Marathi cinema refers to films produced in the Marathi language in the state of Maharashtra, India. It is the oldest and pioneer film industry in India. The first Marathi movie released in India was ‘Shree Pundalik’ by Dadasaheb Torne on 18 May 1912 at ‘Coronation Cinematograph’, Mumbai and a Marathi crew who were performing Marathi & Sanskrit Sangeet natikas (musicals) and plays in marathi at that period. The first Marathi talkie film, Ayodhyecha Raja was released in 1932, just one year after “Alam Ara” the first Hindi talkie film. Marathi cinema has grown in recent years. The industry is based in Mumbai, Maharashtra. Raja Harishchandra directed by Dadasaheb Phalke was a Marathi film, now known as India’s first full-length feature was released in 1913. The Dadasaheb Phalke Award is India’s highest award in cinema given annually by the Government of India for lifetime contribution to Indian cinema.
Marathi Cinema is the oldest form of Indian cinema.The first Marathi movie released in India was ‘Shree Pundalik’ by Dadasaheb Torne on 18 May 1912 at ‘Coronation Cinematograph’, Mumbai. Still, Dadasaheb Phalke is also known as the first pioneer and founder of cinema in Pre-Independence India. He brought the revolution of moving images to India with his first indigenously made film Raja Harishchandra in 1913, which is considered by IFFI & NIFD as part of Marathi cinema as it was made by a Marathi dialogues while shooting and fully marathi crew. Kolhapur in Western Maharashtra was another centre of active film production in the twenties. In 1919 Baburao Mistry – popularly known as Baburao Painter formed the Maharashtra Film Company with the blessings of the Maharaja of Kolhapur and released the first significant historical – Sairandhari (1920) with Balasheb Pawar, Kamala Devi and Zunzarrao Pawar in stellar roles. Because of his special interest in sets, costumes, design and painting, he chose episodes from Maratha history for interpreting in the new medium and specialised in the historical genre. Baburao Painter made many silent movies till 1930 however after a few more silent films, the Maharashtra Film Company pulled down its shutters with the advent of sound. Baburao was not particularly keen on the talkies for he believed that they would destroy the visual culture so painfully evolved over the years.
After advent of Sound
As cinema grew in Union of India, major production houses rose and one of them was again a company owned wholly by Maharashtrians, the Prabhat Film Company. Prabhat’s Sant Tukaram was the first Indian film to win the Best Film Award at the Venice film festival in 1937. In 1954 at the very first edition of the National Awards, Shyamchi Aai another Marathi film, won the first President’s Gold Medal for Cinema. The film was directed by Acharya P K Atre, and it was an adaptation of the eponymous novel by Sane Guruji.
Still from Saint Tukaram
The Golden era
Marathi Cinema was in its full bloom by this time with the advent of greats like V. Shantaram , Master Vinayak, Bhalji Pendharkar , Acharya Atre, followed by Raja Paranjpe , Jyotiram,sonal and mumtaz, Dinkar D Patil, G. D. Madgulkar, Sudhir Phadke. The 60s saw the emergence of directors like Anant Mane who made Marathi films based on the folk art form Tamasha. Then came directors like Datta Dharmadhikari and Raj Dutt who made traditional family dramas. The early 70s saw the advent of Dada Kondke who captured the audiences with his sense of humour. He later went on to create satirical, pun-ridden films often including social and political commentary, many of which became cult classics. By this time Marathi Cinema was caught in either the Tamasha genre or tragedies revolving around traditional family dramas on one side and the comedies of Dada Kondke.
