By Priyanka Pereira
When cinematographer-turned-director Mahesh Limaye was asked to direct a movie on special kids, he had a tough task of cracking the story. After much research it was the story of Gauri Gadgil who overcame her disability to become an Olympian swimming champ that struck a chord with him. “When I decided on the person I wanted to make a movie on, I felt a huge sense of responsibility. It was a challenge for me to put forward a story that would inspire others and would make the audience sit on the edge of their seats.” Yellow was thus made and successfully received, with Limaye even winning the Special Jury Award at the National Awards.
The success of Yellow, however, can be juxtaposed with the success story of Marathi cinema which seems to be achieving new heights each year. Recently Avinash Arun’s Killa, a story of relocation won the Crystal Bear award at the Berlinale. Nagraj Manjule’s Fandry, a hard-hitting film challenging the caste system, earned appreciation at last year’s Mumbai Film Festival and the International Film Festival of India in Goa. It also won the National Award for Best Film. Manjule simply says, “It is the courage of the film-makers that needs to be applauded. Earlier we stuck to a particular routine or pattern of telling stories. Now more and more makers want to come out and tell newer stories.”
The resurgence of Marathi cinema can be traced back to 2004, when Shwaas won the National Award for Best Feature Film. This literally breathed new life into a floundering industry and a dramatic turnaround ensued, after the past two decades of Marathi cinema were considerably overshadowed by its Bollywood counterpart. Since 2003, Marathi cinema has experienced a renaissance of sorts. In the last few years, films such as Paresh Mokashi’s Harishchandrachi Factory, Umesh Kulkarni’s Vihir and Deool, Rajiv Patil’s Jogwa, Ravi Jadhav’s Balgandharva, Natrang and Balak Palak, Rajesh Pinjani’s Baboo Band Baaja, Satish Manwar’s Gabhricha Paus, Sameer Vidwans’ Time Please, Kedar Shinde’s Shrimant Damodar Pant, Aditya Sarpotdar’s Narbachi Wadi, among many others.
A new breed of directors has not hesitated to experiment, and this is one of the main reasons why Marathi cinema has seen a makeover, feels Ravi Jadhav. “There is an emergence of directors from different walks of life like advertising and engineering. And there is more focus on marketing,” he says. When Jadhav made Balgandharva, it was a movie on tamasha, an art which had died years ago. “Here’s when marketing helped. We pitched the movie in a way to tell them the story of tamasha but in an entertaining fashion,” he says.
The focus has also shifted from mere box-office business to better content. Arun says, “Today producers are willing to put in their money in films which they believe in and which not only provide commercial value.” Arun was happy with the way he had dealt with a simple topic like relocation in Killa. “It is then I realised that even if a story is based in a particular region, it works if it has universal appeal.” And this has prompted even Bollywood actors like Riteish Deshmukh and production houses like Balaji Motion Pictures and ABCL to come forward and put in their money into Marathi cinema.
This era of Marathi cinema is almost reminiscent of the early times, when Prabhat Studios first produced historicals and mythologicals, and movies which were inspired from sangeet natak. Shantaram made the first Marathi talkie Ayodhyecha Raja (1932). Another great Marathi film of the time was Sant Tukaram, based on the life of the great 17th century poet-saint which also travelled to the Venice Film Festival in 1937. Their work was carried forward by cinema greats such as Bhalji Pendharkar and Raja Paranjape, who was often referred to as the Hrishikesh Mukherjee of Marathi cinema. Jabbar Patel who directed Sinhasan, Umbhartha and Saamna was last of the Marathi film-makers who dealt with offbeat cinema. The following years were spent replicating Bollywood, but the good news is that times have changed.
The multiplex revolution and upsurge of Marathi movie channels can also be credited with the way Marathi cinema has witnessed the turnaround. “If we have to compete with other big industries we need good content,” says Manjule. And today more and more people are looking at buying the rights of Marathi cinema to be made in Hindi and other languages. “Salman Khan wants to buy the rights of Yellow to be made in Hindi,” confirms Limaye.
The content has also made sure that today Marathi cinema is represented well not only at the national level but also on the international stage. “This has happened because the directors have noticed avenues abroad,” says Jadhav. “There was a time when we were happy making films for our state. Now we know that local stories make great global stories as well.”
Marathi awards to be held in Mauritius
By Namita Nivas
The first event of the International Marathi Film Festival (IMFF) is to be held in Mauritius in June. This event, which will felicitate Marathi films released last year on an international scale, is being organised in joint collaboration by actor Vijay Patkar’s Shardul Creations and CMA Foundation. The unveiling of the trophy was done at the hands of Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackrey recently.
Besides distribution of the awards, the event will also comprise an entertaining program as well as a special seminar on shooting in Mauritius will be held. Nanubhai Jaisinghani, who is actively involved in the project, stated that it would be a five-day program, from June 20 to 24.
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