The growing importance of quality Marathi films is also borne out by the fact that ‘Harishchandrachi Factory’ was acquired for distribution by Bollywood major UTV Motion Pictures. Similarly, Umesh Kulkarni had had the support of the mainstream Mumbai industry for two films he directed.
The Marathi film industry is one of the oldest film industries in the country. The first Marathi film, ‘Shree Pundalik’, was released in 1912. Since then Marathi films have been a major, influencing factor on the development of Indian regional cinema. Among the film world personalities who have created history and added depth and pioneering new dimensions to Marathi films, Dadasaheb Phalke occupies place of pride. The highest award in cinema is given annually to an individual for lifetime achievement – and that prestigious award is named after Dadasaheb Phalke. Among other names, directors like Acharya P. K. Atre, Anant Mane, Datta Dharmadhikari, Raj Dutt, Mahesh Kothare, Prakash Bhende have contributed in very noteworthy ways to Marathi cinema.
There were remarkable actors as well who made memorable contributions to Marathi cinema. Actors like V. Shantaram, Master Vinayak, Bhalji Pendharkar, Uma Bhende, Sudhir Phadke have enriched the industry with their performances. On the music front, Srinivas Khale, N. Datta, Salil Chowdhary, Vasant Prabhu excelled in combination with singers like Asha Bhonsle, Lata Mangeshkar and Suresh Wadekar. The new generation of directors like Kedar Shinde, Rajiv Patil, Satsh Rajwade, Sanjay Jadhav, Shrirang Godbole upheld the fine traditions of Marathi cinema. Actors like Mrunal Kulkarni, Riteish Deshmukh, Sonali Kulkarni, Urmila Kanitkar, Amruta Khanvilkar, Shreyad Talpade showed that they understand what acting was all about and boasted of some sterling performances. New music directors like Ajay-Atul, Nilesh Moharir, Avinash-Vishwajeet, Prakash Jadhav made good use of their talent, providing more than one musical treat for film and music lovers alike.
‘What sets these Marathi, Bengali and Tamil filmmakers apart, is the culture-specific yet universal fare that they deliver in much the manner of the true greats of Indian and world cinema. They tell stories that are derived from their own socio-cultural milieus, and they tell them in ways that are markedly indigenous’, says Saibal Chatterjee. ‘Nor do they embrace storylines and characters that are out of sync with the realities of much of ‘real’ India. So, these new directors create fascinating emotional landscapes and human scenarios where we are introduced to figures that we rarely encounter in the confines of mainstream Hindi cinema. With their diligently crafted, often stylised but always socially and culturally relevant cinematic essays, young regional language directors around the country are scripting a dew fresh narrative minted entirely with indigenous ingredients.
This rooted yet globally clued-in lot – independent, free-spirited and fiercely original – represent the future of Indian cinema. They are young yet mature, strapped for cash but high on enthusiasm, and they make films that are thought-provoking yet endowed with the power to grab eyeballs’. Veteran actor and filmmaker Amol Palekar, whose contribution to non-mainstream Indian cinema as a whole has been substantial said: “It is really wonderful to see the position that Marathi cinema has today. It now occupies the space that once belonged to Bengali and Malayalam cinema.”
‘Unlike their better-known Hindi cinema counterparts who are enamoured of borrowed plumes, they aren’t falling for the lure of western moviemaking styles. So, these new directors create fascinating emotional landscapes and human scenarios where we are introduced to figures that we rarely encounter in the confines of mainstream Hindi cinema.
Leading this quiet but hugely significant revolution is a steadily swelling tribe of Marathi filmmakers based in Mumbai and Pune. Paresh Mokashi, Ravi Jadhav, Satish Manwar, Mangesh Hadawale, Umesh Vinayak Kulkarni and Sachin Kundalkar, have already begun to make waves across the world. Films like ‘Tingya’, ‘Harishchandrachi Factory’ and ‘Vihir’, to name only a few, have quickly given Marathi cinema a profile that had eluded it for many years.
The growing importance of quality Marathi film is also borne out by the fact that ‘Harishchandrachi Factory’ was acquired for distribution by Bollywood major UTV Motion Pictures. Similarly, Umesh Kulkarni had the support of the mainstream Mumbai industry for two films he directed. ‘Valu’ (The Wild Bull) was backed by Subhash Ghai’s Mukta Arts;and ‘Vihir’ (The Well), is an Amitabh Bachchan Corporation Limited (ABCL) production. ‘Natarang’ was bankrolled by Zee Talkies, a division of Zee Telefilms.
‘Vihir’, which premiered at the Mumbai Academy of the Moving Image (MAMI) film festival, was feted at South Korea’s Busan Film Festival. This cinema is Indian at heart but increasingly global in scope. It has begun to find takers in the states of their origin as well as among cineastes around India. The world is the next stop’ says Saibal Chatterjee.
FILM HERO WAS A WILD BULL
A Marathi film made by a first-time director had a wild bull for a principal character. This animal is blamed for every untoward incident that occurs in a sleepy little village. So a concerted drive is launched to tame and cage the marauding bull. A district forest officer is summoned. The human denizens of the hamlet, led by two local political leaders opposed to each other, are desperate to restore order and establish their might. But can the free spirit of the wild bull be reined in once it has been unleashed? This racy but intricately structured allegory was Valu (The Wild Bull) and it was directed and co-written by FTII Pune alumnus Umesh Vinayak Kulkarni. The film garnered unstinted critical accolades and substantial box office returns when it opened in 2008. It propelled Marathi cinema into a new zone.