100 Years of Marathi Cinema : Cannes Special 'India and You' May 2013


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History of Marathi Cinema is as old as Indian cinema. The Marathi man gave birth to Indian cinema and since then the Marathi film industry has continuously contributed to the mainstream cinema simultaneously enriching the Marathi movies as well.
Frankly, Marathi cinema even goes back even further than Dadasaheb Phalke.
Marathi cinema took off in 19thcentury with some unusual but pathbreaking experimentation. Around 1885, Mahadev Gopal Patwardhan -a Chitpawan Kokanastha Brhamin performed a unique experiment called "Shambarika Kharolika' ( The Magic Lantern) . This much talked about experiment was akin to today’s animation. Patwardhan had hand drawn a series of small human figures with expressions smaller than 5 cm, on a 10 cm-slide. He had drawn more than 1,000 slides and he would display these slides in quick succession, there by producing animation. He performed these slide shows all over India and had also received recognition from the British government for his efforts. We can dare to call it the first animate film in India -by a Marathi film maker!
The article traces the journey of Marathi cinema , its transformation from mythological stories to realistic themes. The social issues now being handled by the young , dynamic and emerging youths are being depicted on the silver screen very effectively and impressively. Unfortunately , it is not able to compete with Hindi cinema so fondly called as Bollywood, produced almost next door in Mumbai-also a capital of Marathi speaking region. However that has not deterred Marathi film makers from handling bold subjects.
The regret is : Marathi audience has not yet been bold to appreciate these efforts in large numbers.

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100 Years of Marathi Cinema : Cannes Special 'India and You' May 2013

  1. 1. Marathi cinema took off in19th century with someunusual experimentation.Around 1885, MahadevGopal Patwardhan performed a uniqueexperiment Shambarika Kharolika. Thismuch talked about experiment was akin to today’s animation. PatwardhanCinema Special May-June 2013 INDIA & YOU38had hand drawn a series of smallhuman figures with expressionssmaller than 5 cm, on a 10 cm-slide.He had drawn more than 1,000 slidesand he would display these slides inquick succession, there by producinganimation. He performed these slideshows all over India and had alsoreceived recognition from the Britishgovernment for his efforts. The firstMarathi movie released in India wasShree Pundalik by Dadasaheb Torneon 18 May 1912 at ‘CoronationCinematograph’, Mumbai. Marathicinema has a unique relationship withIndian cinema. The father of IndianIts history is as old as Indian cinema. The Marathi man gave birth to Indian cinema and since thenthe Marathi film industry has continuously contributed to the mainstream cinema simultaneouslyenriching the Marathi movies as well.100years100yearsof Marathi Cinemaof Marathi CinemaRajendra Shende
  2. 2. festival. His company, the MaharashtraFilm Company, was responsible fornurturing the talents of many greatartists like H M Reddy and Nagi Reddyfrom Chennai and V Shantaram, Damle,Fattelal, Dhaybar, Baburao Pendharkar,Master Vinayak and NanasahebSarpotdar from Maharashtra. Thiscompany also launched many actorslike Ruby Myers, Master Vitthal,Prithviraj Kapoor, Zebunnissa andLalita Pawar. Baburao’s contributionto Indian Cinema includes innovation,ideals, realism and social relevance. Heproduced 17 silent films between1920and 1928.The centenary of Marathi cinema istruly a journey of talented filmmakersworking with smaller budgets tobring forward wider issues of theemerging world that is transformingthe local social scenario. ‘Dadasaheb05cinema industry, Dada saheb Phalkeand who made the film Raja Harishchandra in 1913 – was Marathi and thejourney of Indian cinema began fromthe Coronation theatre in Bombay(Mumbai was called then), where themovie was released.It was a silent film, but that silencespoke loud and clear. The theme of thefilm was about a mythological king, butmany experts believe that it symbolisedthe struggle against subjugation andsilencing of the Indian expression bythe British rule.Soon afterwards, the