By Aditi Patwardhan. Posted on January 19, 2016
Past few years have been phenomenally good for Marathi cinema. We saw some exceptional films like Valu, Natarang, Samaantar, Jogwa, Harishchandrachi Factory, Gabhricha Paus, Tingya, Astu and more recently Fandry, Elizabeth Ekadashi, Killa and Court, which were acclaimed internationally across film festivals, and also went on to receive a good theatrical release in the state. For some, the golden years of Marathi cinema are back. And looking at the picture, one cannot disagree.
However, it hasn't always been a rosy picture. Marathi cinema went through a lot of ups and downs before reaching where it has. To track this journey through the eyes of the people who have been a part of it and also to discuss the 'what next?' aspect of it, PIFF Gateway Knowledge Series brought together three acclaimed Marathi filmmakers- Mahesh Manjrekar, Umesh Kulkarni and Nagraj Manjule.
"Writers and directors have made a huge difference to Marathi cinema. When Bollywood is looking to South Indian movies and Hollywood to get inspired, Marathi cinema is trying to look within and find stories," said Manjrekar, who has also been a part of the change as the director of films like Astitva and Kakasparsha.
Umesh Kulkarni shared his experience from his early years when he travelled to various festivals across the world with his short films. "When I visited all these festivals, I saw that these filmmakers, who are doing some great work, are working in their mother tongue. That's when I realised that only when you're strongly rooted in your soil, can you become global."
Adding to that, Manjule, whose debut film Fandry shook the bourgeois narrative of Marathi cinema, said that anything that is too personal becomes universal, as everybody is able to connect to it.
Nagraj Manjule, Umesh Kulkarni and Mahesh Manjrekar at PIFF Gateway Knowledge Series
However, while there's a feeling of contentment at the quality of cinema Marathi industry has been producing, there's also a concern among the filmmakers that quantity might kill the quality eventually.
"There are more and more people wanting to enter Marathi industry now that it's in a good shape. And that scares me. Because these are the people who know what 'runs' and would simply try to ride this wave of success. We need quality, not just quantity," expressed the straightforward Manjrekar.
Kulkarni, agreeing with the concerns expressed by Manjrekar, said that a filmmaker needs to make a film to tell what he wants to tell and not something 'that works these days'.
All of them agreed on the fact that boundaries between commercial & arthouse cinema are blurring.
Kulkarni said, "We are in the habit of compartmentalizing things, we like categories. However, we see these boundaries thinning all the time. Marathi audience have watched Killa in theaters, it was a commercial success. And it was also acclaimed at various international film festival. So do you call it art cinema or commercial film? You see, every film has its own space and that's what matters."
When asked about what they look for in young aspiring directors, the veterans said that they expect conviction and dedication from the young lot. "I want to see your intention, your conviction. And also whether you understand the possibilities of this medium. Are you trying to explore this medium or not."
"You should interest me in the fist ten minutes," was the straightforward reply of Manjrekar. "I never audition my actors. I simply talk to them and I know whether he or she can play the part or not. It's because you get to know a person through that interaction."
"Be selfish. Make the film that you like. A filmmaker's honesty shows in his work and that's what works. There's no other formula," was the million dollar advice coming from these veterans.