The Much-acclaimed Marathi film Kaasav may have hogged the spotlight at the 64th National Film Awards by bagging the award for the best film. But over eight months after the completion of the movie, it hasn’t been released, as the makers of Kaasav are yet to find a distributor. Made on a modest budget of Rs 1.5 crore, the idea for this film was conceived in 2015, it was shot in 2016 and was ready by September last year. “We are still looking for a distribution partner. Zee films has shown some interest and we are in negotiations. But I still can’t predict the outcome,” Dr Mohan Agashe, who acted in the film and produced it, said, when contacted in London. The film bagged the Golden Lotus award for the best feature film at the 64th National Film Awards. It was also among the official selection for the international film festival of Mumbai (MAMI, Oct 2016), Kolkata (November 2016), Thiruvananthapuram (December 2016), Bengaluru (January 2017) and the New York Indian film festival (April 2017).
When asked if small-budget films continue to suffer as they are often denied a distributing platform, Agashe admitted that the entire process had become a complicated one. “Our parallel distribution is underway through small and private screenings. But now, we have set ourselves a deadline for the film’s release till August this year,” he said. “How long do we wait? Shouldn’t all good art be supported,” added Agashe, making a strong case for identifying and developing theatres that can screen such films.
“Small releases were possible earlier but with large multiplexes, it is essential to have a big release and that costs money. Once a big budget film is ready, its distributors book all the screens at multiplexes. No other film can run for that first week. Today, the programme schedule of theatres is done by people who have contracts with theatre owners. For example, a day before the release of another Marathi film Astu, which I acted in and co-produced, I was not even aware of which theatre would screen the movie and at what time,” recalled Agashe.
Sunil Sukthankar pointed out that 10 years ago, Marathi films were made on a small budget. “Now, with big budget Marathi film ventures, marketing costs have gone up. After its release, the film is likely to be pulled out of the theatre in just two days, but the producers can afford the investment. Due to the lack of strong financial backing, it becomes extremely challenging to release films,” said the filmmaker. “It has become a trend of sorts too as unless the film is marketed well, it fails to attract the audience…,” added Sukthankar.
When contacted, Sameer Dixit of Pickle Entertainment, a distributor of Marathi films, said that during a recent screening of Kaasav in Mumbai, he had met the director and offered to release the film pro bono. He said that he offered to waive off the distribution fee, and the makers would only have to pay the `minimal expenditure’ of the technical expense of digital screenings. “It is a good film and it would be terrible if it doesn’t get released. As a Marathi film distributor, I am keen to see it getting released,” he said, adding that due to the strong content of the film, the filmmakers would be able to recover their investment through ticket sales.
“It is also possible that people would come forward to bear the promotion cost once the release process is set in motion,”he added.