“A series of music albums from the 1990s started a “super-hit” trend where the album titles attached the name of a luscious vegetable, sweetmeat or a hot snack to the Bhojpuri prefix. These luscious objects were obviously phallic or indicated a woman’s breasts, or equated the craving for the delectable food item with the desire for a lusty woman. The album art was a literal illustration of a luscious woman along with the luscious food.”
The passage above is an excerpt from an essay titled Miss Use (a title borrowed from a suggestive Bhojpuri music album cover), author Vishal Rawley correlates the flourishing of suggestive Bhojpuri music albums with the young Bhojpuri man’s “new found social and economic independence.” Targeted towards the young Bhojpuri male population, these raunchy music albums became quite the rage in mid 1990s, coinciding with the influx of labourers in search of employment into urban settings from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
It all started in the 1980s, when cassettes replaced records and became the go-to affordable and portable medium of storing music. This was the beginning of music being associated with mass culture. By the 1990s, music labels across India were producing music not just in hindi and english, but were catering to regional audiences, specifically those who migrated to urban settings from smaller towns. The Bhojpuri music industry, still in its nascent stage at that point, targeted “young
males, discovering new liberties in the city.”
From the array of themes songs of love, longing and desire topped the charts. Catering specifically to the Bhojpuri male in urban setting, the Bhojpuri music industry’s portrayal of society veered towards perpetuating gender stereotypes that objectified women. This trend has continued to thrive till date and an example of this would be the album cover of Bhojpuri ‘rockstar’ Guggu Rangeela’s Jeans Dheela Kara (Loosen Your Jeans). Rangeela is shown leering at Kim Sharma, who abiding by the title is shown loosening her jeans.
Bhojpuri music industry’s lesser known sub-genre within the sub-genre that is “chat-paté lokgeet” (sweet-salty folk songs) is another example of how this trend of skewed representation . This genre carries weight for much more than its soundscapes. Designed for a select audience and far from being politically correct, this genre of music is sure to do is transform your bhaji (vegetable) shopping experience.
Think of the crudest form of objectification of women you can imagine, the image in your head is in all likelihood pretty close to the Bhojpuri music industry’s ‘super-hit’ trend that cropped up in the ‘90s. This trend used the humblest of vegetables — pumpkins, tomatoes and brinjals — to evoke feelings that were as far as could be from the mundane and relatively uneventful setting that is an Indian family’s dining table. Bhojpuri Baigan, Bhojpuri Kaddu, Kela, and Lal Timatar are some of titles that are printed across these album covers with a ‘modern-day’ (read scantily clad) woman longingly gazing at the giant phallic fruit or vegetable displayed alongside. Another marketing strategy used by the industry is placing famous Bollywood personalities like Katrina Kaif on the covers just for the appeal, meaning that they have nothing to do with the actual album at all.
Along with the Bhojpuri music industry at large these raunchy music albums became quite the rage in mid 1990s, coinciding with the influx of labourers in search of employment into urban settings from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.The trend filtered in from the 1990s into the 2000s, very easily adapting to the then new shift to VCDs with established music labels such as T-series in tow.
A peek into the Bhojpuri music industry of India is a great way to gain insight into the nuanced and lesser-known pockets of Bhojpuri culture. From illustrations of women with earthen pots perched on their heads to a more modern (and progressively thinner) woman with Western influences suggestively staring into her mobile phone — Bhojpuri album covers are surprisingly insightful peepholes into transformation of the male ethos and the subsequent changing image of the quintessential Bhojpuri covergirl.