The year was 2003 when Sandeep Sawant’s Shwaas narrated the tale of a young boy battling cancer that garnered both critical and popular accolade in Maharashtra and revived the fortunes of not only Marathi films but was also India’s entry to the Oscar.
A decade later, it came as no fluke to see Marathi content being consistently honored at the National Awards and case in point are movies like Faster Fene Dombivali Fast, Court and Harischandrachi Factory or for that matter, Sairat hitting the bull’s eye.
Today, cinema is undergoing a wave of change and particularly, Hindi cinema where several big ticket releases failed to hit the marquee in 2018. One of the reasons is the spread of web content such as NetFlix and Amazon Prime taking the market by storm and secondly, the dearth of good content where a strong impression is being slowly built that the audience can no longer be taken for a ride. It begs a very important question when it comes to Marathi substance where web content is not only the big thing with the audience lapping good content and the odds of films being made in the state of Maharashtra working at the box office.
Noted filmmaker Nikhil Mahajan in a newspaper column spoke on how 90 percent of Marathi films bombed at the box office and of course, it’s a question of the economics of film-making.
The next big stop for Marathi content is the digital web and there is a huge potential that can be exploited in churning out good content for an increasingly restless audience.
While figures may get tricky on viewership, recent media publications quoted that 54 percent of the market is being occupied by Zee Marathi as per 2018 figures according to an interview given by Ajay Bhalwankar of Sony Marathi to Economic Times. It makes us hopeful that there is and will always be space for filmmakers to showcase quality content on the web.
The question is, how Marathi cinema and sitcoms can be part of the wave of change and showcasing their products considering the growth of mobile penetration in this segment.
As a web portal, Planet Marathi has taken the leap ahead in combining various genres, right from showcasing arts and culture in Maharashtra to talk shows like Faces, Lai Bhaari with Amit Bhandari and Manja Bole hosted by famed actor and filmmaker Mahesh Manjrekar. The stakes are high on the web and it’s all for grab looking at the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) data for 2016 that forecasted Marathi GEC genre growth by a massive 145 percent in terms of viewership.
Prashen Kyawal, who is associated with films as a journalist and film critic, who reviewed the serial Date with Saie with Sai Tamhankar and now a Creative Producer for SD Motion Pictures has just released the Hindi film RAKKHOSH which is currently garnering rave reviews and bagging several awards is a staunch believer in curated web platform or digital media where Marathi cinema can witness tremendous growth.
“The digital and web media portal is opening up as a medium of expression for each and every community. In the same way, the Marathi speaking community is also looking to express itself in the web content space echoing their culture and varied emotions. The young generation is nowadays hooked to binge watching on the web space but at the same time looking forward to viewing content in their local languages. The success of the focus platform like ZEE5 in showcasing regional content in terms of language shows the potential of Marathi as a language, its might in web media and the digital space. It’s only going to soar higher.”
In the past, we have seen megastar Amitabh Bachchan who produced the Marathi film Vihir in 2010 and way back in 1994 he even made a special appearance in Deepak Sawant’s Akka. There is no dearth of leading superstars from Riteish Deshmukh playing the hero in Mowli to Madhuri Dixit making her big Marathi debut, Bucket List. The more, the merrier.We need the big stars to come forward to not only produce but act and promote Marathi content being showcased. It whittles down to a change in attitude for regional cinema that carries a huge potential to succeed and big stars must come ahead to promote regional content across several regional languages not limited to Marathi.
This post is written by our guest author Vishal ,who is an ex Fergusson Collegiate, an independent blogger & journalist residing in Mauritius.