Since the end of the first week of January, the dingy basement in the narrow lanes of north Delhi has started witnessing footfall. A narrow staircase leads to a musty basement that is barely visited by any daylight or air. The claustrophobic space, divided into two rooms using a plywood, can hardly accommodate 10-12 people. The jam-packed area is lit up with cheap LED lights of all sorts, throwing a speckled pattern of shadows and glitters over a billboard on the iron door that reads ‘Raaj Studios’.
Pushpak Raja is engrossed in a deep conversation with a group of people sitting around in his studio while a person prepares the dummy version of his upcoming song. Pushpak has taken a day out of his working hours to prepare the song for the Delhi assembly polls. “What day is the election?” he asks, to which someone sitting in a corner replies, “8th February.”
The initial lines of the song are:Acche beetay paanch saal, lage raho Kejriwal, Sabse niman bate Rajdhani ho, Jhaadu pe button dabaiyo ho bhaiya, Mili bijli aur paani ho
Listening to the lyrics, Kumar Shravan interrupts, “It doesn’t have a nice ring. There is much scope for improvement. If four of the five sitting here begin to dance at your song, only then it qualifies.” Shravan is a lyricist and the driving force behind amateur singers falling short of words and tune. He is said to possess the Midas touch with the choice of verse and weaving it into melody. However, Pushpak doesn’t seem impressed. Shravan immediately takes out his smartphone and uses voice search for “Lucky Babu Bhojpuri”. A list of related videos follow. Shravan presses one with the image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and the song plays out.
Saare kale choro ne banaya gathbandhan, Modiji hi tha jisne chhudaya Abhinandan; Bache na koi atanki, Ab maar girana hai Swachh Bharat banana hai, Modiji ko phir se jeetana hai
“See, the song has got more than five million views. Look, I am there in the video. I wrote the lyrics for the song. There are hundreds of others. You can find them on YouTube,” Shravan concludes, resting his case.
A simple Google search for Bhojpuri gives us a glimpse of the extent of the industry over the digital world. Spanning YouTube, social media and other entertainment apps, this music business is one of the most underestimated. The people and infrastructure associated with the trade can be found in hundreds of low-cost apartments in the national capital. There are more than 500 Bhojpuri music labels and 200 studios in Delhi alone.