After a decade-and-a-half, Marathi cinema has got a new lease of life when the tamasha-based Natrang on the life of Ganpat Patil, grossed over Rs 6 crore in just two weeks. It was the only Indian film to premiere at the MAMI Film Festival in the ‘Above the Cut’ category for extraordinary features.
Lead actor Atul Kulkarni says, “Tamasha has almost died in public memory but I’m not surprised to hear that people like our movie. It flows well and the subject is engaging.”
Nitin Vaidya of Zee Talkies, the producers and distributors of Natrang, expects it to be the highest grossing Marathi film of the year. “Marathi films have a longer shelf life and can run to packed houses for 12-15 weeks,” he points out. Zee Talkies has been backing Marathi films for the last seven years.
New age cinema
Meanwhile, Shikshanachya Aicha Gho, a critique on the loopholes in the education system, that released alongside 3 Idiots, is another big success story. Producer-director Mahesh Manjrekar attributes Marathi cinema’s revival to the multiplex culture. “Earlier, single screens didn’t encourage sensible films. Commerical, below-the-belt comedies for the frontbenchers were the order of the day. Which decent family would watch such films in rundown theatres?” he argues.
Kulkarni agrees, saying that today many young advertising professionals have entered the field. “Earlier, Marathi families didn’t encourage their children to have anything to do with cinema. But now Marathi-speaking boys are going to film schools and classy technicians have upped the quality of our cinema,” he reasons.
Geerish Wankhede of Cinemax adds that multiplexes have helped by releasing Marathi films with subtitles and giving them a simultaneous release across the state. “We can digitally release any film across territories now, even released them in cinemascope. That has brought in bigger returns.”
Companies like Eros, UTV, UFO Moviez and even AB Corp are investing in Marathi cinema. Vihir will be the first Marathi film to be distributed by AB Corp. “It’s fabulous. After Paa, Vihir is our focus,” says Abhishek Bachchan.
According to Siddharth Roy Kapur, UTV Motion Pictures that distributed Harishchandrachi Factory would now like to produce Marathi films. “Their content is sensible and they make good business sense too,” he says.
Manjrekar believes such distribution companies have made a difference to the way Marathi films were being marketed. Vaidya agrees, saying Zee Talkies took the first step towards bridging the gap between Marathi cinema and cinema halls.
According to trade expert Sadik Chitalkar, last year, over 80 films were released. Right now, almost 50 films are on the floors and should release soon. “Mee Shivaji Raje Bhosle Boltoy has changed the scene completely. The film has attracted several big filmmakers, film production and distribution companies to Marathi cinema. More money is being pumped into promotion, content is getting better and films are running to packed houses,” he exults. “Once Marathi films were making just Rs 4-5 crore a year. Today, it’s close to Rs 50 crore and the figure is expected to multiply.”