari speaks of Feel good, and of those who
quaff pepsi cola in style (Style Mara Tiya); a proud father boasts of a son, Bachwa
hamar M.A. mein lekar admission competition deta (My son has taken admission
in M.A. and will now give competition). In fact, Tiwari is credited with bringing
songs associated with private celebrations such as weddings and child birth to the
public domain, thus fiving a fillip to the music industry (Tripathy, 2012).

There are multiple ways in which folk themes are appropriated in popular Indian
culture as exemplified in the popular Bhojpuri films and music videos. Heidi
Pauwels (2010) describes how movies have appropriated folk and mythological
materials in manifold and interesting ways by focusing on panaghat-lila, the term
used to describe the mischievous antics of the god Krishna, as he sported with the
milkmaids, or gopis, waylaying them as they returned after filling their pots from
the Yamuna river, in the rustic, idyllic setting of Braj bhumi, near Mathura in Uttar
l^ftdefib-AVha4-4s-4^oteworthy is that-in Indian -mythology and in folk art, eve-
teasing is often depicted as harmless flirtation, redolent as it is with associations
with this panghat lila. Eve-teasing is a peculiarly Indian euphemism for a form of
sexual harassment that could range from sexually loaded appreciative comments
to actually affronting the dignity of a woman and even outraging her modesty. The
phenomenon has been attributed to the rising socioeconomic disparity and resultant
class and cultural conflicts. The problem is further compounded by the patriarchal
mindset that views liberated women in western wear as easily available. The
entire situation is imbued with the belief that such innocent youthful play is most
natural; men tease, and women enjoy being teased. Even as they appear to

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disapprove and complain, they actually are pleased to receive attention from the
men. When they are dolled up, particularly when they appear in public places,
they are actually inviting comments. Pauwels comments

There is a set of assumptions about women's subjectivity: that women enjoy eve-
teasing, even ask for it, just by appearing in a public space; that when they say no,
they actually mean yes, proven by the fact that they do not really protest it so they
must actually like it ...The material of women's folk songs... is inflected in ways that
confirm male self-serving stereotypes in the milieus of mythology and popular film.
(2010, p.2)

The devotional poetry of the sixteenth-century poet Surdas, as well as the folk
songs of the region describe how Krishna breaks the water pots of the milkmaids
and gets physical with them; however such is the enchantment of the dark-skinned
god that they are in his thrall. They miss his pranks when he is away, pine for him
and eagerly hasten for secret assignations with him, abandoning fears of
compromising their name and the family honour, unaffected by propriety and the
norms governing the behavior of women in a patriarchal setup. Significantly, the
god Krishna is never to blame... for the womens mock complaints conceal their
actual enjoyment of these experiences. What is striking is that the desire for the
harassment is squarely located within the women, (Pauwels, 2010).These
perceptions, reinforced by folk songs and devotional poetry, are deeply embedded
in the psyche of both men and women. Whether in a dream sequence, or in his
arduous attempts to woo the damsel, the hero feels free to harass the heroine. The
identification Krishna with the eve- teaser, absolves the latter of all blame, and is
ThErefore~itirs~1ite-dashingTw4TtHOUfHheffHwlm4s--ai4mst-always_thfi perpetrator of
such acts. It is the custom approved ritual of romance that immediately finds eager,
willing acceptance among the (primarily) male audience of Bhojpuri cinema and
music videos. As always, voyeuristic pleasure is on offer, but the eve teasing
sequence is contextualized differently: the cavorting hero and his lady love, (who
feigns anger but is secretly pleased), have societal sanction because their love will
culminate in marriage.

Conversely, the item girls sizzling number may have ribald lyrics that refer to
sexual harassment, but here the purpose is to tantalize the males in the film and of

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course, in the audience. The complaints of the heroine are used to titillate reel-life
(and by extension, real-life) patrons (Pauwels, 2010). Film makers find it
extremely convenient to use the eve-teasing situation: it lends itself to innumerable
depictions of sexual relationships without drawing flak for obscenity while
ensuring commercial success; such is the power of the themes association with
god Krishnas playful antics with the gopis, that it resonates even today in the
collective imagination of all Indians, not just north Indians.

The theme of eve-teasing is turned on its head when the girl transgresses societal
boundaries of acceptable behavior, is unabashedly wanton and teases the hero,
challenging him to prove his masculinity. He draws away in mock horror, playfully
suggesting that she adhere to Indian ways and refrain from physical
demonstrations till after they have tied the knot (the song Chumma se chali na
kaam from the film Panditji Batai Na Biyah Kab Hoi). The same belief set that
celebrates such frolicking in men, is quick to draw the line with regard to women,
placing the onus of maintaining decorum squarely on the womans shoulders;
restraining her impulses, and being mindful that she does not forget loklaj (fear of
public opprobrium) or compromise her family izzat (honour).

Reinforcing Regional Roots

These songs underscore the social and cultural mores of the region, subtly
reinforcing norms that have formed the basis of the Bhojpuri way of life. However,
the Bhojpuri identity of migrants is more aggressively espoused by songs that
openly challenge the host population to take on the might of the migrant, each of

goes on to assert nahin chhodna saher (will not leave the city). Tiwaris album
Purab ke Beta echoes the same belligerence in the song Hum Bihari. A group of
hooligans are shown ragging Bihari youth, when Tiwari comes by, awakening their
collective pride. The Bihari youth rally around Tiwari, pushing back the
persecutors to the refrain of Humka mat Bujhiao (do not try explaining to me),
while asserting that they are not to be trifled with. It is noteworthy that the song
speaks of how the migrants have been slandered (juthhe badnaam kariba).

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A Song for Every Season

The essential purpose of folk music is to glue individuals into a group for the
performance of ritualized functions. Folk music tends to be collectivist, tied as it is,
to rural life, where celebrations are communal and songs are sung mainly in groups
(Kucharska, 2007). And the Bhojpur regions folk traditions abound in musical
compositions associated with the multifarious celebrations and rituals that
punctuate the Indian calendar. Chhat puja is performed in Bhojpuri speaking
regions and wherever there are settlements of north Indian migrants, in praise of
Surya, the sun god, for sustaining life on earth. The reputable singers in Bhojpuri,
whether it is Manoj Tiwari, Kalpana or Sharda Sinha, have all sung invocations
and paeans to Chhathi maiya ki mahima (the wish fulfilling powers of Goddess
Chhath, Surya's consort). Mahuaa Channel features these songs in October-
November in the run up to the celebrations, repeatedly telecasting music videos
and CDs of live performances such as the one in which, a winnowing basket atop
his pagri clad head, Tiwari, sings reverentially - Bahangi larkat jaye. Come Holi,
and phagua folk songs can be heard not just on television, but in locally organized
functions. While drumbeats resound to the refrain of Jogira Sararara, men in drag
dance to the words of ribald compositions belted out by folk singers like Chhaila
Bihari who sing of Satrangia Holi. Wedding songs are a perennial favourite - a
young lad springs up from a sickbed to sing and dance at his best friends wedding
in Sar pe Sehera - a lagan geet (marriage song); More in tune with an age old
tradition are songs such as Sakhi phool lorhe chalu phulawariya (by Sharda Sinha)
- a folk song that dwells on Sita the princess of Mithila, as she prepares for her

Bano Faizabadi sings and village women sway to the tunes of the Bhojpuri rasiya
geet with lyrics such as Bin Gavne ka that hark back to another era, but are as
relevant today as they were a couple of hundred years back, for Gavna, the practice
of sending the young bride to her husbands home after she has attained puberty, is
prevalent even today in swathes of rural UP and Bihar.

