The Dummies Guide To Marathi Cinema

Posted on 27 February, 2017 by Team Wishberry

Image Courtesy: My Marathi Cinema

The history of Marathi cinema can be traced back to the very first Indian film itself. The first film in Indian cinema was made by Marathi filmmaker, by Dr. Dadasahed Phalke in the year 1913. The film was a silent feature film called “Raja Harishchandra”.

Early years of Marathi cinema:

By the 1920s, a few more Marathi silent features came about. Namely, Kalyan Khajina made in 1924 and Savkari Pash in 1925- both directed by Baburao Painter. But the first ever Marathi talkie film came almost a decade later in the form of a film called Ayodhyecha Raja in 1932 directed by the most notable name in Marathi cinema- V Shantaram, who further went on to make films like Manoos and Amar Bhoopali. Marathi cinema saw maestros like Bhalji Pendhalkar, Raja Paranjpe, Acharya Atre, Master Vinayak and more at the forefront of things. During this time, the focus of films remained predominantly on retelling of Hindu mythological stories and historical legends, with films such as Dr. Kotnis Ki Amar Kahaani, and Sinhagad among others.

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In 1929, V Shantaram started the Prabhat Film company in Kolhapur, which eventually moved to Pune where the present day FTII stands. In 1937, Sant Tukaram, directed by V.G. Damle and Sheikh Fattelal, went on to become the first ever Indian film to bag an international award for the best film at the prestigious Venice Film Festival.

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In 1953, Acharya Atre’s Shyamchi Aai, became the first Marathi film to win the President’s Gold Medal in the first National Awards.

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Then came the 1960s, from where began the Golden Era of Marathi Cinema. This period (right to the 1970s) saw the rise of filmmakers such as Anant Mane, Datta Dharmadhikari and Dada Kondke. Naturally, the new batch of filmmakers also brought along with them a shift in content. Three distinct kinds of content became evident in Marathi films. Anant Mane brought to life the folk art of Tamasha in his films, reviving the native Maharashtrian style of storytelling.  Datta Dharmadhikari became known for his traditional family dramas. And, by 1970, Dada Kondke made simple comedies rich with double entendre humor popular. Interestingly, after his debut success Dada Kondke used the exact same team that he did in his very first film.

Evolution of content

With the advent of 1970s, New Age Cinema came into existence through the works of one of the most noteworthy Marathi playwrights, Vijay Tendulkar. Vijay Tendulkar dived deep into the angry anti-establishment mood for his screenplays, plays such as Ghashiram Kotwal and gritty films like Sinhasan, Umbartha and Jait Re Jait. 

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Vijay Tendulkar’s Jait Re Jait

Cut to the 80s, and we saw yet another shift in content.  Comedy became the highlight of Marathi films. The 80s brought into spotlight two of the most memorable and noteworthy comedy actors: Ashok Saraf and Laxmikant Berde. On the director’s chair we also saw two fresh faces in the form of Mahesh Kothare and Sachin Pilgaonkar, both of who can be credited to making Marathi films more appealing to a younger audience.   

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Ashok Saraf and Laxmikant Berde in Pheka Pheki

Mahesh Kothare shot his film Dhadakebaaj in the anamorphic format, making it the first Marathi film to have done so. He’s also responsible for bringing a number of technical innovations to the industry, one among which include making Pachadlela in 2004 – the first ever Marathi film with digital special effects. He later went on to make Pachadlela 2 in 3D in 2013 – once again, the first Marathi movie to have done so. Pachadlela is the first film franchise in Marathi Cinema.   

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Mahesh Kothare’s Dhadakebaaj

Almost simultaneously, as an echo of the prevalent social and economic sentiment in Maharashtra, New Wave Cinema seemed to be on the rise once again. But this time, the storytelling had moved from hard-hitting content to social commentary via children’s stories or with children as a key driver in the story. This was in a bid to make social subjects more palatable to a larger audience. We saw Shwaas, in 2004, which became India’s official entry to the Oscars. It also won the National Award, becoming the first Marathi film to have done so, FIFTY YEARS after Shyamchi Aai

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In 2009, Harishchandrachi Factory, directed by Paresh Mokashi, became India’s official entry to the Oscars under the Best Foreign Language Film category.

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We saw films like Tingya by Mangesh Hadawale and Taryanche Bait by Kiran Yadnyopavit. Alternative films that also got the masses talking were on a steady rise too, with films like Dombivali Fast by Nishikant Kamat, Me Shivajiraje Bhosale Boltoy by Mahesh Manjrekar, Vihir by Umesh Kulkarni, Gabhricha Paus by Satish Manwar and Shaala by Sujay Dahake.

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Some of notable Marathi filmmakers today

In present day, some of the most notable filmmakers in the Marathi film industry are Umesh Kulkarni known for his films Vihir and Deool, Ravi Jadhav who directed Natarang and Time Pass 1 & 2, Nagraj Manjule – director of Fandry, Sanjay Jadhav who made Duniyadari, and Mahesh Manjrekar who directed films like Kaksparsh and Natsamrat.

Getting the big players’ attention

Although the Marathi film industry has a long way to go in terms of financing, technical innovations and more alternative content, more and more Hindi film producers are seen taking an interest in Marathi films. Small budget, coming of age teen film Time Pass was produced by Zee Talkies, whereas Harishchandrachi Factory was produced by UTV Films. Marathi films too now carry high production value and are marketed rigorously like any major Bollywood film.

The road ahead

While we are yet to see a Marathi sci-fi film or an epic drama equivalent to Bahubali, we’re sure those days are not too far. Fortunately – whether it’s screenplay, acting or directing – there seems to be no dearth of talent in this industry. Moreover, with Marathi filmmakers actively realizing that the market is already saturated with over the top movies with no story or quality content to speak of, we can rest assured of the constant supply of meaningful Marathi films.

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