Marathi Films: How Play-Based Films are Lifting Marathi Theatre

Posted on 17 August, 2016 by Team Wishberry

Image Source: DNA

In the past one year, two of the most successful Marathi films were based on two of the most popular Marathi plays – Katyar Kaljat Ghusli and Natsamrat. Marathi theatre has always been at the forefront of art and culture in Maharashtra. But, theatre had seen some decline during the mid-2000s. It picked up pace a little later, but it has become even more popular now as the youth discovers the beauty of this form. And especially the older forms like Sangeet Natak, for example.

There have been movies based on plays earlier, too. Ghashiram Kotwal, for example, was a brilliant film based on the Vijay Tendulkar play of the same name. Many more such examples can be given. But, in the past few years, the trend had differed a lot. Original films were being made, and with the surge in the quality of Marathi films in the past few years, it was always welcome.

Rahul Deshpande, the classical singing maestro, decided to bring back the musical play Katyar Kaljat Ghusli to stage in a more contemporary format, and it worked really well. The older generation flocked the theatres to watch Rahul, while the younger generation, some of it, discovered the beauty of sangeet natak.

The film, based on the play, Katyar Kaljat Ghusli, was directed by Subodh bhave, who also was a part of the play. The film with its marketing budgets, the immensely popular cast including the likes of Sachin Pilgaonkar and Shankar Mahadevan, and of course the brilliant presentation truly made everyone aware of the greatness and efficiency of Marathi sangeet nataks. Younger audiences not only enjoyed and loved the film, but also became keen to know and experience more of this form which is, in a way, the father of Indian theatre.

Rahul Deshpande, along with the hugely popular actor Prashant Damle, recently premiered a new play, Sangeet Sanshaykallol, a remake of a classic of the same name. It is running full house to audiences across Maharashtra and India, and just announced a UK tour, too! Rahul Deshpande stated in an interview that very soon, they will be working towards producing an original sangeet natak, which will be more contemporary than the timeless classics.

Natsamrat on the other hand made people aware of how rich Marathi theatre really is. The play is filled with hugely popular and amazing soliloquies. Director Mahesh Manjrekar admitted that he had to painfully do away with some of them due to the difference in the format. But, the film became the highest grossing Marathi film at the time, replacing Katyar Kaljat Ghusli, which had set a new bar only months prior. It became that popular.

This newfound popularity of theatre and its run towards replicating the Golden Era of the 1970s has many factors to thank for. The Marathi actors and directors have almost always begun their careers in theatre, and now almost all of them actively work in plays despite a thriving film or TV career. Their popularity achieved through film or TV helps sell a play, too.

Quality of content was never a problem for Marathi theatre, whatever the genre. The handling of contemporary topics has always been sort of a theme around theatre. It is still widely seen with plays like Don’t Worry Be Happy, which talks about PCOD, a female hormonal disease, and its effects on the married and family life, and career. Such exploration in a context the younger audience can relate to is again bringing the youth to the theatres.

A lot of new and young directors like Alok Rajwade and Pritesh Sodha, for example, are keen leaning towards experimentation with content and format. It is a risk, yes, but so far it has worked really well. The open-minded youth is up for such newer ways of presentation, and such experimentation only leads to some interesting work in the sector.

The Marathi audience, old or young, has always been attracted to quality work. It will continue to be so even in the future. Marathi theatre is moving towards, and at an immense speed, towards another Golden Era.

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