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A Circle of Familiarity

Many of the songs commence with a conversation between the singer, an old man
and an old woman, (in Manoj Tiwaris album Purab Ke Beta), or a spot of mimicry
by the singer himself. On occasion there is friendly sparring between lovers, with
the girl feigning anger at the advances made by the boy. The format is very much
like that of the song and dance sequences in the performances of folk drama and
folk music in rural UP and Bihar. The singers talk to their listeners and viewers; set
the tone by evoking the context; engage in conversation with their fans (Tiwari);
banter and tease and mimic various stereotypical characters of folk theatre; crack
jokes laced with innuendos; and then embark on their songs, thus enveloping the
audience in a circle of familiarity, a method that draws directly upon the fusion of
narration and rendition commonly used by folk singers. None of the Hindi film
songs that go on to top the popularity charts carry this appeal of intimacy
(Tripathy & Verma, 2011) that Bhojpuri music provides to its consumers.

Melding the Modern with the Traditional

Yet another reason for the abiding appeal of Bhojpuri music is its ability to meld
the modem with the traditional. Popular modes of recreation are a barometer of
change, offering an accurate reflection of the changing tastes of society, its hopes
and fears. They have always enriched and updated themselves with references to
changing social realities. However, incorporation of contemporary technology and
symbols of westernization are not to be taken as adulterations of traditional media
(Narayan, 1993). This, in fact, is one of the many ways that folk and modem media
-oW-has-madeTbr-
an unbroken continuity, which is the secret of the community medias hold over
the migrants imagination. Undoubtedly, community media, when catering to the
needs of migrants searching for a foothold in an alien environment, have often
spoken of the new-fangled through a critical subaltern perspective. But Narayan
observes that, contrary to what is believed, the references often imply complicity
with hegemonic values, an eagerness to be one with a new cultural environment.

That the forces of imaginative assimilation are at work in everyday contexts is


evident from the huge cache of songs in Bhojpuri with analogies and metaphors

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ingeniously employed in tandem with more home-grown, conventional ones. Since
immigration is a common socio-economic phenomenon in the Bhojpur region
((Rai and Singh, 1999), there are innumerable songs that speak plaintively of the
longing of the young wife whose husband is away in search of a livelihood. As a
case in point, Narayan cites a women's song, published by Devendra Satyarthi as
early as in 1948:

From the east came the railway train,


From the west came the steamer.
The train has become my co-wife, she has taken away my husband.
The train is not my enemy, the steamer is not my enemy
My enemy is money which makes him wander from land to land.
(Satyarthi, 1948, cited in Narayan, 1993)

The railway train as a symbol for the forces of modernization draws attention
unequivocally to the sweeping changes wrought by the earlier agrarian way of life,
leading to forced migration. The Birha, a popular folk song genre of Uttar Pradesh
that is such a hit on the music cassette and video circuit, reflects the plaint of the
young bride. Birha is mood based and the basic theme revolves around the
separation of the lover and his beloved. The earliest reference to the form dates
back to the 17th century, when immediately after Gavna (consummation of the
marriage), economic compulsions led to Bhojpuri youth leaving for the city in
order to earn their livelihood, leaving their newly-weds behind in the village. Many
migrant workers go home to get married, and are unable to bring their wives back
to the big city until they are sufficiently well settled to have a permanent roof over
their heads. The lament of longing and desire among the womenfolk of the village
led to the birth of Birha, a word that in Hindi means separation.12

Such are the differences in power equation, the status hierarchy and the cultural
framework between rural and urban India, that the departure of a villager to the
city, as much as the arrival of any city dweller to the village, is cause for anxiety
and a subtle shift in the power dynamics. The outsider poses a threat to the status

12 Tripathy (2012, p.65) draws attention to the psychology of the vicarious migrant who is riven
by the big emptiness in his household due to the long absences of loved ones.

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quo, while the departing villager leaves behind a void in the lives of his people. 13
Sharda Sinhas throaty voice lends pathos to Koyal bin bagiya na shobe Raja -
the lament of a young bride who yearns for her husbands return from the city.
Tiwari introduces the Chaiti folk song with a description of the loneliness of a
woman pining for her beloved on a moonlight night in the season of Chait (March-
April). He explains how the Chaiti raag is an inalienable part of this form of folk
music that highlights the poignancy of the emotion of Birha.

In a society where migration of men folk to and from distant climes is the norm
rather than the aberration, it is scarcely surprising that folk art and folklore should
abound in references to bidesiya and pardesiya... terms used to describe the
outsider. One of the most celebrated folk artists of the Bhojpur region was
Bhikhari Thakur, a Padmashree awardee, whose dance dramas Bidesia and B ed
Bechva went a long way towards creating awareness against many social evils.
Bideshiya is also the term for folk theatre based on the theme of birha or
separation, and houses the Soul of Bhojpur, so the saying goes (Rai and Singh,
p. 11). In tune with the folk culture of the region, the Bhojpuri media products
recount tales of the stranger, often a city dweller, whose arrival disrupts the settled
ways of the countryside (Hansen, 1992). There are several instances of outsiders
disturbing settled ways (Rangbaz Daroga, Deva, Sasura bada Paise wala, Nirahua
Rickshawala, Bhumiputra) although in a reversal of the pattern, the outsider is
often a woman, rather than a man. Almost every film has a scene depicting the
heroine pining away for the lover whom circumstances have separated her from
(Tohar Naikhe Kavno Jod, Tu Bejod Badu Ho, Nirahua Rickshawala, Sasura Bada

her husband from going away to the city to improve his prospects (e.g. Sasura
Bada Paisewala).

13 That this is a common phenomenon in UP and Bihar is vouched for by the innumerable
references to pardes (alien land) and the common plaint that the enforced separation elicits from the
wives left behind. Lured by the charms of a seductress (often a courtesan / woman of easy virtue)
he forgets his newly wedded wife. The distraught young bride sends messages with a messenger.
The Gond tribals too have a Gondau dance drama based on similar themes (Rai and Singh, 1999).

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Blending Bollywood with Birha

Scott Marcus (1992-93) observes that, Indian culture has continually emphasized
the importance of orality... sound, and its sub-branch, music, have always been
understood to have special creative, generative, and associative power (p. 101).
Old melodies with their traditional associations have a socio-cultural significance
which made them major markers within the society.... melodies helped reflect and
reinforce the caste system, the calendric cycle, life-cycle rituals, gender roles, and
communal and regional identity (p. 102).

