With "Sairat" garnering not only favourable reviews but also unprecedented box office collections, Marathi cinema has yet again found a fine balance between winning appreciation as well as registering money.
Filmmaker Nagraj Manjule's romantic-drama has collected a whopping Rs 65 crore in three weeks of its release. "Sairat" has not only shattered previous box office records of any Marathi movie, but also broken many stereotypes.
A still from 'Sairat'
The most interesting aspect about "Sairat" is that it achieved the feat without an A-list star, a franchise, or a holiday release date. Manjule tells a heartbreaking real love story set against the backdrop of caste differences.
The running time of the the film, which stars newcomers Rinku Rajguru and Akash Thosar, is nearly three hours, with the first half being of almost two hours.
"Sairat" deals with an issue, which is grim, and refuses to surrender to the conventional tropes of filmmaking as it rolls out its unconventional, shocking climax.
The super success of "Sairat", hence, signifies that the audience has clearly began preferring movies, which can turn the stereotypes around rather than watch a film that refuses to respect their sensibilities.
"Sairat" is the second blockbuster for Marathi film industry this year after Nana Patekar's smashing hit, "Natsamrat".
Directed by Mahesh Manjrekar, "Natsamrat" chronicled the story of a retired actor and his wife who fall on hard times after their children's ingratitude leaves them without anything.
The film, which released on January 1 this year, went on to win immense critical acclaim and clocked solid collections at the box office, estimate Rs 48 crore.
With "Natsamrat" and "Sairat", the Marathi film industry now has as many as six super hit movies within a span of a year.
Prior to the Nana Patekar-starrer, the industry saw "Katyar Kaljat Ghusali" which released during Diwali last year.
The film, starring Sachin Pilgaonkar, and Shankar Mahadevan, took the box office by storm despite facing stiff competition from Salman Khan's "Prem Ratan Dhan Payo" and another Marathi film "Mumbai Pune Mumbai 2".
The Subodh Bhave-directed film clocked over Rs 40 crore at the box office apart from garnering solid reviews across India.
Incidentally, "Mumbai-Pune-Mumbai 2", sequel to the 2010 film starring Swapnil Joshi, also went on to become a hit despite clashing with "Katyar..."
Two more films, which find a mention for balancing box office and critical acclaim are "Timepass 2" and "Classmates", both released in 2015.
Director Ravi Jadhav struck gold again with the highly popular sequel of his super hit "Timepass".
The comedy-drama "Timepass 2" not only earned rave reviews but also proved to be a success at the box office.
While "Classmates" also went on to achieve the super hit tag. Marathi cinema, over the years, has had several films which were significant in creating a new wave in industry, from "Shwas" in 2004, to "Harishchandrachi Factory" and "Natarang" in 2009.
Even films like "Vihir", "Deool", Manjule's debut "Fandry", "Killa", or "Court", India's selection to the 88th Academy Awards in the foreign language film category, which could not do well at the box office but got critical acclaim, have given a new direction to Marathi movies. It is this new direction which is paving way for Bollywood biggies to invest in Marathi cinema.
Filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali is all set to release his first Marathi film as a producer, "Laal Ishq". While actress Vidya Balan is ready to enthral the Marathi audience with her guest appearance in "Ekk Albela."
It would be interesting to see how much these films can benefit from the audience, which is now more than ever and looking to find that perfect movie with its heart in the right place.