Thursday, January 17, 2008

Towards a new wave

Sandhya Iyer joined a rare conference of upcoming Marathi directors at PIFF, who came together to discuss the state of the industry and what the future holds

In what can be termed as a significant event, PIFF saw the coming together of several young Marathi filmmakers under one forum. A number of key issues like distribution and marketability of Marathi films were discussed, apart from bringing into focus the creative aspirations of the industry.
Though things have greatly improved in the last few years for our regional cinema, finance still remains a stumbling block and correspondingly, marketing too has suffered. Says Umesh Kulkarni, whose film Valu is up for release. The director’s short film, Girni came in for much praise at several international film festivals and Valu too is finding immense appreciation from all those who’ve seen it. “A standard producer for Marathi generally offers a director 40-45 lakhs to make his film. He expects it to be made in 10-12 days with a few prescribed formulas. There itself, the disappointment begins because you can’t make the film you want in that manner,” he says.

Sachin Patil, co-director along with Ankush Chaudhary of the mega successful Sade Made Teen, has this to say, “Let’s say a producer invests a crore of rupees in a Marathi film and then spends another crore on marketing. After which, if we take popular actors and weave together an entertaining script, there is no doubt that we will not only recover that money but make an additional crore. But problem is that a producer finds it extremely difficult to put together even a crore of rupees, so spending more money on marketing doesn't even occur to him.” Of course, in this regard Sade Made Teen was lucky because Zee Talkies promoted the film well. In fact, as a smart first move for a Marathi film, the filmmakers even took digital prints---that cost a fraction of what film prints do--to several theatres in interior Maharashtra. Chairman of PIFF, Jabbar Patel emphasised how Marathi filmmakers must consider digital cinema very seriously, as it would be both cost-effective and enable the producers to release their film simultaneously in almost the whole of Maharashtra.

In recent times, a whole breed of new-age Marathi filmmakers have emerged who have impressed with their tackling of different themes. Directors like Sumitra Bhave -Sunil Sukthankar (Nittal, Vaastupurush, Dahavi F), Sachin Kundalkar (Restaurant, Nirop), Gajendra Ahire ( Sarivar Sari, Shevri), Mangesh Hadawle (Tingya), Nishikanth Kamat (Dombivili Fast), Umesh Kulkarni (Valu, Girni) have given a new face to Marathi cinema and prompted a definite revival.

However, the forum also considered how the industry needs to strike a balance between purely entertaining films and more meaningful ones. “Sade Made Teen, literally brought people from their homes in interior Maharashtra into theatres. At a lot of places, Aaja Nachle was removed to accommodate our film. Similarly, Prabhat theatre saw a record created, when all of the 21 shows of Sade Made Teen went houseful in its first week,” says Sachin Patil, adding, “We must work towards getting the audiences into the theatres first and then, I feel, they will be more accepting of unusual subjects.”

Sachin Kundalkar, who first worked as assistant director to Sumitra Bhave- Sukhtankar and then went on to do a workshop in Paris, is considered one of the more thinking directors we have. He too agrees that the industry needs a good mix of commercial and meaningful films. “I think it’s because of some of the mainstream films today that an independent filmmaker like me can hope to make what he wants,” he said.
At the same time, he also urged the media to avoid comparisons with the Marathi cinema of yore. “I think we are all working under tremendous financial strain and trying to do our best. Also, I feel we must not compare ourselves with Hindi cinema. Instead, let’s focus on our own assets.”
Vishal Bhandari, director of Kaalchakra agreed, “It’s a wrong notion to think that Bollywood rules the destiny of Indian cinema. He added, “The Marathi film industry has made a good beginning but everyone must make sustained efforts to take it forward. The industries down South weren't built in a day. If that doesn’t happen, it won’t take time for this movement to fizzle out.”

According to Ajay Sarpotdar, President of the Marathi Chitrapat Mahamandal, the number of Marathi films are growing each day and several corporates are showing interest in investing in regional films. From 70 odd films last year, the number of Marathi films has gone up to 90 plus films this year.
“Most want to know the average age of the directors here and when they see how young most of them are, they feel there’s great potential to be tapped. Similarly, the coming days will see the opening up of several theatres for Marathi films,” he assured.
The Valu director greatly appreciated the forum saying it could herald a new beginning, “What we lack are good critics, not just for Marathi films but films, in general in India. Most of the reviews are extremely flippant. Therefore, there’s a need for us directors to write about each other’s films and discuss various aspects about it. This is what happened in France where a group of directors established a dialogue among themselves and helped each other in their projects. And this group single-handedly revolutionised French cinemea, known as the new wave. We need to be proactive and follow that example,” he said.
Others present at the meet were music directors Atul Ajay, actor Girish Kulkarni, Amit Phalke from Zee Talkies, Chandrashekhar Mahamuni, producer Checkmate, director Aditya Sarpotdar among others.


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