It has been pointed out that in a large number of the folk music traditions across
northern India, there are no new melodic compositions.14 Each genre of folk music
adheres to pre determined tunes; only new lyrics are set to pre-existing melodies
(Marcus, 1992-93). This enables immediate identification of a song as belonging to
a particular genre (tunes are reserved for specific life-cycle rituals and for specific
seasons e.g., Kajari for the rainy season, Hori for the festival of Holi, Sohar for
childbirth), besides preserving the continuity of the tradition. Still other melodies
are associated with specific castes: cowherds, washer men, and boatmen all have
their own melodies (Birha and Khari Birha, Dhobi Ghat, and Mallah Ghat,
respectively). It isnt as if folk cultures preserve pre-existing melodies to the
exclusion of new compositions. In his study of performances by folk singers,
Marcus (1992-93) describes how a singer would begin his rendition by saying,
We come from the Bhojpuri region, a region where there is an endless supply of
traditional folk tunes. Now I'd like to use a melody that our people have been
singing for countless generations... (p. 105). By explicitly stating the associations
oTThcTvarious melodies, Birha musicians not only reinforce the identity of their
genre, but also help generate the identity of Bhojpuri culture as a whole.

Over the years, however, with the mass media having reached the remotest reaches
of the nation, the folk artistes have to been hard put to retain their audiences. One
of the ways in which they have overcome the threat posed by Bollywoods all

14 In 1886, for example, George Grierson, an official in the British civil service and an avid
researcher of North Indian folk music culture, wrote, "In the country districts,... there seems to be a
certain stock of melodies readymade, to which the words of every new song must be fitted" (
Marcus 1989, cited in Marcus, 1992-93).

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pervasive influence is adapting and assimilating. Popular film melodies have been
skillfully interwoven into a traditional Banaras-based Bhojpuri genre like Birha:
the singer either parodies a film song or the film melody is used as a temporary
mid-song substitution. In an extremely revealing account, Marcus (1992-93, p.106)
demonstrates through excerpts from a performance in Benares in 1983 how a well
known singer promotes community ties and roots:

Amamath Yadav begins a song of prayer and entreaty (a bandana) to Lord Shiva by
saying, A devotee requests from his g o d ... Then, interrupting his own sentence, he
continues, These days, there is a really popular film in town; the name of the film is
Nadiya ke Paar. It is from this film that the melody (tarz) has been taken. He then
sings one-and-a-half lines of this film song with vocal and instrumental
accompaniment by his ensemble members. Again stopping mid-line, he says, So this
is the tarz; now its parody. Yes, a devotee is requesting ... [now singing] O Shiva,
when will you ask about your devotee. The song continues with entreaties to Lord
Shiva not to forget his devotees. . . .

(Bhakt apne bhagawan se prarthana kah raha hai ... Aj-kal, film bara jor-shor men
calal ho; film ka nam ba 'Nadiya ke Par.' Wahi film se i tarz lehal gayal ho. kaune
disha men leke cala re batohiya, thahara thahar, ye sohanl-si dagar' ... ye to raha
tarz, ab ekar parodi. han, bhakt kah raha hai: bhagatan ke, bhola, hab leba ho
khabariya... )

The incorporation of film melodies makes good marketing sense; the artist
establishes his links with modem, popular culture, even as he keeps himself
anchored to tradition. Devotional music is set to catchy film melodies and
interspersed with folk strains, the resulting amalgam ensures an audience at live
performances, speeds up sales of music cassettes and CDs, and is the best
assurance of the continuing popularity of the traditional music amongst the
speakers of Bhojpuri, both within and outside of the Hindi heartland.

A case in point is the growing popularity of Chutney Music, the Soca-Samba


version of Birha in the west, especially in the Caribbean Islands. Following the
mass migration of people from eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar in the mid
nineteenth century to the Caribbean as sugar plantation labourers, the genre
witnessed an increase in popularity. The descendents of the indentured labourers
who now constitute a sizable population in Caribbean, still love this song genre.

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(bharatonline.com,, n.d.) It has undergone transformation, has mutated into a
variant that retains the pathos and the beauty of the original, even as it takes on the
garb of the land it finds itself in.

Drawing upon popular tunes is viewed as an act of empowerment, rather than an


act of dilution or subjugation to the dominant culture. The singers are in step with
contemporary trends; it makes excellent business sense; and regional roots are
strengthened by the deliberate use of traditional folk melodies. Besides, it enables
them to weave into the fabric of traditional music, the threads of aspirations and
dreams of their audiences. Music videos make these performances accessible to
migrant populations across the country and beyond. Increasingly, Bollywood
melodies are being employed in tandem with folk tunes to assert the Bhojpuri
regional identity. Besides, devotional songs are sung to the tunes of Bollywood
chartbusters, and the raunchiness of the original in no way diminishes the pious
zeal of the devotees who sing them (e.g. The Hindi film song Bindiya Chamkegi is
transformed into the devotional song Main Katra Jaoongi which refers to a visit to
the Vaishnodevi temple in Katra). Music thus fashions the migrants self-image as
a member of the dynamic North Indian subculture that is both modem and yet
intimately linked to its traditional and ancestral roots. (Marcus, 1992-93, p.108)

Preserving little traditions

Another reason for the enduring popularity of Bhojpuri music cassettes, especially
among the migrants, is the monotonous uniformity of Bollywood music at any
given time. Despite its all pervasive presence, the stylistic similarity of the music

for folksy tunes from North India. Singers like Kalpana, Malini Awasthi and
Sharada Sinha, with their throaty renditions of familiar tunes, bring into their
homes the robust earthiness of the homeland. The melodies and the singing styles,
the mannerisms and the references are imbued with the regional flavor. The vocal
styles of these folk singers are distinctly different from that of the Bollywood
mainstream singers; this in itself, serves as an identity marker. Peter Manuel
(1991) explains that despite the technical superiority of Hindi film music, it lacks
the affirmation of a sense of community, whether on the level of region, caste,

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class, gender or ethnicity (p. 190). Fundamentally, folk songs, with their
identifiable melodies, allusions, contexts and use of dialect, re-establish the core
beliefs of the community.

The low expense of cassette technology enables the cassette companies that had
mushroomed after the 1980s to cater to niche, regional markets. They stepped in to
fill up the gap created by the homogeneous, monochromatic, mainstream
Bollywood music; the cassette cottage industry produces and preserves regional
'little traditions'. Unerringly, the producers zero in on the tastes of the lower-middle
class consumer, being from the same background themselves. The consumer is
thus offered the voices of his own community. Manuel points out that the sale of
cassettes has helped the non-filmi music styles, particularly of north India,
flourish. In the process, relatively new genres of stylised, commercially popular
music have arisen.

Parody songs, which have always been a popular mode of assimilation and social
comment, have thus emerged with new texts in regional languages aimed at
regional markets. The wide use of stock and borrowed tunes in Indian folk, light-
classical and even classical music have led to commercial success. It is apparent
that the devotional and the secular preoccupations of the audience, their fantasies
and their concerns all find expression in the music videos and CDs. The music is a
medley of western orchestra, even rap, and familiar regional melodies. The lyrics
range from recognizable folk compositions to unabashedly explicit and coarse
verses.

