How Marathi boy Pratik Shelar began screening Marathi films in London theatres

The founder of Indian Movie Friend, a one-stop shop for tickets and trivia to Indian films in London, spills the beans

Pratik Shelar, who co-founded to offer one-stop shop for tickets and trivia in London, is the man behind screening the first Marathi film the UK.

Swapnil Kulkarni and Pratik Shelar
Swapnil Kulkarni and Pratik Shelar

The first month of the year, last year, 27-year-old Pratik Shelar knew it was his last chance. Having fought with his father to mortgage their Pune home for funds to start a business in the UK, "I had to prove my decision was sane," says Shelar who launched Indian Movie Friend in London this January.

"When I was pursuing an MBA at Coventry university, I realised that there was no way to find what Indian movie was playing at which theatre. There are three million South Asian people in the UK and the market was untapped," says Shelar, who launched IMF with his college friend Swapnil Kulkarni.

"We provide information on films, movie tickets, news content about the buzz in the industry. For now, we are working on Telugu, Malayam, Tamil, Hindi and Bollywood films. We have 10,000 active members," says Shelar, who hails from the Tuljapur area in Osmanabad district (Marathwada, Maharashtra). He presently lives in Newham, east London.

Shelar's story is an inspirational one. "I did my schooling in Marathi medium after which my father decided to move to Pune for a better future. He enrolled me in an engineering college. He wanted me to become a IAS officer," says Shelar, whose interests lay in films. When he got a role in a Bollywood film, Humne Jeena Seekh Liya, he failed his first semester.

During the same time, he bagged a few film roles and did a few plays too. He changed his field and joined FTII, but upon his father's insistence moved back to engineering.

The Marathi boy noticed one more thing - the only way to catch a Marathi film was at events held by the community at event halls. "There are 6,000-odd Marathi families in the UK. Communities would invite filmmakers to screen their films at the local halls. In July last year, he set up a proper distribution system and for the first time, Nagrik, a Marathi flick was screened at a cinema hall. "We sold tickets for 10 pounds. Around 600 people turned up for it," says Shelar, who went on to screen Anurag in November. The turn came with Katyar Kaljat Ghusali, which saw an audience of 1,300.

"For every screening, we invited the star cast and director to interact with the audience. "Sachin Pilgaonkar and Mahesh Majrekar have attended our events," says Shelar.

While the young man is raring to spread his distribution market to the US and Europe, his next step is to launch a mobile app. "Our application will be ready in three months. We are also working on creating a streaming platform like Netflix for Indian films," Shelar signs off.

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