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Crisis threatens booming Bhojpuri film industry

By Jivraj Burman, IANS

Mumbai : The thriving Bhojpuri film industry is suffering due to a standoff between actor Mithun Chakraborty and the Bihar and Jharkhand Film Distributors’ Association (BJFDA).

Mithun and his son Mimoh’s films have been banned from release in Bihar and Jharkhand. In September, BJFDA president Sunil Kumar got a resolution passed, banning the exhibition of any films of the father-son duo.

The move was an outcome of Mithun’s dispute with Kumar over the actor’s Bengali film “Coolie” produced by the latter.

In retaliation, the Mumbai-based Federation of Western India Cine Employees (FWICE), an apex body of 28 craft associations, including the Cine and Television Artistes’ Association (CINTAA), of which Mithun and his son are members, immediately announced non-cooperation with any under-production Bhojpuri film that had any connection with BJFDA.

Although FWICE has since been trying to resolve the matter amicably and has written several letters to the BJFDA, asking it to lift the ban on films starring Mithun and his son, Kumar is said to be adamant.

“Knowing that Kumar’s recalcitrant attitude is affecting the production of several Bhojpuri films in Mumbai, we offered to mediate and resolve the dispute. But Kumar refused to relent,” said Sushama Shiromanee, senior vice-president of the Indian Motion Picture Producers’ Association (IMPPA).

The matter is now being taken up at a higher level. Both FWICE and IMPPA wrote separate letters to Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar Wednesday, seeking his intervention in the matter.

Both the important Bollywood associations have told the Bihar chief minister that unless Sunil Kumar – who is also a Janata Dal-United (JDU) legislator from Biharsharif – was reined in, his whimsical actions would only harm the interests of the fast-growing Bhojpuri film industry.

In 2005, Kumar produced “Coolie” with Mithun as the lead but the movie was a moderate success. Attempting to salvage it, Kumar dubbed and released it in Bhojpuri and Oriya, allegedly in violation of his agreement with Mithun.

Kumar had hired the specialised services of voice artistes to dub Mithun’s voice in the Bhojpuri and Oriya versions, Bollywood sources told IANS.

When Mithun sought extra remuneration for the dubbed versions, Kumar became furious.

Following a showdown, Kumar, in his capacity as BJFDA president, initiated the drastic step of banning all films starring Mithun and Mimoh in Bihar and Jharkhand. Incidentally, these two states are also the biggest markets for Bhojpuri films.

In the past decade or so, the Bhojpuri film industry has witnessed a resurgence.

Mumbai is now the hub where a majority of Bhojpuri films are shot engaging Bollywood technicians and using state-of-the-art post-production facilities.

Lately, Bollywood has been feeling that it is being short-changed by the Bhojpuri industry.

“Apparently, Kumar’s writ reigns supreme in Bihar because he is considered close to the chief minister,” FWICE general secretary, Dinesh Chaturevedi, told IANS.