New lyrics are-set to the tunc -ef-acurrent hit, for-oxainplc-,the song- Munni
Badnam hui (Munni has become infamous) from the Hindi film Dabang is turned
into Laimda Badnaam hua (The young rake has become infamous) in Bhojpuri.
Such parodies (as they are called in India) are seen as revitalising and empowering
regional cultures, since hit songs are now available in various languages aside from
the dominant one (Yampolsky,1989, cited in Manuel, 1991). Manuel describes how
folk songs that are popular chiefly amongst the lower classes are now readily
available to migrants in the form of Kathas (devotional genre), Alha, Dhola-
narrative song stories, Bhojpuri Birha and Rasiya. He observes that Bollywood

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flattens all differences, casting all music in the same mould; on the other hand, the
cassette-based regional musics are able to celebrate regional cultures and affirm a
local sense of community. Unlike film songs dealing exclusively with amorphous
sentimental love, regional song texts abound with references to local customs, lore,
mores and even contemporary socio-political events or issues (Manuel, 1991, p.
199). Traditional folk genres are enhanced and embellished with modem
instrumental music; a huge variety of songs in varying regional styles are on offer.
In fact, live performances of folk forms like the ever popular Birha, Devi Geet
(songs of the Goddess), Jagaran (night-long renditions of devotional songs),
Muqabla (contests) and performances such as Bhojpuri Ramayan Lav Kush by
Tapeshwar Chauhan and Vijendra Giri, (Spicebhojpuri, 2012), have flourished
alongside the cassette and video industry invalidating all fears that the traditional
art forms would be ousted by the invasion of electronic media, and that communal
social life would be adversely impacted.

5.3 Iconography

Apparel, stage settings and decor, the various symbols and images associated with
representation, all play a significant role in shaping, strengthening and preserving
the value systems associated with cultural identities. Close examination of these
features of media texts therefore reveals the manner in which regional ethos and
milieu are tailored to meet the expectations of viewers.

Dressing for the Part

The choice of costumes for the dancers reflects a similar amalgam of tradition and
modernity (as perceived by the audience): The men are in western wear... the
ubiquitous jeans and T shirt or flashy shirt, but invariably they wear the
gamchha ( a towel of checked cotton material which serves as a scarf or even a
headgear) round their necks; the women in several of the eve teasing videos are
dressed in jeans / skirts and skimpy bustiers, the apparel associated with the city
girl, whose desirability is in direct proportion to her unapproachability and hauteur.
Conversely, the Bhabhi / bhauji is always traditionally attired in a saree or lehenga
choli; the dancing girl in the gangsters den is as revealingly clad as is permissible
under the prevailing censorship norms. In the past, women who danced and sang

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and performed in Nautanki were viewed as those of easy virtue; the underlying
assumption being that virtuous women do not venture out in public spaces. Even
today, a woman who, exposes herself to the gaze of many men, like the item girl
who dances to the mandatory number in the villains hideout, raunchy and explicit
in her gyrations, (Jawani ke tasion pe - muhaabat ki gaadi), belongs not to one,
like the loyal wife, but to all (Hansen 1992, p. 17). In keeping with the mood of
piety, in the devotional videos Manoj Tiwari dresses conventionally in kurta-
pajama-pagri, while singers Kalpana and Sharada Sinha, sporting huge bindis, are
attired in sarees.

The Backdrop

In the films and music videos, the setting and the backdrop are carefully
constructed to reflect home as the north Indian migrant remembers it. The walls
and doorsteps of the homes depicted are decorated with traditional motifs; the
sacred tulsi (basil) plant is ever present in the aangan (courtyard); open fields,
cattle shed, the village well... the bucolic ambience is faithfully recreated. The
videos may not always present an accurate and authentic picture of the lives of
common people (for media offerings acquire saleability only when images are
enhanced and airbrushed), but they certainly do tap into their need for familiar
sights and sounds from their home state; and when offered in the language they
speak, the impact on the migrants imaginary is both reassuring and empowering.
The ubiquitous presence of mobile phones, motorcycles and sleek four wheelers,
an occasional computer in an urban office setting ... these are further affirmations
of the fact that the Bhojpuri identity comfortably straddles both worlds: that of
the rustic at heart who is at home with the accoutrements of the twenty first
century.

5.4 Reality Shows on Mahuaa channel (Bhojpuri)

Making a Song and Dance of it

For a majority of the migrants, access to films and music videos is through
television, which, in every home, is accorded the pride of place generally reserved
for pictures and idols of the Hindu pantheon. Television not only serves as a

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window to the world, hastening the process of acculturation in Mumbai their host
city, but also provides a connection with the home states, to a way of life towards
which they have a strong allegiance, hardened and buttressed further by the
agitational identity politics of the host city. The song and dance sequences in
Bhojpuri films and music videos are for the migrants a celebration of their cultural
identity as they perceive it. The spectacular presentation of this idealized culture in
reality shows on television is equivalent to packaging and performing cultural
nostalgia ... [and] ... enacting ethnic identity (Marr Maira, 2002 cited in
Shreshtova, 2004, p. 97).

On a daily basis television offers images that equip the migrants with the
wherewithal to cope with life in Mumbai. The slew of Hindi films and TV
programmes they are exposed to help shape a world view that is more in tune with
urban realities. On the other hand, the Bhojpuri fare on television consolidates the
migrant populations connect with its home state. It helps shape a new identity by
cobbling together remnants of its cultural memory with newly acquired
understanding of the metropolis. Bhojpuri Music and Dance contests on TV serve
as the audio-visual version of fusion cuisine: the pungency of Bhojpuri fare
remains intact, albeit the Mumbaiya garnishing lends class!

Three television reality shows that are immensely popular, and have been named
most often as favourites by my respondents, viz. Sur sangram, Dance Sangram and
Naach Nachaiya Dhoom Machaiya have been taken up for study. Below is a
description of the formats and presentation of these television contests and an
attempt to understand the reasons for their popularity.

Sur Sangram Elimination Round (2uil)

The second season of Mahuaa TV Channels super hit realty show Sur Sangram
was premiered on August 6, 2010. It was broadcast on Mahuaa TV every Saturday
and Sunday at 8 pm. The show is a Bhojpuri song competition in which contestants
from Bihar and UP battle it out for a prize of 51 lakhs; the success of the
contestants is also based on votes from the viewers. The music contest is
immensely popular amongst Bhojpuri speaking audiences, going by the number of
research participants who have mentioned it as one of their favourite TV shows.

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The sponsorship by Nestle Everyday, Dabur, and Bajaj Almond Drops appears to
be evidence of its reach amongst the middle class and lower middle class viewers
the advertisers seek to target.1516It is also proof of the programmes success in terms
of TRPs, for only the prospect of rich returns would draw the heavyweight
corporate organizations.

The elimination round selected for study is representative and has been examined
for identification of the distinctive features that are likely to find appeal with the
Bhojpuriya viewers of the show.

The programme cleverly cashes in on the tradition of muqabla or contest, that has
had longstanding acceptability in the states of UP and Bihar. Dangal (wrestling
matches), Birha 16 and Rasiya muquabla, (i.e. singing contests between individuals
chorally supported by groups who take up the refrain), have been a common form
of recreation in large parts of the northern and eastern states. Taking forward this
tradition and bringing it to north Indian viewers within and outside the country -
the producers on Mahuaa channel have struck the right chord in the hearts of its
north Indian patrons. Added piquancy is acquired by pitting the contestants from
UP against those from Bihar, engendering fierce loyalties. And regional loyalties
are further narrowed down to smaller geographical locations when a contestant
from a particular city, for instance, Manohar Singh from Ghazipur, a small town in
UP, reaches the finals in the show.

