Marathi movies woo global audiences
Digital platforms now feature an interesting mix of top Marathi movies with English subtitles
Never has Marathi cinema been so much in the global limelight as now, especially with the demand for digital content growing due to the pandemic. Netflix's playlist now features an interesting mix of top Marathi movies with English subtitles.
Some of Bollywood's popular Maharashtrian stars are now making an impact in the digital space by working in Marathi films like the Ajay Devgan-produced Aapla Manus, which features Nana Patekar, Bucket List which stars Madhuri Dixit and Kaagar featuring Rinku Rajguru, to name a few. Movies like Firebrand (produced by Priyanka Chopra), Bhai - Vyakti Ki Valli, Killa, 15 August, Cycle, Ek Hazarachi Note, Photocopy, Dr. Kashinath Ghanekar and Harishchandrachi Factory are worth watching.
Actor, writer, producer, and National Award winner Girish Kulkarni, who has acted in the film Bhai Vyakti Ki Valli, agrees that OTT platforms have brought global recognition to Marathi cinema, but he feels more needs to be done.
"Traditionally, we have been making mediocre films. But there are handful of filmmakers who are not from mainstream and they are striving to offer world-class Marathi content that match global standards. Thanks to OTT platforms, people have access to quality Marathi films. As an industry, we still have to achieve a lot. Actors are surely benefitting due to the increase in work as OTT platforms are offering better opportunities."
Girish and his partner, Umesh Kulkarni of Arbhaat Films Pvt Ltd, are the makers of Valu (Wild Bull), Vihir (Well) and the National Award-winning film, Deool (Temple). They also produced movies like Masala and Pune 52. "We have always been wanting to make films for a global audience and break the language barrier," he said.
Kulkarni shared how directors like Chaitanya Tamhane are attracting a wider audience with their content. A testament to it is his second directorial feature, The Disciple (2020), which premiered at the 77th Venice International Film Festival. The film won the FIPRESCI Award presented by the International Federation of Film Critics (Federation Internationale de la Presse Cinematographique) and the Best Screenplay award.
Mumbai-based actor, Sandeep Juwatkar, who has worked in 30 Marathi films as well as theatre, has featured in hits like Timepass, Hirkani, Mauli, Dashakriya, Sharyat and Shikari, said: "Nowadays, Netflix and other OTT platforms are being seen nearly in every country. These platforms have created a great opportunity for regional Indian films to reach international audiences. Marathi films are known for quality content. Though several Marathi films have received National Awards, very few of them have created any noise in the international market due to lack of distribution platforms. After the evolution of Netflix and other OTT platforms, Marathi filmmakers have got a greater opportunity to create and showcase our culture and values via their content."
Juwatkar emphasizes that several Marathi actors come from a theatre background hence they are skilled actors. "Most of us come from a theatre (drama) background, that's why we are known to posses great acting skills and this has created more opportunities for us in the Indian film industry. Now, with the help of global OTT platforms, our performances and talents are reaching out across the world. This encourages other Marathi actors to showcase their talent," he added.
Similarly, actress Usha Jadhav, who stars in the movie Firebrand, said: "Netflix, HBO, Amazon etc are the global platforms that made us known internationally and allow us to showcase our culture. I am really happy that Marathi films are being seen globally because of these digital platforms. Though we make low-budget films, we find it difficult to release the movies globally. Hence these platforms are a good way to show our work to the world. Through my performances, I try to do my best to make Marathi cinema popular internationally. When the global audience see your work, it's the best reward for any actor."
Marathi movies have come a long way, says Aruna Raje, director of the film Firebrand. "It's good to see so much Marathi content on OTT platforms, this helps increase our visibility to a global audience. Filmmakers are now seeing an avenue to reach audiences without resorting to the so-called outdated entertainment formulae!" Raje along with Saji Pillai, an entrepreneur, recently opened the Cinema and Life school offering courses affiliated to the cinema industry.
The impact of Marathi cinema has never been restricted to the community itself says Bollywood actor Suniel Shetty: "Marathi movies are gaining popularity because of the quality of the content and script, like Bengali and Malayalam films. They are always ahead of its time, be it the subject, performances or cinematography. It is important for regional cinema to be appreciated rather than just Hindi cinema. I am glad to see Marathi films, along movies from other states, getting global recognition. Having grown in Maharashtra, it makes me proud."