Bhojpuri Item Boy: Shahid Ali aka Shahid Ansari.
Shahid Ansari is from Eastern UP and his 'screen name' is Shahid Ali and has starred in two Bhojpuri music videos. One in 2008 and one that's just been made. No, he doesn't sing., he just does the Pan Indian Road Romeo dance, chasing girls in ill-fitting low-rise jeans revealing bright chuddies bought outside Andheri or Virar Railway Station.
You would have probably seen him and boys like him dancing to Bhojpuri music videos with names like 'Mango Frooti' on Youtube, etc. But most people who enjoy these videos buy the CDs or share/distribute them on their mobiles across Mumbai and the North Eastern cow-belt.
Mera Bluetooth Mahaan.
It's amazing how the Bhojpuri music industry has adapted to the changing music technology scene. It has become easy to record and distribute music and videos digitally, and no one is exploring the possibilities as much as the Bhojpuri music makers. Mainstream Bollywood no longer sings the language of most Indians and these people have taken the task of providing entertainent into their own hand-held devices.
Many of them are amateurs but there are several good singers with a strong background in traditional music from Central, Eastern UP, Bihar and parts of Jharkhand live and make music here in Mumbai.
Look out for a documentary that will be out soon that digs deep into that story. It's being made by my friend and documentary film maker Surabhi Sharma who also made Jahaji Music (ship music), where she explored the music of people of Indian origin in the Caribbean with Remo Fernandes. I will be posting images of her at work too, soon.
Now back to the rock star, Shahid Ali.
The videos Shahid Ali has starred in were made to promote a Bhojpuri Album with various artists. The songs are recorded in small studios, mostly around Andheri. A bungalow is rented in Panvel for a couple of thousand rupees a day. Fresh arrivals with a little tashan and stars in their eyes like Shahid are hired, taken in a train to Panvel and the videos are shot with basic video cameras. They are then edited, mixed, burnt on to CDs or compressed before they go viral on cheap CDs and mobile distribution. The word of mouth to promote CD sales.
Sounds easy? Yes. But creating music is the easy part. Once the music is out, it's up to the market forces to decide what happens to the music. The viral quotient of the music and the video decides if the music is a hit or not. The most popular then get on to local TV cable stations and creates demand for live shows. Every year, hundreds of songs are made, each made with the hope that it will be next hit.
Does being a hero in a Bhopuri Road Romeo song pay Shahid's bills?
No. He does it for fun and it makes him a star in his friends circle and back home. His daily bread comes from waiting, being the valet for Bollywoood actors at the sets. Little do the stars he wait for know that he probably has more screen views than them up there in the heartland.