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Marathi vs Hindi?

Today some regional cinemas are endangered species (except south-Indian films) let’s not watch them become extinct species.

entertainment Updated: Aug 25, 2010 00:38 IST
Riteish Deshmukh
Riteish Deshmukh
Hindustan Times

I wrote on twitter a few days ago that Marathi films should be given a few primetime slots at the multiplexes. And that Multiplex bodies themselves should promote and cultivate regional cinema. Few reactions to that tweet were quite shocking and misjudged. Some said that I was probably advocating regional biases; some said I was siding a certain political leader and his stance. It was perceived as MARATHI vs HINDI.

Hence I decided to write to you guys and express myself at length rather than getting stuck with 140 characters on Twitter and be misjudged.

RiteshAs a child I used to go to the theatres and watch Marathi films, which were packed to capacity. Single screen experience was to the fullest with stuffy smell and loud applause at every joke cracked. I went and watched these films regularly but with time I just stopped going. I never once questioned myself, as I was happy with the availability of better and bigger Hindi and English films nearby.

Probably the Marathi films lost the quality and content that they once commanded and overtime became unattractive, uninteresting to me and many more viewers. Which eventually lead to empty theatres. So, I guess those theatres also moved on to Hindi and English movies just like the audiences and were happy to put a ‘houseful’ board outside their doors.

With time, single screens gave way to multiplexes. Earlier where you could watch one film, today you have the opportunity to select from a buffet of 7-8 films, spread over 20-24 shows daily with varying seating capacity. Multiplexes helped filmmakers to make smaller and niche films and, with time, they too found an audience. I thought this was one great contribution of multiplexes towards niche filmmaking.

In last few years, Marathi cinema has come a long way. Films have been getting accepted and awarded at a national platform. After a long hiatus they are trying to get back on their feet with extraordinary content and thankfully they are slowly getting the audiences back to the theatre.

Harishchandrachi Factory was sent as an official Indian entry at the Oscar Awards. Jogwa, Natrang being few of the other acclaimed works. Similarly great work is being done in other regional cinemas too be it Bengali, Gujrati, Punjabi, Bhojpuri, Oriya etc. But, most of these works somewhere get overshadowed by the bigger brother — Hindi Cinema.

Today multiplexes have a great opportunity to cultivate and promote regional cinema. Today they are in a position to give regional cinema a platform to survive and perform. Many people I know want to watch regional film but find it difficult to search for a theatre that’s playing it and even if they manage to find it, its probably much further away than their regular multiplex and hence avoid going to watch it.

Most of the multiplexes have between 15-18 shows between the prime time of 7pm to 10.30pm. Even if the regional films get one or two shows in the smallest screens to being with, it can do wonders to the filmmakers and their audiences. I know that these shows might not see any audiences to start with but if the multiplex owners show a bit more patience, I am sure good regional content will get people to these screens. I don’t claim to know the working of the multiplex business but it pains me to see the lack of opportunity and infrastructure for the regional films. The government and multiplexes should work out a package to help them out. Government should grant subsidies which might work as oxygen for this dying cinema.

When I talk about Marathi films, I am not talking about Marathi vs Hindi but I am talking about Marathi films with Hindi films, regional films with Hindi films. Popularity of Hindi films is unquestionable. But, it won’t hurt to rebuild the fading regional cinema which has been part of our culture for more than half a century.

Today some regional cinemas are endangered species (except south-Indian films) let’s not watch them become extinct species.

Read more Riteish Deshmukh columns

First Published: Aug 24, 2010 18:00 IST