Marathicinema began flourishing and unlikemany other Indian language cinemas, itdeveloped simultaneously in two cities– Bombay and Kolhapur in WesternMaharashtra and over time it alsospread to Pune. Kolhapuris the homeof art in Maharashtra. The two brothersfrom Kolhapur, Anandrao and Baburaowere all-rounders in the field of art andcinema. After the demise of Anandrao,with grit and determination, Baburaosingle-handedly created a projectorand a camera. He also created theprinting machine and the developingspeedometer. On December 1, 1918,he founded the Maharashtra FilmCompany. He produced the first film,which had a female character in it– Sairandhri. It was released on 7thFebruary 1920 in Aryan Theatre inPune. In 1925, Baburao produced asocially relevant silent film SavkaariPaash using the technique of flashback.This became the very first India filmto be shownat an international filmPhalke’ Award given annually for theexceptional contribution to Nationallevel Cinema itself is testimony to thecontribution of Marathi to the IndianCinema.Nanasaheb Sarpotdar, who hadearlier worked with Baburao Painter,founded the Aryan Film Company inPune in 1927. His film MaharachiPorbased on the contemporary socialissue had become a huge hit. Greatleaders like Mahatma Gandhi andSarojini Naidu appreciated his effortsfor contributing to the social cause.When the first Indian talkie Alam Arain Hindi was release, at the sametime, Marathi movie Shamsundar wasreleased which went onto become asuccess. Baburao Painter’s students,V Shantaram, Dhaybar, Damle andFattelal decided to move out ofthe Maharashtra Film CompanyRegional CinemaINDIA & YOU May-June 2013 Cinema Special 39Dhundiraj (Dadasaheb) Govind Phalke (1870-1944)Alam Ara (1931)
  3. 3. Regional CinemaCinema Special May-June 2013 INDIA & YOU40and formed their own Prabhat FilmCompany on 1st June 1929 inKolhapur. They remade the silent filmSairandhri into a colour talkie. The firstMarathi talkie film, Ayodhyecha Rajawas released in 1932, just one yearafter Alam Ara the first Hindi talkie film.One of the biggest studios in Indiaat that time was the powerful PrabhatFilm Company, based in Pune. Itsproduction Sant Tukaram was the firstIndian Film to win the Best Film Awardat the Venice film festival in 1937.The period from 1940s to1960s isconsidered as the classical and goldenera of Marathi cinema. The Prabhatstudios produced a series of Marathifilms. Bhalaji Pendharkar, BaburaoPainter, V Shantaram, Raja Paranjape,Raja Thakur, G D Madgulkar, SudhirPhadkewere the distinguished nameswho brought the family drama as wellas social issues very craftily to thepublic through creative story lines. Onesuch cinema was Jagachya Pathivar(Around the World) of Raja Paranjapethat weaved very gripping story linewith very meaningful and melodioussongs that captured the audiences.Another form of films in Marathi thatbecame very popular in the 1960-70period was films based on Tamasha orfolk dance and drama. Many of suchfilms were based on the personal storiesof the actors and actresses working inTamasha theaters. Ananat Mane andlater Dada Kondke captured not onlythe rural audience, (Of the 90 millionMaharashtrians, 70 per cent live in ruralarea), but also in the cities like Mumbai.Dada Kondke went on to make bawdycomedies with ‘double entendre’ rusticdialogues.Those movies did not have along-lasting impact and that era endedswiftly having got entangled in ‘toomuch of the same’.Late 70s and 80s saw somehallmark films produced by JabbarPatel, Sinhasanor The Throne aboutcompetition among power-hungrypoliticians and Umbartha, or TheThreshold about a woman trying toestablish her identity outside the family.Other notable filmmakers were Jayuand Nachiket Patwardhan, who made22 June 1897, about revolutionaries inthe Indian independence movement,Vijaya Mehta, who made Smriti Chitreor Memories, based on memoiresof famous woman writer and AmolPalekar, whose Bangarwadi wasbased on a well-known story aboutrural Maharashtra. These films clearlydemonstrated that Marathi cinemawas indeed turning the page from theperiod of racy films.Sachin Pilgoankar, Mahesh Kothare,Smita Talwalkar, Chnadrakant Kulkarniwere some other trend setters whobrought back young audiences toMarathi cinema by handling unusualsubjects. Mahesh Kothare madethe first Marathi film shot on theanamorphic format or cinemascope.He brought a great deal of innovationin the technical quality of Marathi films,including Dolby Digital sound. Hemade the first film with digital specialeffects in 2004.Post 2004, Marathi cinema has seena remarkable turn around in the showand substance of Marathi Cinema.Sandeep Sawant’s Shwaas (Breath)came like a fresh wave of breeze. Itssuccess clearly demonstrated thatstories handled in a simple but mature(1932) Sant Tukaram (1937)