The sets display banners such as UP Ki Shaan and Bihar Ki Aan with the studio
audiences seated under these glittering banners. The programme host is Manoj

judges includes veteran actor Ravi Kishen, famous singers Malini Awasthi and

15 TAM Media research of television viewership behaviour across three Indian metros in 2004
indicated that the low socioeconomic classes D and E spend maximum time in Mumbai watching
television (tamindia.com, 2012). According to data from the Indian Readership survey, the increase
in monthly household income has been higher in the socio economic class D and E, and households
belonging to the mid and low socioeconomic classes are becoming relevant target groups in the last
decade as they constitute more than 70% of urban households (indiaretailbiz, 2006).
16 Even as this study was being conducted, posters all over Kandivali and Malad, suburbs in North
West Mumbai, announced a Birha contest amongst well known Bhojpuri folk singers on 15th
December 2011.

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Kalpana, and a special invitee Vinay Anand, another well known singer from the
Bhojpuri music circuit.

In the course of the show Tiwari raises the cry Jai UP, Jai Bihar, but he follows it
up with Bharat Mata Ki Jai, underscoring the fact that loyalty to Bharat overrides
all regional loyalties.

Tiwari is dressed in a kurta (loose, long shirt) and jeans; Kalpana and Malini are in
sarees dazzling with sequins; Ravi Kishen sports a shiny black vest topped by a
bright red jacket; the contestants -Manohar Singh in orange dhoti and a dark kurta,
and Mamta Rawat in a saree, a traditional ornament at her waist- are dressed in
keeping with the style the audiences associate with UP and Bihar. The other
aspirants too are attired in bright colours, and the women are loaded with
jewellery. The entire setting and the iconography was deliberately, carefully
designed to remain attuned to the tastes of the Bhojpuri speaking viewers, even
while ensuring that there are the usual trappings of reality shows such as,
Saregamapa' and Indian Idol on the Hindi channels Zee and Sony respectively.

The music is redolent of the folk tunes of the Bhojpur region. Manohar Singh of
Ghazipur regales audiences with a traditional wedding song, Aaj Janakpur mein
Madwa (Shashi9able, 2011), wherein the lyrics describe the celebrations in
Janakpur on the occasion of princess Sitas marriage to Prince Ram of Ayodhya.
As every Bhojpuriya knows, Madwa is a bamboo structure put up the day before
the wedding in the courtyard of the brides home; and the association with the
Ramayana immediately places the song in the hallowed position accorded to all
things deveti-Gfial in the-north indian-psyche;-T4ie-beat, the music, th& words,
everything is calculated to evoke the milieu and ethos of the Bhojpuri culture.
When it is time for the judges to evaluate Manohar Singhs performance, singer
Kalpana remarks, Aapki Gayeki mein asli Bhojpur ke rang dikhta hai (Your
rendition reflects the true colours of Bhojpur). Thereafter Ravi Kishen announces
his verdict on the performance, prefacing his words with the cry Har Har Mahadev
(the name of Lord Shiva).

Mamta Rawat from Bihar sings an age old folksong, Phulori Bina Chatni Kaise
Bani (How did the gram flour dumplings get made without the accompaniment,

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the chutney, i.e. the spicy dip?) Beginning with the customary refrain she goes on
to intersperse the verses with a novel interpolation in English, Me and my darling
flying in a plane... The audiences love it; Ravi Kishen sways and dances to the
beat; Manoj Tiwari approves wholeheartedly! And once again, the English
speaking aspirations of the Bhojpuri masses are in evidence. On another occasion,
singer Kalpana croons Dekh Hamari sexy figure Kahe Kareja Phatla, babua
rahiyo tanik cool" (Why does your heart burst on seeing my sexy figure? Dear...
stay cool). Songs such as these which depict good humoured badinage between
the sexes are a huge hit. There are 2 distinct strands in the show: one that harks
back to the musical traditions of the region... with both secular and religious songs
forming the staple repertoire of the singers. The other is the obvious desire to
pepper the conventional fare with angrezi (English) flavours, in tune with the fare
dished out by the more popular Hindi channels. The Bhojpuri viewers happily
straddle two worlds: switching from traditional Birhas and Sohars to Bollywood
style fusion music. The writing on the wall is, We can have our cake and eat it
too; we can be rustic and raunchy, even as we flaunt our new found comfort level
with all that is western and modish in the metros.

Dance Sangram

Dance Sangram, the counterpart of the music reality show Sur Sangram on
Mahuaa Channel, is sponsored by Nestle Everyday and Bajaj Discover. The
elimination rounds used for study were telecast on 5th and 6th of February 2010.
The programme is hosted by Dinesh Lai Yadav Nirahua, a Bhojpuri cine star and
singer whose ranking in the popularity charts has been inching up ever since his
entry as a hero in the Bhojpuri industry. The format is unusual: three stalwarts,
each a name to reckon with in the field of dance, have been roped in as judges.
Shweta Tiwari, a TV and cinema actor who shot to fame after winning the reality
show Big Boss, heads the team Jaanbaz; Sambhavna, the Helen of Bhojpuri
films, leads team Joshilay; Saroj Khan, the veteran Bollywood choreographer,
plays Chief judge and arbitrator in the stage managed squabbles between the two
team leaders.

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5th February 2010: Shweta and Sambhavna (Shwetatiwarirockzl, 2011) select
their teams from amongst young dancers who have made it to the finals after the
auditions. Dinesh Lai Yadav ribs the contestants gently and the two team leaders
spar endlessly, much to the delight of the contestants and the studio audience,
almost all of them from various towns of UP and Bihar. A touch of Bhojpuri
culture is evident in the affectionate appellation Badki Mai (elder mother) that the
programme host uses to refer to Saroj Khan. In deference to her standing in the
industry, and years of experience, she is addressed as Amma (mother) by
Sambhavna and Shweta.

Two young boys express a desire to be in the same team as they have great dosti
(friendship) and have been dance partners for long. The host and the judges play
upon their words Khana peena sona sath sath (eat, drink and sleep together),
raising laughs by hinting at the boys homoerotic proclivities. The youngsters
hasten to clarify that they have dosti, not Dostana (a reference to a popular
Bollywood film that deals light-heartedly with homosexuality). Such raillery
would have been unthinkable in the conservative north Indian milieu till recently;
but the openness evinced in such matters in Hindi mainstream cinema has rubbed
off on to the reality shows on Mahuaa Channel. The banter is rehearsed, carefully
inserted to titillate viewers, a signifier of the (desired?) change in Bhojpuri
sensibilities.

