Features, Marathi

Of Dahi Misal, Vada Pav and Marathi Films

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!

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  1. It all boils down to merit. Forcing shows in the prime time slot works against it. Marathi cinema has seen a resurgence in the recent years. I, being a Marathi myself, have started to watch Marathi films again. I had to buy a 11pm ticket for the prakash amte movie cause all the shows were full, including the prime time slot so to say. Make good cinema, and it will find an audience. Don’t demean it by giving it preferential treatment. Let it stand neck to neck with world cinema.

    1. I would like to inform you that filmmakers in India do make good cinema. But for that cinema to reach its audience a pathway has to be carved. All good films do not get theaters therefore people are unaware of how many good films are sitting in cans or rather hard drives. Currently there is only one distributor for Marathi films and that is Z cinema or Esselvision. That’s it. Making a film is the least of the filmmaker’s troubles. The trouble begins after making that fantastic film… how does one release it. The other problem is recognition. Why does a “Court” have to go to 19 films festivals and get recognition there before coming to India? If that film had used the normal route to be released it would still be sitting in the hard drives. So its not like good films are not being made. They are just not being released. And this holds not just for Marathi cinema but any film that is considered “independent cinema”.

    2. Vaibhav its a law since 2001. They are not doing anything different now, for which ppl like you and media is yelling at. They are just implementing it.

  2. Veena Bakshi, take a Bow. I pity not only the Maharashtrians in Bombay, but also others as to what they miss by not able to watch the umpteen good Marathi Films that are screened in the Film Festivals but not in Multiplexes for want of Distributers. I am lucky to have watched some awesome Marathi Movies in Film Festivals including your COFFINMAKER. Thanks.

    1. Thank you Mr Venkataraman. Happy to hear that you have watched THE COFFIN MAKER and liked it. The issue really stretches beyond Marathi cinema. There have been so many films that I have missed because the theater has decided to shift the film to some obscure show to fit a Bollywood block buster. But we hope this situation will not last too long.

  3. I can understand the agony and genuine concern behind this charged-up piece. However, I feel the argument is flawed on many levels. I am from Maharashtra and I admire how Marathi films have thought outside the box over the last few years. But you simply cannot thrust anything down anyone’s throat. I do not like to be told what I should watch and I certainly won’t let a politician dictate my artistic preferences.

    I also do not appreciate the simplistic generalisation that everything that comes out of Bollywood is loud, fake, pompous, unrealistic and so on. Because when you make that claim, you are making an assumption that every single Marathi movie speaks about a realistic, social issue. Besides, a good topic doesn’t necessarily mean a good movie. But that’s a separate argument.

    I despise most of the things that come out of Bollywood. But I disagree with the diktat because it’s a diktat. Because it’s coming from people who do not give a tiny rat’s ass about our language, culture and cinema. And because they do not know a thing about film-making.

    1. Saket, I too despise a diktat and have clearly said so. I am not supporting the politics behind the diktat. They are two separate issues. Neither am I saying that everything that comes out of Bollywood is crass and every Marathi film is pure poetry. I too am against people being forced into theaters to watch a film. And that is not what it is about. I am saying there is nothing wrong in fixing a better timing for Marathi films to be screened other than the 8 am show. People do not need to either give a rat’s arse about language, culture or cinema neither does everyone have to be an expert in film-making to appreciate good cinema. I dont know how to paint that doesnt stop me from appreciating good painting.

      Films are not based on topics. Films are based on concepts. And a good concept will invariably turn into a good film unless the filmmaker is a champion in botching it up. French cinema in the 70’s went through a similar time when Hollywood had overtaken theaters. Guess what the French government did? They put out a diktat that 75 % of films to screened in theaters will be French and 25 % will be Hollywood. And that is how French cinema viewing, making and its position among world cinema changed.

      The primary reason behind this rant of mine is exactly what you say, I will not let anybody – politician or film Mogul – decide what I should watch. And that is exactly what is happening today. But that is another argument.

  4. The multiplex going audience is not necessarily the film enthusiast audience. All the want is brainless entertainment. Even the Marathi films that have attracted crowds and made some money are not the ones that have been considered as good films. The films that actually made some business were the likes of Timepass, Duniyadari or Lai Bhari, comparable only to the likes of Housefull, Welcome or Happy New Year. So even if there is a reserved slot these are the films that get the benefit. The content driven films remain in cans, rather hard drives.

