I always had deep respect for regional cinema in India. Coming from a marathi (a language commonly spoken in the state of Maharashtra) family watching regional films made in our langauge is a tradition. I always felt that regional cinema in India was better than Bollywood cinema- the industry that brought India on the map of the world. I have seen a lot of marathi films and comparing them with Bollywood films I’ve noticed:
- Bollywood films have a herculean budget compared to marathi films
- Bollywood films are made keeping audiences residing in metropolitan cities in mind
- Marathi films are made knowing that they will mostly be watched by audiences in rural India
- Bollywood films are about protagonists belonging to a higher economic class- people with access to foreign education, destination weddings and sports cars
- Bollywood films are realistic- protagonists reside in villages, work in fields and struggle to provide two full meals to their families every day
- Bollywood is ‘aspirational’ cinema enticing people with expensive houses, exotic locations and scantily clas women
- Marathi films provide the actual picture however bleak and unappetizing
‘Jogwa’ directed by Rajeev Patil
For the past couple of decades the marathi film industry has produced marvellous movies on a shoe-string budget. They have received many honours at prestigious national and international film festivals. They all have reflected evils in the marathi socitey and propogated a positive social message. But also all of them have comparatively failed to garner the money they deserved at the box office.
‘Natrang’ directed by Ravi Jadhav
‘Jogwa’ ( a love story between a Devdasi and a man forced to dress like a Hijra) directed by Rajeev Patil, ‘Natarang’ (the biography of a poor farmer forced to become a transsexual performer due to his financial condition) directed by Ravi Jadhav and ‘Kaksparsha’ (the story of a teenage widow) directed by Mahesh Manjrekar all received unprecedented success at film festivals but underperformed at the box office.
‘Balgandharva’ directed by Ravi Jadhav
May assumptions were made- the lack of money, the absence of stardom, the serious subject matter and the extreme realism was turning the marathi audiences towards Hindi cinema. The industry had plenty of talent but most of the films suffered from lack of entertaining elements or understated marketing. Several films were released without the audience noticing their existence. Then the tides turned when films like ‘Balgandharva’ (the story of a legend of the marathi stage) directed by Ravi Jadhav was released. It had a massive budget, an envious collection of designer clothes and a hero that the audiences were familiar with.
‘Balak Palak’ directed by Ravi Jadhav
But Jadhav was a risk-taker and he next released ‘Balak Palak’( a film about early teenagers being exposed to pornography). As usual it received critical success but earned only Rs. 3.2 crores in two weeks. It established Jadhav’s position in the industry as a film-maker that the audiences knew was going to deliver. He learned his lesson and next released ‘Time Pass’ (a teenage love story between Dagdu and Praju) with more mainstream elements- a plot revolving around a love story, an external conflict provided by Praju’s father, item numbers and fantastic music. The film quickly became a rage- college students who preferred to watch Hindi films with their friends went to see Time Pass, the songs were played at every processiong during Ganesh Utsav, the dialogues were recited by 5 five-year olds. The marathi audiences returned to marathi cinema and Time Pass earned Rs. 6.60 crores in the first weekend.
‘Time Pass’ directed by Ravi Jadhav
Then came ‘Lai Bhari’( a story of twin brothers separated at birth due to a promise made to Lord Vitthal by their mother) directed by Nishikant Kamat- it was basically a Bollywood movie made in marathi. It has an enormous budget, a popular hero, brilliant music by Ajay-Atul, explosive action sequences and an emotional attachment to marathi culture. It did not receive critical acclaim but earned a staggering Rs. 10.15 crores at the box office in its first weekend. It broke the records previously set by ‘Duniyadaari’ (an average movie about a group of friends) directed by Sanjay Jadhav and Time Pass. It survived a fight with Bollywood films- a vulnerable David not giving up against a suffocating Goliath. It showed the world that Marathi cinema had the potential to earn an unfathomable amout of money if people were willing to invest in it.
‘Lai Bhari’ directed by Nishikant Kamat
Then came Time Pass 2 (Dagdu and Praju reunited after 15 years) the first ever sequel in Marathi films directed by Ravi Jadhav. The film released on 1st May in Maharashtra and did everything perfectly- the characters people were already rooting for, music that immediately became popular and extensive marketing done by the producers. Inspite of having a cast that not many were familiar with Jadhav kept the audience’s attention because they were invested in the unfolding story. Finally Time Pass 2 defied all logic and broke all box office records set by marathi films by earning a shocking Rs. 3.70 crores in ONE DAY!
‘Time Pass 2’ directed by Ravi Jadhav
I saw the film yesterday and it is extremely entertaining although fails to excite those who look at films critically. But you win some, you lose some. Although the quality of these ‘popular’ marathi fims is not as good as the critically acclaimed marathi films it is definitely not as poor as Bollywood films either. They provided marathi audiences with something they were pining for- entertainment. Respected Bollywood director Imtiaz Ali once said, “There is nothing wrong in making films that people want to watch”. It has made marathi-speaking people proud of their regional industry and non-marathi speaking people aware of its existence. But most of all it has proved that the marathi film industry is a force to be reckoned with.