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There's much happening in the Haryana film industry these days. Chandrawal 2, a sequel to the 1984 blockbuster Chandrawal, opened in 10 centres in Haryana and four centres in western UP on May 4. This is being followed by the release of another big film, Tera Mera Vaada, on June 29. That makes it only two films, but for an industry that's produced, by some accounts, only 38 films in the past 44 years (there is no official tally of the number of Haryanvi films that have been made), it's pretty exciting.
This lame track record stems from the fact that the Haryanvi film industry is an industry in name only - it has no studios or film labs and no government policy on cinema promotion. And it has no expertise either, say insiders. "The trouble with this is that anyone with even a little money thinks he can make a film even though he has no background in filmmaking and lacks understanding of the craft, " says Anoop Lather, director, youth and cultural affairs, Kurukshetra University. Lather is a well-known name in the industry, having played the lead in Laado Basanti (1985) and smaller roles in other films.
For over four decades, the Haryanvi film industry has been churning out tacky movies. Its only megahit was Chandrawal, made 28 years ago, and its success is legendary. The film was shot on 16 mm film with an amateur cast and crew, and the shooting was done in 18 days. Despite the slapdash process, the tragic love story of a tribal girl and the son of a village headman did silver and golden jubilee runs in many areas in the Jat belt. In fact, so well did it do that its producers recovered the entire cost of the film (Rs 5 lakh) from just one cinema hall, Gagan, in Faridabad.
There was a surge in Haryanvi films after Chandrawal, but none of them could repeat its success. Ironically, the film's director, Jayant Prabhakar, committed suicide after delivering a string of flops after his 1984 blockbuster. "He had incurred huge debts. His later films didn't recover their investment, " says Rampal Balhara, a close friend of Prabhakar who now works with the National Film Development Corporation in Delhi.
If Chandrawal was a commercial success, Laado brought the Haryanvi film industry critical acclaim. This hard-hitting film about a wife's love affair with her husband's cousin won the National Award in 2000 but cost its debutant director Ashwini Chaudhary a lot of money - he had to sell his house and car to repay his debts. Chaudhary later moved to Mumbai where he made films like Dhoop (2003), Siskiyaan (2005), Good Boy, Bad Boy (2007) and Jodi Breakers (2012).
Why is the Haryanvi film industry in bad shape? One reason is that the Jat belt is too small for films to ensure a decent return on investments. Second, Haryanvi is not a language but a dialect of Hindi, which has stood in the way of the film industry developing to its true potential. The films are regularly overshadowed by Bollywood movies even in Haryana.
But the root of the problem is a lack of cultural awareness and pride, says Chaudhary. "There are hardly any literary magazines or art galleries in Haryana (except in satellite towns like Gurgaon and Faridabad), " he says. "Literature is important for films because films come out of literature, but there are no literary resources in Haryanvi. " He also points to the absence of a strong theatre movement in the state like the jatra in Bengal. "A strong theatre movement supplies a film industry with actors and directors. "
There is a common refrain in the state - that Haryana is a land of agriculture and not culture. Successive state governments have done little to promote films, and Haryana lacks a clear cinema promotion policy. For instance, there are no concessions for shooting Haryanvi films in government complexes, no fixed policy on tax exemptions on Haryanvi films and no subsidies for film-making. There isn't even a film promotion board.
But that seems to be changing. In 2010, chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda said his government was considering a proposal for a film board. The Haryana government also opened a Film and Television Institute in Rohtak in 2011 on the lines of the FTII in Pune. Last month, the institute sponsored a four-day international film festival where Bollywood veteran Satish Kaushik declared his intention to make a Haryanvi film called Mahra Gaam Maahra Dhaam.
Awareness too is rising. There is now a proliferation of film festivals in the state, with three festivals held annually at Yamunanagar, Faridabad and Kurukshetra. The oldest one, at DAV College in Yamunanagar, began in 2008. The festival is becoming increasingly popular, and has had guests such as Om Puri, Manoj Bajpai, Yashpal Sharma and noted Bengali filmmaker Gautam Ghose in the past.
The country, too, it seems, is waking up to Haryana. If the villain in the 2008 Hindi film Ghajini was a Haryanvi strongman, Jannat 2 had strong Jat influences. Imran Khan is playing a rustic Haryanvi in Vishal Bharadwaj's next film, Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola. The culture proliferates on the idiot box, too, in serials like Na Aana Is Des Laado on Colors and FIR on SAB TV.
Haryanvi culture is finally having its moment in the sun. Will Haryanvi cinema follow suit?
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