Marathi cinema and Hollywood breathing down Bollywood’s neck

Marathi masterpiece Sairaat continues to spring surprises. The latest is that due to the humongous demand, special shows have been organised for midnight and 3 am slot in the interiors of Maharashtra. The Nagraj Manjule directed film, made at a modest budget of Rs 4 crore has crossed Rs 60 crore at the box office and the way it is galloping along, many more crores and records will be added on. Sairaat is attracting far more shows than the Bollywood potboilers and Hollywood biggies. The lead actors Akash Thosar and Rinku Rajguru had been signed for Rs 4 lac each. They shall be getting a bonus of Rs 5 crore each. History is being written and it is imperative for Bollywood to wake up and smell the coffee.

US based Bollywood Project during a podcast with me recently asked my favourite Indian films of 2016. I gave the names of Sairaat and Natsamrat. It was an organic response for these are the two films that have had the biggest impact on me. I found both of them to be extremely engaging, the story telling is very compelling and the writing is highly progressive. Moreover, Marathi cinema boasts of some brilliant technicians, especially cinematographers. Killa director Avinash Arun is a case in point who’s also the DOP of visually arresting Masaan. Sudhakar Reddy Yakkanti’s camerawork in Sairaat is sensational. Simple framing but extremely gripping with realistic lighting. Ajay Atul’s music is attracting huge attention especially for the repeat audience of Sairaat. I don’t understand Marathi well but I flipped on every single song. The countryside of Maharashtra is beautiful. Earthy and captivating.

I watched the English version of Captain America: Civil War at Cinemax, Mira Road on the day of its release. It was a 4 PM show. I was surprised since the show was almost houseful (and it was a big auditorium) and people were laughing and cheering at many dialogues. There was applause at the end of the film. To witness such a response on a non-holiday Friday needs to be noted by the Bollywood producers. You can’t have excuses. If your product creates enough buzz then you’d get the audience on the day of release and even during weekdays, as proven by The Jungle Book, Captain America: Civil War and nowSairaat.

The fight for big ticket holiday weekends is justified to an extent. Yes the business multiples by manifolds. But you can kill at the box office at any time if your movie enters the heart and minds of the collective conscience. No amount of well-oiled publicity machinery, well marketed link-up or break-up sagas can make a film work. Even stars are inconsequential if the belief is strong. Sairaat and The Jungle Book are a big testimony to that. The fact is that some of the forthcoming Hindi biggies have very limited buzz despite the tall claims of ‘entertainment’.

Bollywood also needs to realise that the invasion of Hollywood and now even the regional giants like the supremely classy Marathi movies or stellar South Indian content will increasingly eat into their pie of share. Budget correction is a must but most importantly the emphasis has to be on great writing. Kangna Ranaut earns awards for Tanu Weds Manu Returns where she had a phenomenal writer-director duo to thank for but her performance goes unnoticed in Revolver Rani since the writing is crass.

It important for the Bollywood mughals to rise from their arrogant slumber and as I said earlier, smell the coffee. The sooner they alter their game plan, the better it will be.

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