I belong to both the industries and I personally feel this is not about the push, it’s a right. I strongly believe the Marathi industry deserves this. In India, and in our national Anthem, we always say that we’re a country full of different castes, communities, religions and so on. So if we accept that we are people who are versatile and speak different languages and encourage the mother tongue, then we should look at the fact that the other states have facilities to promote their state language. So if our state says that the Marathi industry deserves to be seen in prime time hours, then one can’t be so angry about it. It’s a valid point. It’s the regional language of the state and if the state is saying that we should support our cinema, what’s the harm? And it’s not that it’s a dying art and needs to be given a push. In fact, the industry is doing very well, with good, content-driven films. One of my own films is a top-grosser at the Marathi box-office, but the film was shown only at odd hours and never given a prime-time show.
I accept the movie industry is primarily dominated by Hindi cinema and we give enough importance to it -- I belong to both and I definitely feel that if I have two films, one in Marathi and one in Hindi, then both of them should get a deserving run at the cinemas. No one should be told that a Marathi film will get the screen at noon, while Hindi will get better timings like in the evening. Have you ever heard of such a thing happening in theatre [stage shows]? Has it ever been that a Marathi play will not be played between 4pm and 7pm? Marathi plays are on, right? So why can’t the films be on, too? My point is simple -- no one should dictate which films should get the prime time slot.
As an industry, we also pay the same amount to distributors and exhibitors. Now, should the prices be lowered for Marathi film-makers? I think the logistics need to be worked out very practically. There shouldn’t be any favour or exclusive excuse for Marathi cinema. We are not doing that for any language in India. Of course, there are schemes where we are trying to help dying languages, but that’s not the case with Marathi. Marathi is doing extremely well, so I just want to underline the fact that if I’m paying the same rent to any XYZ theatre, then why should they have a problem in releasing my film and giving them the required timings? Is it just because some debutant director or producer in Hindi is releasing their film? On the basis of their language, they’re getting the prime time slot. And with this example, I’m not even talking about big, established, known banners or directors. Basically, any newcomer releasing a film in Hindi will get the slot, but if a seasoned, reputable Marathi film-maker says he wants to release his film in those slots, he’ll be turned away. If you think of it practically, other states are okay with the rules the government is offering for their betterment. When we talk about the state in Maharashtra, we’re only thinking about Mumbai. But think of the other cities. Maharashtra is not necessarily Mumbai, we need to think about other cities and towns too.
We should welcome this decision rather than making such a hue and cry about it. I feel there are a lot of reactions to it. Somehow, we don’t feel alive unless there’s some issue at hand. People feel the need to react on this issue, but it’s not just about the reaction. It’s about understanding that you need to love your state language. When you’re caught by a cop, you speak two lines in Marathi and get away with it. Then you brag about it too. Why take pride in it? Don’t you feel ashamed about breaking the rules? When you want to save yourself, you use the state language, and otherwise forget about it. I think you need to go beyond which place you belong to. If we’re saying that as Indians we’re diverse and versatile in nature, then we should let the versatility grow. It’s as simple as that.
Sonali Kulkarni is an actor