With films like Court, Nat­sam­rat and now Sairat, Marathi cin­ema has left be­hind big brother Bol­ly­wood in its growth tra­jec­tory. Yo­gesh Pawar re­ports on the resur­gence in the in­dus­try, with films that are find­ing both com­mer­cial and crit­i­cal suc­cess

DNA Sunday (Mumbai) - - FRONT PAGE -

Sh­waas, the 2004 Na­tional Award win­ner which brought hon­our to Mararathi cin­ema half a cen­tury af­ter Shyam­chi Aai ( 1953), was a breath of fresh air. “We e took it to small vil­lages, hirring mar­riage halls, school ol au­di­to­ri­ums and makeshift venues for screen­ings. Though Sh­waas has no songs or recog­nis­able stars, we were able to grow the buzz around the film,” re­mem­bers di­rec­tor San­deep Sawant.

In­dia’s en­try to the Os­cars lost out as it was ranked sixth. But Sawant re­mem­bers the way com­mu­ni­ties, school chil­dren and celebs like Amitabh Bachchan and Sachin Ten­dulkar came to­gether to help raise funds for Sh­waas’ Os­car jour­ney.

A jour­ney that be­gan with Sh­waas in 2004 and Har­ishchan­drachi Fac­tory ( 2009) con­tin­ues to this day, be­lieves film critic Amit Bhan­dari. “Later, with Jogwa ( 2009), Fandry ( 2013), Killa and El­iz­a­beth Ekadashi ( 2014) and Court ( 2015), Kat­yar Kal­jat Ghusli, Nats­marat and now Sairat, Marathi cin­ema has not only been able to break free of the for­mu­laic, but also proved that these projects can work with the masses,” he says. In March- April 2013, a box- of­fice slugfest be­tween 20 films re­leas­ing in a month emerged as the biggest cri­sis for Marathi cin­ema. With over Rs50 crore rid­ing on them and none of the big­gies as­so­ci­ated back­ing down, it seemed in­evitable that the face- off would bleed an in­dus­try still emerg­ing from decades of a rut.

Film critic Bhan­dari re­mem­bers how six films were slot­ted for re­lease in April 2013. “Af­ter IPL be­gan, big Hindi films be­gan avoid­ing April- May. The mul­ti­plex own­ers and Bol­ly­wood stand- off led to a wind­fall for Mee Shiva­ji­raje Bhos­ale Boltoy ( 2009) and the die was cast. Ev­ery­body and his mon­key now wants their film to re­lease in this slot.”

San­jay Ch­habria, MD of Ever­est En­ter­tain­ment, which pro­duced Aa­jcha Di­vas Maa­jha which re­leased then, says such tus­sles can take Marathi films back by a decade. “Af­ter a long strug­gle to break away the farce- par­ody- tear- jerker for­mula, Marathi films are get­ting both mass and crit­i­cal ac­claim. Such crises can singe ev­ery­one.”

Un­like Bol­ly­wood, Marathi films strug­gle from the fund- rais­ing step it­self. While the gov­ern­ment gives grants depend­ing on gra­da­tion by a state- ap­pointed panel, this is rarely more than Rs30 lakh. The grants also cre­ate a crowd of also- rans. “The state cul­ture depart­ment needs to re- look at its grants pol­icy for films, oth­er­wise it’s counter- pro­duc­tive,” says Bhan­dari.

Prasad Surve, pres­i­dent of the Akhil Bhar­tiya Marathi Chi­tra­pat Ma­haman­dal, says film­mak­ers and pro­duc­ers have fi­nally re­alised that a Marathi film needs a min­i­mum win­dow of two weeks. “We don’t have a star sys­tem or a sea­son/ fes­ti­val fac­tor ( Eid, Di­wali, etc). Our films de­pend more on word of mouth. Col­lec­tions of all big hits show that the sec­ond and third weeks gross higher than the first.”

Look­ing ahead, film­maker Mahesh Man­jrekar says, “Marathi cin­ema has be­come syn­ony­mous with good cin­ema in re­cent times. Whether Kaaksparsh, Nat­sam­rat or Sairat, the sub­ject and treat­ment is so dif­fer­ent. In a sense, each of our projects pushes the en­ve­lope fur­ther and thinks of some­thing unique and dif­fer­ent.” With the in­crease in the num­ber of qual­ity Marathi films that have found an au­di­ence not just in the state but out­side too and its continuing suc­cesses, Marathi cin­ema is all set to soar high

er and bet­ter its records.

P_ yo­gesh@ dnain­dia. net @ powero­fyo­gesh

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