  4. 4. Regional CinemaINDIA & YOU May-June 2013 Cinema Special 41manner can make an impact. The filmbagged the President’s Medal for theBest Film and was also India’s officialentry to the 77th Academy Awards.After P K Atre’s Shyamchi Aai, (Shyam’sMother), Shwaasis the only Marathi filmto have won President’s Medal andthe only regional film to enter academyawards as India’s official entry.Movies like Satchyaaat Gharatabout neo-liberalism in the youth,Dombivali Fast about commuters’woes and common man’s impotencein face of corruption, Uttarayan aboutlove between two senior citizens,Valuabout taming of a wild bull inthe village, Joshi Ki Kamble aboutreservation quota for low castes),Mahasattaon a worker’s ordeal in faceof power of industrialists,Thaang onhomo sexuality, Balirajacha Rajya Yeudeon farmers’ suicides demonstratedthat Marathi cinema had reached animportant milestone and searching theroot problems caused by globalisation.Young film makers like Kedar Shinde,Gautam Joglekar, Gajendra Ahire withveterans like Mahesh Kothare, SmitaTalwalkar, Amol Palekar managed toturn around the fortunes of Marathicinema. The industry once stuggledto make 30 odd films a year in 2007now 100 films at time in the pipeline torealise. Ankush Chaudhury and SachitPatil’s Saade Maade Teen, and UmeshKulkarni’s Valu fetched about $1 millioneach, a sum not considered as small forthe regional language cinema.Nowadays, some of the Marathifilms have also found interest in otherparts of the country and they havebeen remade in other languages. Forexample, Nishikant Kamat’s awardwinning film Dombivali Fast wasremade in Tamil in 2007.Young directors and producers havealso found interesting and sharp storiesbased on the impact on their societiesof the ruthless wave of globalisation.And even as the cine industry itself isbecoming globalised, they also find it achallenge to keep off competition fromother languages. But the new wave ofproducers and directors has managedto keep many Indian language cinemasalive and kicking and the same is trueof Marathi cinema. Such a revival is setto make Marathi cinema richer eventhough confronted with Bollywood’sproximity in Mumbai.In 2009, the Marathi Film HarishChandrachi Factory, which was basedon Dadasaheb Phalke’s journeyin making India’s first feature film,was India’s official entry to the 82ndAcademy Awards. In 2012, Marathifilm Deool won the best Golden LotusNational Award for the best featurefilm. With these recent successesin Marathi films, the Government ofMaharashtra has started film grantsto initiate seed projects. The newwave Marathi films have explored boldsubjects with very innovative scriptsand original screenplay.The influx of funds has boostedthe production values and films likeNatrang and Balgandharva very aptlydemonstrate the resurgence in highquality new wave Marathi cinema. InJune 2012, set on one of the highestbudgets in Marathi cinema, remake ofthe original Marathi film – Sant Tukaram– released.So, where does Marathi Cinemago from here? Marathi Actor VikramGokhale, who has won the NationalAward for the Best Actorin 2013 forfilm ‘Anumati’ (Permission) saidaptly, “It is nice that Marathi films arerecognise dat a national level. However,I differ with those who say that goodtimes have come. The new generationof filmmakers, actors and techniciansare doing a good job but the newgeneration of audience is still missingand that is definitely affecting theMarathi cinema even today.”For Marathi cinema, which beganits journey 100 years back with silentmovie, this is a mute question!(The author, who heads TERRE PolicyCentre and formerly Director with UnitedNations Environment Programme, is keenobserver of transformation of MarathiCinema)In 2012, Marathi film Deoolwon the best Golden LotusNational Award for the bestMarathi films,