The 80s saw two comedy heroes catapult to stardom, Ashok Saraf and Laxmikant Berde. Around the mid 80s two young actors, donned the director’s mantle: Mahesh Kothare and Sachin Pilgaonkar. Pilgaonkar directed Navri Mile Navryala and around the same time Mahesh Kothare directed Dhumdhadaka. Pilgaonkar’s film was a box-office hit while Mahesh Kothare’s film not only became a mega hit at the box-office but it also became a trend-setter and brought young audiences to Marathi Cinema. Mahesh Kothare then went on to make comedy films that became major hits. He made the first Marathi film shot on the anamorphic format (Cinemascope) – Dhadakebaaz. He brought a number of innovations in the technical quality of Marathi films and was also the first to bring Dolby Digital sound to Marathi Cinema with the film Chimni Pakhara. He made the first Marathi film with Digital Special Effects, Pachadlela in 2004.
Reasons for the decline of Marathi cinema
While the theatre of Maharashtra earned recognition at the national level, the cinema failed to make a mark. A major reason was the proximity to the production centre of Hindi cinema (Bollywood), which encroached on the identity of Marathi cinema. Other reasons include the shortage of cinema halls for distribution due to poor marketing, lack of money magnets, a vibrant theatre scene and the emergence of private television. It also lacked the powerful lobby at the national level unlike Bengali and South Indian cinema because state congress (ruling party over 40 Years) encouraged Hindi Cinema for profit mainly ; the regional film industrial advantage being soaked up by Bollywood.
Revival of Marathi Cinema (Marathi New Wave)
In past few years, the Marathi cinema industry has produced many films that are not only critically acclaimed but commercially successful as well. It has brought fresh ideas, untouched subjects and deeper human sensitivity on the celluloid.
Acclaimed director Dr Jabbar Patel explains the reasons behind the change, “The kind of Marathi cinema that is being made today is very fresh and different. This is thanks to directors and writers getting exposed to world cinema via television, film festivals etc. They are coming up with new storylines and innovative concepts.”
Actor Mrunal Kulkarni remarks, “There is a lot of content and variety in Marathi films. A lot of bold subjects have been handled well by them. They carry a lot of substance.” But, she adds, “We need to start watching a lot more Marathi films. Until we see the films ourselves, we will never be able to appreciate them when they are sent to the Oscars.”
With outstanding contribution and efforts from different producers and directors of Mumbai Film Industry, Marathi cinema relatively outshined other Indian Film Industries such as Bollywood in the first quarter of 2010 in terms of box office collections and critical appreciation.
Marathi Cinema received critical acclaim in the year 2004 with the film Shwaas bagging the Golden Lotus National Award. It was also India’s official entry to the 77th Academy Awards and it also won the President’s medal for best film, beating Bollywood’s prolific output with quality. Shwaas, was the second Marathi film to win the President’s Medal after Shyamchi Aai (1950).
The Maharashtra state government has begun to issue grants to Marathi film (between 1.5 and 3.0 million rupees). After the success of “Shwaas”, Indian media players like Shringar Films and Zee Telefilms are exhibiting a re-emerging interest in Marathi cinema. The growing popularity of Marathi television (notably Zee Marathi and ETV Marathi) has also helped to popularize older Marathi cinema and promote the genre. Zee Talkies, a 24 hour channel dedicated to Marathi movies has been introduced.
In 2009, Marathi film Harishchandrachi Factory (With budget Rs. 6 Crore), depicting the struggle of Dadasaheb Phalke in making Raja Harishchandra in 1913, India’s first feature film, directed by theatre-veteran Paresh Mokashi was selected as India’s official entry to Academy Award in the Best Foreign Language Film Category, making it the second Marathi film, after Shwaas, to receive this honour.
In the year 2009 released the blockbuster musical movie Natarang, which got both commercial and critical applause and has served as a path-breaking movie for Marathi cinema in many ways.
In the year 2010 released Vihir (Umesh Kulkarni), Zenda (Avdhoot Gupte), Jhing Chik Jhing (Nitin Nandan), Pratisaad – The Response (Yogesh Dattatraya Gosavi), Mumbai – Pune – Mumbai (Satish Rajwade), Paaradh (Gajendra Ahire) had given different direction to marathi films.