I have absolutely not been able to understand the ridiculing jokes being made about the Marathi cinema diktat. Yes, I do understand as a politically aware citizen that the diktat reeks of politics. But the question I ask is – Why can’t Marathi cinema in Maharashtra be shown at prime time? What is there to find it laughable? In fact, Marathi movies are far more sensible and content driven than the drivel that most of Bollywood thrives on.
In fact, Bollywood doesn’t want content! All it wants is the stamp of a 100 plus crore film. Go to any corporate entity and try offer them a content driven script and the first question is “Star Kaun Hai”? They simply lack the guts to back a richly textured story with real human characters and genuine human emotions. No, please don’t give me the Dum Laga ke Haisha example. It has Ayushmann Khurrana. The big question is does Bollywood have the gumption to make an Elizabeth Ekadashi? Or a Court? Fandry? Killa? The list goes on. The day Bollywood stops supporting films(?) like Housefull, Welcome, Happy New Year and the like, then let us talk about quality.
For how long does Marathi filmdom have to make excuses for being top notch and winning laurels at the National Awards year after year? Why should Marathi cinema have to feel apologetic that it is making good films?
Right now the industry is upset that ‘these bloody ghatis’ are demanding their rights! Before anyone thinks I am making this into a communal fight of ghatis vs them, let me set the record straight – I am not! For heaven sake, my first film (The Coffin Maker) is neither in Hindi nor Marathi.
There was a time when Hindi cinema looked up to Marathi films and was even inspired by it. A case in point being a big Hindi film like Mera Saaya (1966), which not many know is actually a remake of Marathi film Paathlaag (1964). And remember, when the National Awards were started, it was a Marathi film, Shyamchi Aai (1953), that won the first ever President’s Gold Medal for Best film. A feat that Shwaas (2004) would repeat and pave the way for Marathi cinema, that had since derailed and was struggling, to get its mojo back
And what of the multiplexes themselves? Quoting a fellow filmmaker, “Let me tell you a statement heard from a exhibitor months ago as to why Marathi films don’t get more shows. An average Marathi film viewer is a middle-class Maharashtrian and when he goes to watch a film, he doesnt buy any food and beverages in the interval. And today, since most multiplexes make maximum profits from the eats and drinks, they prefer fewer shows for Marathi films.” Leave alone the theatres, I am really flummoxed by reactions from people that I ‘respect’ on social media and the print industry making derogatory remarks about the multiplexes serving Dahi Misal and Vada Pav instead of Popcorn and Pepsi now that Marathi films have to be shown at primetime. Actually, on a serious level why not? It’s healthier, tastier and cheaper.
The killer in the recent past of all regional cinema, and I don’t mean to get parochial, but is dear ol’ Punjab! All film characters are even now named Kapoor or Khanna or Chopra or Singh! And suddenly, Marathi cinema has became the ‘ghatis’. It has almost become a curse to be literate. Again, let me clarify. I am not on a ‘lets get them crude Punjabis’ trip. But it’s a fact that it is difficult even now to have a Khandekar or Prabhu or Sonawane as the principal character in one’s script, especially for a Hindi film. However, it is perfectly ok if the film is a ‘festival’ film. So for corporates, Bollywood distributors and Bollywood producers, it is ok to go Marathi (or regional) as long as you are making arty-farty festival films. But the real moolah is in shit! And that is where Marathi films cannot come into prime time! Till then Marathi cinema, Marathi actors, Marathi everything must be quietly content being the 8 AM show that nobody wants to wake up to go watch and be the Pandus and/or the Sakubais in the film!