Item girl Rakhi Sawant and top Marathi film stars have joined the Maharashtra Navnirman Chitrapat Karmachari Sena (MNCKS), an affiliate of Raj Thackeray's Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), a top office-bearer said here Thursday.
Some of the biggest male and female actors of the Marathi film industry became members of MNCKS during its ongoing membership drive, said union general secretary Shalini Thackeray. She is the wife of Jeetendra Thackeray, a cousin of MNS founder Raj Thackeray, the estranged nephew of Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray.
"So far, we have notched over 25,000 members, both from the Marathi film industry as well as Hindi film industry. And the list is growing," Thackeray told IANS.
Through the MNCKS, the MNS will take up the issue of foreign artistes being hired in Bollywood which deprives local talent of many opportunities.
"We shall also launch a struggle to elevate the status of Marathi film industry and bring it at par with Bollywood through different methods," Thackeray said.
These would include allotting prime time slots for screening Marathi movies in multiplexes to attract higher viewership. She pointed out that most multiplexes in big cities like Mumbai and Pune exhibit Marathi movies as a token to stay within government regulations.
However, they are screened at odd hours like afternoons or late nights when there are no takers, and then abruptly yanked off on grounds of poor patronage, she said.
The film industry in the state comprises over 250,000 people working at different levels in various departments. However, Thackeray said that her union has all departments under a single roof with a centralised decision-making authority to resolve problems.
Recently, the MNCKS helped out aged and ailing Bollywood artistes like A.K. Hangal and Sholay editor M.S. Shinde.
On an average, around 200 new Marathi films ranging from modest to big budget investments hit the screens every year.
Incidentally, Thackeray herself hit the headlines two years ago when she became the first Thackeray family daughter-in-law to contest the Lok Sabha elections from Mumbai North-West constituency, but lost out to Gurudas Kamat, now a union minister.