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Big production houses foraying into Marathi cinema; independent filmmakers wary

The last couple of years has seen the Marathi film industry grow in terms of the return on investments as well as critical appreciation of multiple films. At the annual session of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) last year, it was announced that the Marathi film industry had made a profit of 200 per cent in 2014. And then 2015 saw several Marathi films like 'Court', 'Timepass 2', 'Killa' and this year’s 'Natsamrat' fare well at the box-office.

Court was India’s official entry to the Oscars
'Court' was India’s official entry to the Oscars

While the regional film industry has been flourishing, it is interesting to see how big production houses, which have been investing in Bollywood films, seem to have taken an interest in Marathi films too. Eros, Viacom 18 and Zee have already produced Marathi films and are looking forward to making many more in the near future. But, is it a good sign that corporate houses are entering the film industry or will it limit the current players from continuing to do the good work they have been doing?

Natsamrat
Nana Patekar stands tall in Mahesh Manjrekar’s 'Natsamrat'

The monopoly game
Independent producers believe that big production houses will ensure that they create monopoly in the industry, and that might lead to losses for them. Ashish Raikar, who produced Sandook, says, "It is not as easy for independent producers to get distributors as it is for big production companies. For example, Zee has its own channel which they use for heavy publicity of their films and therefore, have great networks with distributors. They also ensure that they get maximum shows. I did not manage to get the number of screens that I had planned for 'Sandook'. Also, I got only two shows at a theatre in Thane, whereas the Zee-backed project Killa, and for that matter, 'Timepass 2', got 28. So it is a clear case of monopolising the market, which is affecting independent producers."

Avinash Arun’s Killa bagged the National Award in 2015
Avinash Arun’s 'Killa' bagged the National Award in 2015

Raikar also reveals that getting satellite rights will eventually become more difficult for independent producers. "Apart from Zee, the only other channel which buys satellite rights is Viacom’s Colors Marathi. But it seems that they will focus more on their projects and ignore taking up projects made by independent producers. And in that kind of scenario, the industry’s overall growth might get hampered."

Independent producer Ashish Raikar’s Sandook featured Sumeet Raghavan in a stellar role
Independent producer Ashish Raikar’s 'Sandook' featured Sumeet Raghavan in a stellar role

Do not hamper quality
On another note, Mahesh Manjrekar says, "I just hope that these big production houses do not try to dump their Hindi film masala into Marathi movies. The basic reason for the success of Marathi cinema is because we are presenting quality subjects to the audience and we are not trying to make movies the way the South Indian film industry is trying to do. We really take good care to see that the stories as well as the writing is novel. We do not depend on Hindi or English content to make films. We create our stories and that is where the success comes from. I am hoping they won’t make the same song and dance formula projects."

Manjrekar also adds that Marathi films are not about stars and big production houses should stay away from them. "People who are starved for good cinema are turning to Marathi films. We do not have a star system and I only hope that corporate houses stay away from creating it. It won’t work. Interestingly, the non-Maharashtrian audience is also taking interest in the regional industry. 'Natsamrat' has been successful because people who do not really follow Marathi films or non-Maharashtrians also watched the film in theatres."

Mahesh Manjrekar
Mahesh Manjrekar

Create a regulatory body
While getting a distributor and releasing films is not as easy for independent producers as it is for big production houses, filmmakers are also wishing that there should be a regulatory body to create a proper system for the co-existence of both. "Eventually, big production houses will make more films and they will also publicise it properly. So distributors and exhibitors will be interested in their projects. There should also be a regulatory body which will ensure that films by independent producers and big production houses get equal opportunity. The government should also ensure that distributors support us," says filmmaker Ajay Kamble, who has produced films like '1909' and 'Dhav Manya Dhav'.

He also mentions that exhibitors should confirm film shows at least five days prior to the release of films. "Now, we are unsure until Wednesday about our show timings. If we get to know about the shows at least by Monday, we can then publicise the film with proper show timings which will help us spread awareness about a film’s release."

But save that moolah
One of the important reasons why the Marathi film industry has grown in the past few years is because filmmakers have correctly budgeted their projects. And, for the goodwill of the industry, someone advises the newly entered corporates to plan their budget effectively.

"The Marathi film audience just looks for good content and they are not going to really get influenced by publicity campaigns. So, the Bollywood kind of investments should be avoided. They might suffer loss which will affect the overall growth of our industry," says Sachin Salunkhe, the producer of the film, 'Avatarachi Goshta'.

Avatarachi Goshta
Independent filmmaker Sachin Salunkhe’s 'Avatarachi Goshta' stepped into the imaginary world of a youngster

Welcoming move
Ravi Jadhav, one of the biggest Marathi filmmakers, has joined hands with Eros to co-produce the film titled, &, directed by Prakash Kunte, believes that big production houses will also encourage independent producers. "I think it’s a good move. The big companies are well aware of the market that the industry is catering to and is also looking forward to collaborating with individual talents. One should take the benefit of collaborating with the companies. This will not only help their films get a good platform, but also encourage the growth of the industry," says Jadhav.

Nishikanth Kamat believes that money will buy more money for the industry. "All these studios have entered the industry only because they have seen that it is making profit. Now when they will produce films, it will get more screen space and shows because exhibitors also know this industry’s films are doing well. It is a good thing for the industry," he says.

Production promise
The big-time production companies that are venturing into the newly flourishing market are also looking forward to climbing the success ladder with each film in the regional film industry. Krishika Lulla from Eros, who is producing films like 'Phuntroo', 'Guru', 'Jara Hatke', says, "As a producer, Eros backs differentiated content across languages. The Marathi industry has grown leaps and bounds over the past couple of years and the audiences are accepting new content, thus filmmakers and studios are ready to take the risk with fresh content.

The line-up that has been announced has varied subjects directed by some of the best talents."

Ajit Andhare, COO of Viacom18 Motion Pictures, also adds that they are well prepared and aware to take the industry’s growth further. "We as film producers are aware ofhow content has made this industry grow and will ensure that we support and produce great content. We understand the science of budgeting and will ensure that each and every film does well in terms of collection and help the industry grow."

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