6th February 2010: Since viewer votes are an integral part of such shows that
capitalize on regional and city/town loyalties, the contestants names and the cities
they hail from are flashed on the screen. So Avinash Dubey from Gorakhpur (he
went on to become one of the finalists), dances to a song wherein a young mans
dream girl seeks a lift (Lift Diba ka?) on a Hero Honda (Ghume Khatir gadi Hero
Honda Khojeli). Pradeep Mishra of Patna, clad in kurta pajama, gamchha at his
waist and daphli (a flat percussion instrument like a tambourine) in hand,
electrifies audiences with his vigorous rendition of a Manoj Tiwari number,
International Litti Chokha (Shwetatiwarirockzl, 2010). The lyrics speak of how
the intrepid sons of UP and Bihar, fed on this diet of baked wheat cakes and
mashed potatoes, have done their homeland proud in distant lands such as Surinam
and Mauritius. It goes on to remind listeners of the great heroes Kuwar Singh (one

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of the leaders of the Indian rising of 1857) and Chittu Pandey (an Indian
Independence activist often referred to as the Tiger of Balia), who have ensured
the glory of the Bhojpuri people (Ihe Khai dada pardada, maati ke saan
badhailoho, Surinam Mauritius Jhanda, Bhojpuriya laharailo ho). Gaaon ki yaad
dila dibe (The performance has transported us all back to the village), Dinesh Lai
Yadav remarks, echoing a sentiment that strikes a chord in viewers and judges
alike. Here is an unabashed attempt to evoke nostalgia and cultural pride amongst
the consumers of the show. Litti chokkha is quintessential^ Bhojpuri and the fact
that it has crossed national borders and marked its place on the worlds
gastronomic map is a matter of pride indeed! A lesson in history, geography,
patriotism and culture, to boot!

Dinesh Lai Yadavs apparel... sporty checked shirt and loosely knotted tie, is in
keeping with his youthful, sporty image, one that young viewers across India,
particularly in metro cities, would immediately identify with. His style is
understated and restrained, even dignified... an anomaly in reality shows. The
judges are attired in Indian wear, for the most part, although more in tune with
Page 3 socialites and Bollywood starlets than the traditional garb of north Indian
women.

Naach Nachaiya Dhoom Machaiya

As if to counterbalance this, the newest dance competition on Mahuaa channel


Naach Nachaiya Dhoom Machaiya is a rollicking, boisterous show. Launched on
Mahuaa TV on 27th August, 2011, it is aired every Saturday and Sunday at 8 pm.

pairs. From among ten such pairs, the winning pair is to be selected, after a series
of elimination rounds. Produced by Saaibaba Telefdms Pvt Ltd., the show is
dedicated to showcase Bhojpuri dancing form and essence of culture of Bhojpuri
cinema [sic] (tvserialsandshows. 2011). The promo features the host Ravi Kishen,
Bhojpuri superstar, attired in a flashy jacket, sporting a hat, bejewelled fingers, an
image reminiscent of the Souths larger-than-life matinee idols, MGR, Shivaji
Ganeshan, and more recently, Rajanikanth. Hamming it to the hilt, he proclaims

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that the show will change the landscape of Bhojpuriya dance (Badal di hai
bhojpuriya dance ).

The judges are stalwarts from the field of dance: Sudha Chandran, the well known
dancer and television actor of Ekta Kapoors K serials and soap operas, and the
renowned choreographers Kanu Mukherjee and Ganesh Acharya. They have been
drawn from Bollywood, from classical dance and from Television, an eclectic mix
that epitomizes the role models for aspirants to the industry. The episode selected
featured the pair Smriti Sinha, TV actor, and the contestant Pradeep Kumar
(sndgop. 2011). They groove to salsa beats to the strains of Hamra ke dekh seed
mare (He whistles on seeing me). It is an energetic rendition that draws mixed
responses from the judges. Smriti is clad in a leopard print top and short skirt,
although her legs are encased in black stretch pants; Pradeep is dressed in shiny
trousers and jacket. The fusion of big city dreams and mofussil yearnings is best
reflected in performances such as theirs, which commandeers a Latin American
dance form to the service of a bhojpuri eve teasing number.

The dancers suggestive movements enable the viewers to

experience a frisson of illicit sexuality in a safe, socially protected and proscribed


w ay... Once the dance is over, the act of sexualizing oneself through a performance of
a hot Latin style, of temporarily becoming or playing at being a hot Latin oneself,
ceases... The dance then becomes a socially sanctioned way of expressing or
experiencing sexuality... (Desmond, 1993, p. 48)

For the North Indian migrant who is a Mumbaikar, such is the special space the
shows create: a space that allows him to shed the pejorative tag bhaiya, (in
Mumbai the term is used for the milk vendor, the vegetable vendor and for anyone
who hails from the Hindi heartland), even as it enables him to retain his Bhojpuri
roots. When Raj Kapoor crooned Mera Joota Hai Jaapani, Phir bhi dil hai
Hindustani, he was articulating the same sentiments as the new age Bhojpuri
youth: My heart may come alive at the beat of the dholak, but look... Im going
international! I too can jive!

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5.5 The Newspaper that Echoes their Sentiments

In the foregoing sections I have sought to understand the abiding appeal of popular
Bhojpuri media products by examining how they help shape the Bhojpuri identity.
So far, I have focused on the audio and the audio-visual media, as preliminary
discussions with my research participants had made it amply evident that they are
neither active listeners of the radio nor do they use computers. Moreover, my
initial conversations with prospective respondents had made it clear that they
preferred to watch the daily news on television rather than to read newspapers; for
one, most of them had not studied beyond school; and secondly, they are reluctant
to spend on buying newspapers daily. A Samachar Patra Vachanalay (newspaper
library) set up by a political party at one of the entry points to Poisar Gaon is
where many of the men congregate each morning to browse through newspapers
and exchange views. Bhojpuri has no script of its own, so the educated among the
migrants read Hindi newspapers.

In this locality, Dainik Yashobhumi17 is a popular Hindi newspaper (as stated by


Bhola, our newspaper vendor, who is himself from UP). The few copies he orders
are the first to be bought by Hindi speaking autorickshaw / taxi drivers. I have
therefore examined the contents of the newspaper Dainik Yashobhumi to
understand the reasons for its appeal among north Indian migrants.

I propose to give a brief overview of the contents of Dainik Yashobhumi in the


period between 28th January 2012 and 3rd February 2012, and thereafter draw my
inferences from the patterns that emerge in the choice of news items, the issues

glimpse into the Bhojpuri mindscape, its preoccupations and concerns.

17 Dainik Yashobhumi'&masthead claims that it is part of the second largest newspaper group in
Maharashtra. It belongs to the Ambika Printers and Publications Group, Lalbaug, Mumbai, whose
other newspapers include: Punyanagari, Vartahar and Mumbai Chaupher (all in Marathi) and
Karnataka Malla in Kannada. The editor of Dainik Yashobhumi is Anand Rajyavardhan and the
broadsheet is being published since 1996.

