It was a tough start for actor Ravi Kishan but he is now a household name in the film industry, with more than 200 films to his credit. The actor, for whom language is never a barrier, has made a mark in the Hindi, Bhojpuri as well as Telugu film industries. He has also lent his voice to the Bhojpuri dubbed version of Spider Man 3. Having faced the camera for so many years, Kishan has now decided to make a foray into production with a Bhojpuri film. Here’s the actor on his film and more:
After so many years of acting, why did you decide to turn to production?
The very reason I got into acting in Bhojpuri films was because my mother had told me that I should do something for my people. At that time, I was doing pretty well for myself in Hindi films and I had got an offer to act in a Bhojpuri film. I was a little reluctant but she insisted that I try to entertain my native audience. Once I took up the Bhojpuri film offer, I managed to revive the Bhojpuri industry whose fate at the box office was dwindling. Today, after having acted in so many Bhojpuri films, I decided to give my Bhojpuri audience the kind of entertainer they are not used to seeing on the big screen. Hence I have decided to produce Pandit Ji Batai Na Byah Kab Hoi 2 for them. It’s something they have watched in many Hindi films but this is the first native film of such magnitude in terms of production values and content. This is one of the costliest Bhojpuri films ever made. It is actually in the Avadhi dialect, which you might be familiar with from the film PK.
The film is said to be a sequel to the first Bhojpuri film in which you acted…
Yes, I did this film almost 15 years ago with actress Nagma. That film had catapulted me to stardom, making me a Bhojpuri superstar overnight. But this is a fresh story and we have kept modern times in mind, right from the time we began conceptualising the script. That film was directed by veteran director Mohan G Prasad, but this film has been directed by a newcomer. He is a first-time director who has assisted on many of the films I had acted in.
How confident were you to hand over the reins of your films to a first-time director?
I was very confident of his capabilities. He has a very clear vision of what he wants. In fact, not just he, most of the technicians are young. Even the actress in the film, who is the famous Kathak dancer Pandit Birju Maharaj’s granddaughter Sinjhini, is a newcomer. The youth are the future of our country and our film industry so you have to move with the times. I want to introduce more people and give them the window of opportunity I never got.
Who is the target audience of your film?
It’s rather unfortunate that the first thing that comes to people’s mind when you utter the words ‘Bhojpuri films’ is ‘sleaze’. Everyone assumes that a Bhojpuri film will be B-grade. And that is exactly the kind of misconception I am trying to root out from the minds of the audience with this film. Bhojpuri films rarely cater to the family audience, which is the largest audience any film can attract. My film is a clean film, which people wouldn’t be ashamed of watching with their families. I want to bring back the family audience to cinemas with my film. I want to give them that ‘wow’ factor they had been missing from Bhojpuri films.
I have put in a lot of effort right from the script, which took six months to conceive. I have taken a keen interest in almost every aspect of the film, from the music to the action to the edit. In fact, I was closely involved even in the poster design of the film. Usually, you tend to see really tacky posters of Bhojpuri films plastered on walls. I have made sure that the family audience takes note of these posters and these posters urge them to come and watch the film.
What was your experience like as producer of the film?
I began my acting career in the ’90s and I have grown over the years in an environment where the film set was like a home. The high point about shooting in those days was to have ‘set ka khaana’. I tried to make everyone feel the same way when I became a producer with this film. I installed a tandoor on the set so that people could enjoy grilled chicken, tandoori roti etc. It was an amazing experience to shoot and we felt like it was a family picnic. We had a motley crew of about 120 people and we shot at five places including Jaunpur, Benaras and many more. I wanted everyone to feel happy and give their blessings to the film. I believe a film runs on dua.
As an actor in Hindi films, were there any learnings that you tried to implement in your Bhojpuri film?
Yes. The production values, the importance of the first look, the trailer, music and the right distribution strategy are all important things that I have learnt from the Hindi film industry. In fact, even the marketing strategy of the film is very innovative and has never been used before by any other Bhojpuri film. Bhojpuri films have never been promoted on the national level. We have a wide national marketing campaign in store, where we will be visiting reality shows like Comedy Nights With Kapil and Comedy Classes. We will also take the cast to several local channels and so on. We have hired a bus and we will be travelling across the interiors of Bihar and UP for 10 days. We have booked over 100 hoardings across Bihar and also plan to distribute saris and bangles to the public because the theme of the film is weddings.
As I mentioned earlier, I hope people change the way they perceive Bhojpuri films. I want the family audience to not shy away from our films. If the family audience starts coming to cinemas, it would solve all our problems. More producers will be willing to produce Bhojpuri films, and distributors will buy them too. Also, multiplexes will start assigning more shows to these films.
When will the film release?
We are going to release on April 17, which I think is a good time as the summer vacation will be underway. So we are expecting good numbers at the cinemas.
What are the demographics of the Bhojpuri audience?
My films have an audience in the South thanks to the Telugu films that I do and also in countries like Mauritius, Fiji and Bangkok. There is a huge UP and Bihari population in these countries, so a huge chunk of our business comes from international territories.
What other films are you busy with?
I played the negative lead in the sequel to Kick in Telugu, and apart from my Hindi films, Global Baba, Robinhood Ke Potey and Mirziya, I want to produce more Bhojpuri films. There is already a biopic that I have planned featuring Naseeruddin Shah. I just want to make more and more good films.