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OPINION | Ravi Kishan, the Man Who Revived Bhojpuri Films, Now Hopes for Political Resurrection

Ravi Kishan is not new to politics, having contested the last Lok Sabha elections on a Congress ticket from his hometown Jaunpur in 2014 only to bite the dust.

Shilpi A Singh |

Updated:April 18, 2019, 6:03 PM IST
OPINION | Ravi Kishan, the Man Who Revived Bhojpuri Films, Now Hopes for Political Resurrection
Ravi Kishan is not new to politics, having contested the last Lok Sabha elections on a Congress ticket from his hometown Jaunpur in 2014 only to bite the dust.

You could take snapshots out of actor-turned-politician Ravi Kishan real life moments, and be surprised at the uncanny resemblance it bears with his reel life.

Born as Ravi Kishan Shukla to a small-time milk trader-cum-priest, he spent his initial years with his family in a chawl in Mumbai. The starry-eyed boy moved back with his parents to his native place in Jaunpur village when the going got tough for the family in the city of dreams.

He returned many years later to make a mark in acting. However, like many others, he had to struggle quite a lot before becoming the darling of the masses. From doing small roles in films to making a foray on the small screen as Lord Krishna in the show Jai Hanuman; from being a finalist on Bigg Boss Season 1 to a contestant on Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa, he did it all.

He played an instrumental role in reviving the near-dead Bhojpuri film industry with his power-packed performances and then moved on to try his hand at many other regional language films along with Bollywood. No matter which language he is churning out his dialogues in, that booming voice of his is unmissable.

The Big Move

Most people who have worked with him recall how he has made it all on his own without a godfather in the entertainment industry. What has stood him in good stead is his hard work, humility and modesty, coupled with that charisma (that smile that tilts to one side more than the other as well as that twinkle in his eye) that has wooed masses and classes alike.

After trying his luck with small parts and blink-and-you-miss roles in the Hindi film industry, he moved eastwards towards the Bhojpuri film industry. The Bhojpuri movie industry had once seen stalwarts from Bollywood act and sing in it, especially in the 50s and the 60s. Slowly it moved towards obscurity.

The film that served as his launch vehicle in Bhojpuri was Saiyya Hamar by Mohan Ji Prasad way back in the noughties, and from then on there’s been no looking back for this star.

Saiyya Hamar was a landmark Bhojpuri film. It breathed a new lease of life in the dying film industry and went on to establish Ravi Kishan as the leading ‘hit’ man. He came, he saw, and he conquered the masses’ hearts and minds in his quintessential and inimitable style. People started taking note of him and his acting prowess. Many others followed in his footsteps, and slowly the industry began thriving again, but he will always occupy the topmost position in the list for his immeasurable contributions to this industry,” recalls Bhojpuri singer and a member of the BJP, Kalpana Patowary.

The brilliant Viineet Kumar, who shared screen space with him in Anurag Kashyap’s Mukkabaaz, has this to say: “His story inspires many, including me. After all, he has worked really hard to make a name and command space for himself, slowly and steadily in the larger cinema-scape, be it Bhojpuri, Hindi, or any other regional languages, from Marathi, Gujarati, to Tamil, Telugu and Kannada; you name it, and he has done them all.”

Leading With Example

Kishan has a bagful of experiences, and he has always shared his learning with others, especially newcomers, both on and off the sets, says actor Anjana Singh, who starred with him in Love Aur Rajneeti, Sanki Daroga, Ek Aur Faulad, among many others.

Reminiscing about her first film opposite Kishan, Love Aur Rajneeti, Anjana says, “I played the role of a politician, and Ravi ji’s character helps me in my struggle from a poor and humble beginning to become an MLA. It was a great learning experience. He is an institution in itself. One gets on-the-job training while working with him. He is humble, quite supportive and equally professional.”

Viineet couldn't agree more. “Mukkabaaz was my first film as a lead, and he could gauge what was going on in my mind without me having uttered even a single word. He would then guide me with a lot of love and care just like an elder brother. He had shared his experiences with me, and that came in handy then, and even now.”

“He used to motivate me to keep at it, no matter how hard the process seemed at the moment. ‘It will help you reap rich rewards’, he used to tell me back then, and I will always remember his words,” adds Viineet, who also hails from Varanasi in eastern UP.