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Selections from Headlines in Dainik Yashobhumi from 28th January 2012 to 3rd
February 2012

28 January:

BJP Remembers Ram Again: UP Legislative assembly election manifesto


released (UP Vidhan Sabha Chunav Ke Liye Ghoshana Patra Jari);

UID Sanctioned for Another 40 crore people(40 karod aur logon ke liye
UID ko manzoori);

America Slashes Defence Budget by billions of dollars (Amriki Raksha


budget mein Arbo Ki Katauti);

People of Raebareily, Amethi want Priyanka to join Politics (Raebarelly,


Amethi ke logon ki tamanna Rajneeti mein Utrein Priyanka)

29 January:

6 Die in Poll violence: 82% polling in Manipur (Chunavi Hinsa mein 6 ki


maut: Manipur mein 82% matdaan);

Shiv Sainiks Target Maharashtra Times Office (Shiv Sainikon ne


Maharashtra Times ke office ko nishana banaya);

Shahi Imam Bukhari appeals for Samajwadi Partys victory(Shahi Imam


Bukhari ne ki Sapa ko jitane ki Appeal);

India Lose 8th Consecutive Test (Bharat Lagatar 8va Test hara)\

Now Wearing a Burkha will draw a fine in Netherlands (Ab Netherland


mein Burkha Pehen ne pe Jurmana)

30 January:

Congress teams up with Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh (Bharipa Bahujan


Mahasangh se Congress ne milaya haath);

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24 EPS officers resign in UP (Uttar Pradesh mein 24 IPS Afsaron ne Bheja
apna istifa);

Maharashtra ATS Officers May Be Interrogated In The Malegaon blast


case (Malegaon Visphot Mamla: Maharashtra ATS Adhikariyon se ho sakti
hai Puchh tachh);

BJP has acknowledged the Truth- Congress (Bhajapa ne Sach Sweekara-


Congress);

Railway Fares to Rise? (Rail Kiraye mein Badhotri tayaT)

31 January:

CBI Grills ex Maharashtra CM Ashok Chavan on Adarsh Scam (Adarsh


ghotala: CBI ne ki Chavan se puchh taachh);

Polling concludes in Punjab, Uttarakhand (Punjab, Uttarakhand me


matdaan sampanna);

Sharukh beats up Farah Khans husband (Shahrukh ne Farah khan ke pati


ko Peeta)

1 February:

Subramaniam Swamis plea granted by Supreme Court in the 2G scam


(Swami ki Yachika Sweekar)

----- Priyanka G andhi tocampaign inAmelin- arid- Raebarerfiy -from 3Feb


(Priyanka 3 Farvari Se Amethi Aur Raebareilly mein karengiprachar);

Non Congress Parties have used Ram, Caste and Religion for political
purposes (Gair Congressi Dalon ne kabhi Ram ko toh kabhi jaati aur
Majhab bechkar ki Rajneeti)

Dhoni will step down from captaincy for better alternative (Behtar Vikalp
ke liye Dhoni Kaptani Chhodne Ko Tayyar)

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2 February:

Modi given a reprieve by the Gujarat High Court (Modi ko Rabat);

Rahul Gandhis contention that UP has been destroyed by the non congress
parties (Gair congressi dalon ne uttar Pradesh ko tabah kiya);

5 jawans killed in Naxal attack in Jharkhand (Naxali Hamle mein paanch


jawan shahid)

3 February:

122 Telecom licences cancelled (122 telecom licence radd);

Gilani issued Summons (Gilani ko summons);

Sonia and Manmohan promise to rid MNREGA of corruption (MNREGA


se Bhrashtachar samapt karne ka Sonia aur Manmohan ka vayeda)

As is evident from the above, the headlines of the Dainik Yashobhumi give
adequate coverage to national news, be it politics, cricket, or the fight against
terrorism. The polls, particularly in UP, do figure prominently on the front page, as
the state was to go to polls on the 8th of February, 2012. The level of excitement
and interest generated amongst the north Indians residing in the area is evident
from the fact that, on the 4th of February, I could not get a copy of the newspaper
as all had been sold out by 8.30 in the morning. When I enquired why, I was told
by the newspaper vendor Bhola, UP mein election ki garmahat hai na, isiliye
paper bik gaye (all copies of the newspapers are sold out because of the political
excitement generated in the run up to the UP elections). Apparently, the political
upheavals in the home states continue to be a perennial source of interest for the
north Indian migrants.

Dainik Yashobhumis second and third pages are devoted to local news. Mumbai
Aaspaas, as these pages are named, deal with issues that would directly affect the
lives of those living in Mumbai. Local politics, whether it is the list of candidates

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for the upcoming civic elections or the public utterances of politicos, are .given
considerable column space.

Below are samples of some of the news items covered. This yoking together of
miscellaneous elements characterizes the local news universe, focusing as it does
on the public preoccupation with crime, civic amenities and local governance
(Ninan, 2007, p. 161). Apart from reports on accidents, instances of petty crime and
sundry city related snippets of news, these include reports of functions organized
by caste / community associations, celebrations presided by well known north
Indians and announcements of religious discourses as well as public ceremonies
held in Hindi educational institutions.

News Items Pertaining to Local Events and Issues such as:

28 January:

Annual function of Hindi school (Bharatiya Vidya Mandir Hindi Night


School)-,

Flag hoisting ceremony on Republic Day at Chembur Vidya Niketan


High School attended by local north Indian luminaries (social workers
and politicians)

BMC (Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation) to provide water


connection only to slums that came up before 1995

29 January:

Rashtriya Chauhan Mahasangh celebrates its 19th anniversary;

All Harbour Local trains to have 12 coaches

Candidates for civic elections resent clause demanding transparency in


election expenditure

30 January:

MNS releases first list of candidates for BMC elections

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NCP announces list of candidates for BMC elections

BJP only Party with links to Indian Culture

31 January:

BEST (Bombay Electricity and State Transport) collects 23 lakhs by way of


penalty from ticketless travellers;

Parthiv Shivling Pooja Abhishek (worship of Lord Shiva) in Asalpha,


Ghatkopar on 5th February;

Local politicians attend Communal Marriage ceremony organized in Vasai-


Virar by son of Hitesh Thakur

1 February:

Social Organization Abhiyan holds Lokmahotsav (Folkart festival) to


celebrate UP Diwas (day)

Manoj Tiwari and others regale audiences from eastern UP and western
Bihar

Bombay Municipal Corporation claims Mumbai has only 43 doctors with


fake certificates.

2 February:

Announcement of Satsang (religious discourse) in Vikhroli by Sant Asaram


Bapu

RBI to issue currency bills of Rs. 1000 denomination

Shiv Sena fields 16 new candidates for civic elections

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3 February:

A north Indian girl, Anju Kanojia, is awarded the gold medal for securing
the highest marks in Hind at the final year examination of Mumbai
University

A full page advertisement featuring Ravi Kishen the Bhojpuri superstar, for
flats in the teerth nagari (city of pilgrimage) Varanasi.

It appears from the samples above that politics continues to remain of interest to
the north Indian migrant even in the host city. Not just the political horse- trading
in the home states, his interests also encompass the seat sharing and power broking
that is an integral part of the citys civic elections. With regard to the political
muscle and aspirations of the community, it has been said that

... the migrant from UP and Bihar is different, part of it is his socio-economic
makeup; the way he behaves in a small group and his behaviour when he has the
numbers, are completely different... Unlike your film stars and industrialists the
Maharashtrian cares how many local corporators or MLAs are from Bihar and UP. So
when the Maharashtrian looks at this unceasing migration into his city and he does see
it as his city, this sense of political power slipping away real or imagined is
awakened. (Nandal, 2008)

The strong bonds of caste and communal kinship that north Indians are known for
is in evidence in news items that announce community specific functions, for
example that of the Chauhan or the Yadav community. The description of a
forthcoming samaroh (gathering) often ends with a plea to caste brethren (apne
samaj ke bhaiyon) to attend the programme and express solidarity.

