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Marathi 'quota' in Maharashtra multiplexes divides film fraternity

Bollywood is up in arms over not being made party to the upcoming law making it mandatory for multiplexes to screen Marathi films between 6 pm and 9 pm; Culture Minister Vinod Tawde announced it on Tuesday

Maharashtra government courted controversy yet again, when it revealed yesterday that it is set to enact a law making it mandatory for multiplexes in the state to screen Marathi movies in prime time slots.

File pic for representation
File pic for representation

Culture Minister Vinod Tawde made the disclosure in the state Assembly yesterday. Replying to a debate on preservation of historical forts, Marathi language and culture, Tawde said, "We are in the process of enacting a law to make it mandatory for multiplexes to screen Marathi films during prime time."

Culture Minister Vinod Tawde
Culture Minister Vinod Tawde

"Though there was a stipulation earlier that multiplexes should screen a specific number of Marathi films, it was not mandated that there be a prime time slot for them. I feel the Marathi films screening during prime time will allow an entire family to enjoy the movie together," he said, adding, "I think you (multiplex owners) owe it to the state where you do business and earn profit."

‘Dictatorial’
The diktat has come in for heavy criticism from filmmakers and distributors. Mukesh Bhatt, president, Film and Television Producers Guild of India, and a film producer himself, labelled the move as dictatorial. "They don’t even consider us worthy of being consulted before taking a decision.

We also want the Marathi film industry to grow. If the government had told us about it, we would’ve given them better ideas about how to implement it. Are we really living in a democracy?" he said. When told there are states where local language films are given preference, Bhatt countered, "Then make more theatres for us.

Do you know that out of the 10,000 theatres in the country, 6,000 are in south India? Here in Maharashtra, theatres are shutting instead." His brother, filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt hailed the move and said it would keep the cultural identity, but added that the exhibition sector should be made party to the endeavour and one couldn’t legally force down the ruling.

Rajesh Thadani, a distributor, felt this idea has been borrowed from Gujarat. "In Gujarat, the government gives Rs 15 per ticket as incentive to cinema halls when people watch a Gujarati film. This government is trying to implement the same here. This step will definitely affect Hindi films because 6 pm shows drive maximum audience to theatres," he said.

He further added, "The rule for showing Marathi films was always there, but the timing was late night. It seems the Marathi film lobby has put pressure on the government to make it mandatory (to screen them at prime time)." One voice, however, saw a silver lining. Vishal Anand, operations head, Fun Cinemas, believes this move will only augment business.

He said, "There is a need for good content and a consumer will watch it irrespective of language. Besides, there is enough room for Marathi and Hindi films. But they (filmmakers) will have to work towards providing good, marketable Marathi films to be screened during prime time," he told mid-day. Anand foresaw friction only during the release of big-ticket Hindi films.

Marathi industry says
The Marathi filmmaking industry welcomed the move. Ravi Jadhav, who directed the National Award-winning Natarang, felt this widened the choice for the audience. He said, "We would never get prime-time shows. Even with odd timings for our shows, we did very well.

This (move) is victory for the audience, as they can now choose between Hindi and Marathi films. Good cinema will always stand out. It will be fair competition now." Nikhil Sane, business head, Marathi film division, Essel Vision, which produced recent commercial successes like Timepass, Kaaksparsh, added, "Marathi films have done phenomenally well at the box office and got critical appreciation too.

We are the only state that faces immense competition from Hindi and English films, unlike south and Bengali film industries. I think this was a necessary step. Once multiplexes realise this is helping them to generate revenue, I’m sure they will have more prime time slots for Marathi films." Riteish Deshmukh, who has produced films like Baalak Paalak and Lai Bhari, termed it as a move to strengthen Marathi cinema.

"This will help Marathi filmmakers make better and bigger films. I don’t know why the (Hindi) film industry is overreacting. There seven to eight screens in a multiplex and only one screen will be allotted to Marathi films; the prime time slot ensures the films are sustainable. Hindi films are always going to be the big brother. Marathi films have a budget of just Rs 2.5 crore or so. They will definitely not compete with a Rs 50-crore Hindi film."

- Inputs from Agencies

Short film on Dadasaheb Phalke
The government is also preparing a short film on Dadasaheb Phalke, the father of Indian cinema, for screening in theatres, Tawde said, adding that it will be shown after the national anthem. Screening this film on Phalke, too, will be made compulsory in the theatres, he said. This will enable people to know that a Marathi-speaking person laid the foundation stone for Indian cinema, Tawde added.

In favour

Ravi Jadhav, National Award-winning director
This is victory for the audience, as they can now choose between Hindi and Marathi films.

Riteish Deshmukh, Actor and Producer
There is good content in Marathi film industry today and audience will definitely come for a 6 pm film. There won’t be any audience for a 12 noon show.

Shreyas Talpade, Actor and Producer
As a producer who made a successful Marathi film, I welcome this move.

Rishi Kapoor, Actor
Ritesh Deshmukh’s film in Marathi was a super hit. So were others. So welcome all. We are all equal here in cinema. May the best win!

Onir, Filmmaker
Appreciate the move by the govt of Maharashtra to support Marathi Cinema. Regional cinema all over the country needs state support.

Against

Mukesh Bhatt, Producer
We want Marathi industry to grow but the government should’ve kept us in the loop before imposing this on us.

Mahesh Bhatt, Filmmaker
Do not make this into an us versus them situation. Marathi filmmakers are our brothers. We would do all we can to see them prosper.

Vikas Mohan, senior VP, Indian Film and Television Producers Council
How can they impose this rule? If the state intends to help the Marathi industry it should increase their subsidy.

Vivek Rangachari, Producer
I believe this is a commendable move, but forcing may not be the right way. There are other ways to promote Marathi films.

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