    1. Satyajeet, let me thank you for recognising that films like Lai Bhari etc are not exactly the hallmark of Marathi cinema. Like I have said in my rant that Lai Bhari is a Hindi potboiler written in Marathi. However, it has been seen that “good” Marathi films get an audience. Now we cannot quantify the numbers by housefull shows. Those days are gone even for Bollywood masala. But the more you expose different audiences to different cinema the viewing will get better. Let me give you a strange example. Chinese food. There was a time in the 60’s when Chinese food was only available to the hoi poloi. Taj had the first restaurant. Till Kamling and Chop Sticks happened at Churchgate. Suddenly, everyone was eating Chinese food. And today it is sold on street corners and every Chinese joint irrespective makes money. It is up to you as to the quality you want to eat and pay for. In film distribution it is the distributors who actually decide what you shout watch. If there is a glimmer of hope for cinema other than Bollywood – all regional cinema as well as Independent cinema then why should we refuse it?

      1. That is a strange example indeed and does not necessarily help your argument. Of the popular chinese food what percent of food will be recognised by a chinese person as chinese? Louis Delluc had once said, “french cinema has to be cinema, french cinema has to be french”. Fortunately Marathi films today are often true to their roots and generally make good use of the medium. An important reason for it is that film makers are so sure that no one is going to watch their film that therefore they are free to tell whatever they want to, the way they want to- like bathroom singing where no one is there to listen to what one sings. So if commercial aspirations are forced on film makers I fear if they would be pressured to think of what the audience wants to hear rather than what they want to say. And that would be the last thing Marathi cinema needs at this stage .

        1. Of course it helps my argument! If you dont agree with it that is fine! Satyajeet, I have a question for you – Are you a filmmaker or a film student? Just Asking….

  5. If they (Multiplex owners) want to keep enjoying those hefty tax concessions from Maharashtra Govt., they will have to bare this “diktat”, “bullying” , “ghati attitude” , or whatever they want to call it to please themselves. The “Theaterwallas” are not doing charity by screening Marathi movies in “one of the numerous” screens , Maharashtra Govt already given them the “bang-for-the buck” to compensate the loss of revenue because “poor ghatis” not buying overpriced food/beverages, or whatever whack reason they come-up with.

    1. Rangada (I hope I got your name right), let us also not get into violence. I dont agree with the state’s bullying, but I do agree with better show timings. See the thing is that the state too needs to improve its act. Just issuing diktats isnt the answer. The entertainment tax in Maharashtra is the highest in the country … 45 %!!! Which means 45 paise of every rupee goes to the government. Theaters like Akashwani in Backbay have been closed down. That is a government theater. Why cant that be reopened to show films? So it is an argument that has two sides to it. Nevertheless, I am completely for better show timings of not just Marathi films but Independent cinema too!

  6. I entirely agree with this argument..Many Marathi films do not get the shows in multiplexes. Many of the National Award winning films I could not watch because they were not released or they did not get any shows, e.g ‘Astu- So be it’. And even the marathi films which do get fair number of shows are only those which are being promoted through EsselVision or ZeeMarathi, many of them being purely commercial films like Lai Bhaari, Duniyadari, Timepass.

    1. Sarvesh you are so right. Indie filmmakers like me are fighting to be seen that is all! I have as much of a right to show my film and recover my costs as a YRF or Dharma or anyone else. But when we are not given that space because the nexus between Big Producer, Distributor, Corporate and Theater does everything to keep us out, it is time to stand up and be heard. I dont think there is anything wrong with that!

  7. I think, the point everyone is missing is that multiplexes were given concessions to build an extra screen so that Marathi movies could be shown. The concessions have already been given. Now, the multiplexes cheated, keeping to the letter of the law, but not the spirit. While they show Marathi films, they make sure they set the films up so that they have gotten the concession, but they need not really hold on to the responsibility. Hence, the afternoon shows when everyone is working on weekdays or the early morning shows when no one has time.

    This is what is being corrected through the diktat. They took the money, let them stand up to their side of the bargain too.

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