Among other notable issues of concern that find repeated mention in the
newspaper are railway reservation for long distance trains, since booking well in
advance is a matter of anxiety amongst migrants, for whom an annual visit to the
home state is a must.

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The National and the International

Page 4 of Dainik Yashobhumi features the editorial, which ranges in subject matter
from team Indias deplorable performance in cricket and election manifestos of
various political parties to the conflict between artistic freedom and religious
sentiment as evinced in the Jaipur Literary Festival. The issues dealt with are akin
to those of editorials in other broadsheets, topicality being the governing factor in
the choice.

Page 5 is for Rashtriya-Antar-rashtriya (National - International) news. Besides,


there are sections on page 9 and 10 where the reader gets snippets of national news
(Rashtriya-sankshipt) and news from the states (Rajyo Se).

Significantly, a prominent place is accorded to a photograph of the Prime Minister


of Mauritius, Navinchand Ram Ghoolam and his wife Veena Ram Ghoolam
shaking hands with Sonia Gandhi, during their four - day visit to India in February.
The international image that is being fashioned by the media for the Bhojpuri
community requires the inclusion of ethnic brethren in all continents of the world.
There is a need to acknowledge shared ancestral roots with descendents of
erstwhile indentured labourers who now form a sizeable bulk of the population in
countries like Mauritius, Fiji, Guyana and Surinam. It is a part of a larger move to
increase the reach and the visibility of the Bhojpuri identity, while celebrating the
vibrancy of its distinct culture.

The Home States

Pages 6 and~7 are devoted to Utta-rTVadesh sankshipl-im brief)--and Bihar-


Jharkhand-sankshipt, respectively. It is here that we find snippets of news from
little towns and villages of the home states. For instance:

13 crorepatis (millionaires) contesting elections from Jaunpur;

4 injured in a collision between a jeep and an auto in Sonbhadra;

Police force at Kishanganj confident of tracking down dacoits;

Computer education initiatives in Doriganj;

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Election roundup of small towns and districts.

In short, all that the migrants might need to know to keep abreast of what is
happening in their home states and ensure that their link to UP and Bihar remains
intact.

Enduring Religious traditions

Regular features and columns include dainik panchang (daily almanac), Aapka
rashiphal (horoscope), Tulsi patra (a column on a section of the Ramayan- Sunder
kand, written by the religious leader / godman Aniruddha bapu); aphorisms in the
form of Amritvani (Immortal words).18 That this is an extremely devout and
ritualistic community is evident not just from the inclusion of the above, but also
from the numerous announcements of consecration of idols and of devotional
discourses accompanied by the photographs of various self styled gwmsfreligious
teachers). The epithets param pujya (most venerated), sant (saint), shraddhalu
bhakt (deferential devotees) that are used with reference to them appear to be an
indication of the elevated status they enjoy. The lure of a flat in the holy city of
Varanasi is undeniable for a community that sets a great deal store by rituals and
customs associated with the practice of religion (as indicated in the above
mentioned real estate advertisement endorsed by Ravi Kishen, sporting a red
vermilion mark on his forehead, dressed in traditional garb).

Entertainment and Advertisements

Dainik Yashobhumi has pages devoted to sports and entertainment. However, it is


and news from the world of media always pertain to
Bollywood celebrities. Colourful photographs of popular actors, Kareena, Katrina,
Bipasha, Kangana and Amisha among others, are regularly placed on either side of
the masthead, in an attempt to increase circulation figures. It appears that the
higher glamour quotient of the Bollywood actors have a positive effect on the sales
of the newspaper; the inclusion of these high visibility actors is also an indication
of what is aspirational for the readers of the newspaper. (Interiors of auto

18 Sevanti Ninan points out that through the 1990s there was a marked increase in newspaper
reports and columns on religion, spirituality and festival stories in an attempt to reach out to the
common man (2007, p. 153)

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rickshaws are always decorated with posters of reigning Bollywood stars; not those
of popular Bhojpuri actors).

Bhojpuri actors are not seen on the pages of Dainik Yashobhumi except in the
advertisements for Bhojpuri films such as Kehu Hamse Jeet na Pai (No one can
win against me) and Gaila Piya Pardes (My Sweetheart has gone to another land)
that are screened in theatres like Moti (Grant Road); Navrang (Andheri) and
Jhankar (Bhiwandi); never in the multiplexes. There are promotional
announcements for Bhojpuri Tadka (seasoning), a variety entertainment
programme to be held in Thane, and for the Great African Circus at Ambemath
(a satellite town of Mumbai); election advertisements for the Samajwadi party
figure in every issue of the paper; there are advertisements for mobiles; for liquid
detergents and steel utensils; for affordable housing on the outer fringes of Greater
Mumbai area; of Kayakalp (miraculous transformation) oils that cure baldness and
capsules like Ayurex that promise potency, and lKaya Sudhar Dawakhana
(Transformative clinics) that offer panaceas for Gupt Rog (Private Ailments). The
advertisements are targeted essentially at lower middle class readers, who are
struggling to claw up the socio economic ladder; superstitious, God fearing, keen
to find a foothold on the rollercoaster of a metro city, and yet unwilling as yet to
obliterate memories of their reassuring, rustic home back in UP and Bihar. What
emerges is the picture of a world that is far removed from the concerns of the
upper middle classes; the anxieties and worries, aspirations and needs peculiar to
the north Indian migrants find a reflection in Dainik Yashobhumi, purportedly the
newspaper that finds favour with the Bhojpuri speaking populace.

5.6 Rooted in Bhojpuri Ethos

The analyses of media products popular with the research participants seems to
indicate that the Bhojpuri media is rooted in the ethos, the culture that the north
Indian migrants are most easily able to identify with.The urban middle and upper
classes may prefer the slick, westernized cinematic renderings of life as it is lived
in the metros; communities of migrants, many of whom are illiterate or semi
literate, draw comfort from films and videos that portray the world they are
familiar with: a world which reassures, because its values, social stratification and

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its clearly defined gender roles, hark back to what they have left behind. Auto
rickshaw and taxi drivers, people from the working classes, vegetable and milk
vendors... people whose lives are yet closely intertwined with traditions and
customs of the Hindi heartland, are most comfortable with the simple story lines,
uncomplicated characters and rustic feel of the Bhojpuri media.

The folk theatre and folk music of North India have always been products of a
Gemeinschaft culture, mirroring the lifestyle, the aspirations of its rural consumers;
Bhojpuri cinema is equally a reflection of the rural roots of its consumers. The
educated upper and middle class reacts by disowning, purging and wishing away
Bhojpuri cinema and music, but this belongs to the quasi literate or illiterate
masses with access to modem media, whether in small towns or in metropolises
among the migrant populations (Tripathy & Verma, 2011, pp. 102-103). It
finesses their dreams of success in the urban setting whilst anchoring them to their
traditions. In the process, it serves as a via media between their present and their
past, a bridge enabling the transport of cultural distillate between the urban centres
that house migrants and the homes they have left behind.

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