Ravi Kishan has a huge following among his peers in the film circle owing to his affable and amiable personality. Heaping praises on him, Rajkumar R Pandey, who produced and directed the actor in Bhojpuri film Devra Bada Satavela that ran in cinema halls for more than 30 weeks, says, "Ravi Kishan ji is like mishri (sugar crystals) that softens and sweetens any situation that life throws at him and that is what makes him click both in real and reel life."

The duo worked together to give the audiences many more hit films like Piywa Bada Satavela, Lahariya Loota Ae Rajaji and Nagina.

Politically Correct

Kishan is not new to politics, having contested the last Lok Sabha elections on a Congress ticket from his hometown Jaunpur in 2014 only to bite the dust. Following in the footsteps of another Bhojpuri actor Manoj Tiwary, BJP’s Delhi state unit chief and MP from North East Delhi, Kishan went on to join the BJP soon after.

He has been named the party’s candidate for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections from Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath's pocket borough, Gorakhpur.

Reacting to his candidature, Kishan’s co-star in many Bhojpuri films and Congress leader Nagma Morarji says, "We live in a democratic country, and it gives us the freedom to make choices. In a democratic country, one is free to do what one wants and that also means to follow the ideologies and values that come closest to our own, so he is free to make his choices.”

“We were co-actors and part of the same political party, but when he has decided to contest election from another party, I wish him good luck," she adds.

In picking Kishan for Gorakhpur, the party is trying to cash in on his popularity in the Bhojpuri-speaking belt of eastern UP.

Another actor from the Bhojpuri film industry who is trying his luck in the elections is Dinesh Lal Yadav ‘Nirahua’.

Poll Prospects

But will Kishan's onscreen charisma that sets the cash registers ringing translate into electoral victory as well? Yes, say his friends and well-wishers from the industry.

Calling him a paisa vasool entertainment package, Ranju Sinha, a lyricist in Bhojpuri films says, “I share a good rapport with the actor both personally and professionally. I am hopeful that the actor will transform himself into a politician with perfect ease, and go on to become a people’s leader precisely because he takes his job seriously.”

“He has been diligent in his approach on screen, giving his 100 per cent to the work that came his way. Big or small roles or language never mattered to him. What mattered was how he could give his best, and that’s what has stood him in good stead all this while, and will do him good in the off-screen role that he has chosen to play, that of a political leader.”

Ravi Kishan’s long-time friend, producer and director, Abhay Sinha is hopeful that Kishan’s victory will bode well for the film industry in general, and Bhojpuri film industry in particular.

“I share an excellent relationship with him, having worked with him in 7-8 films in the last 15 years, notable among them being Bahubali and Janam Janam Ke Saath. He is a kind-hearted actor, who has never forgotten his roots, is always committed to working towards the betterment of people. The best thing is that he has been doing all it takes to promote Bhojpuri films at national and international platforms,” says Sinha, who will soon be joining Kishan on his campaign trail.

There’s a lot that works in Kishan’s favour both as an actor and will do him good in the political arena too. “He is well-informed and knowledgeable about a diverse range of topics and issues, has a balanced mind and gift of the gab. He has the power to catch the pulse of the people, form an instant connection with people across the board, and connect them. Woh logon se judna aur jodna dono bahkubi jante hain. And since he has his roots in eastern UP, he knows the place, the people and their problems like the back of his hand which will give him an advantage over others,” says Viineet.

Ravi Kishan is a devout Shiv Bhakt, and Patowary calls his candidature in Gorakhpur, the land of Gorakhnath, a blessing from Mahadev. “He is an ambassador for the Bhojpuri film industry, and with the blessing Mahadev, he has been allowed to serve the people, and God willing, he will emerge a winner with an astounding margin.”

The Bhojpuri and Hindi film industry seems buoyant and is hopeful that Kishan will be a sure-fire hit on May 19, when Gorakhpur votes, and if the trio (Tiwary, Nirahua and Kishan) win their respective seats and go to Parliament, it would be a repeat of what they did for the Bhojpuri films -- total dhamaal.

(Author is a Delhi-based freelance journalist. Views are personal)

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