Marathi cinema looks upTwo Marathi films, Shwaas and Saat_chya Aat Gharaat, have set the box office registers (atleast in Pune) ringing for the last few months, and have produced a possibility of urban Marathi cinema finding commercial stability on its own. This is highly welcome of course, for the film fraternity here boasts of some good actors, technicians & creators, but that hasn't always coalesced into cinema that is both critically acclaimed as well as monetarily viable. These two films, however, have threatened to change all of that.
One may argue that in Amol Palekar's Anaahat began the upward trend. Like it, these two films also benefited from tremendous word-of-mouth publicity (Shwaas now is springboarding on its awards and Oscar entry status). All three films had a certain boldness in their story content that merits applause, for they also boast of good production values and above average quality acting. For Marathi cinema, this is a huge break from the inspid family-sentimentality and slapstick-rural-comedies that tended to plague most plots. The makers of these new films are now taking advantage of a "multiplex" crowd that wants to see alternative cinema in their language, and are able to use the depth of artists that the theatre circuit has always supported.
Incidentally, both films are set in Pune, of which in Saat_chya Aat Gharaat this is a key (background) element of the plot. Directed by Sanjay Surkar, it has an ensemble cast that has managed to use the next generation of actors. If you've been in Pune for about 4-5 years (or any other city going through a similar transition), you'll instinctively react to the idea of the film. Using a real-life incident as its core, it explores which to me has always been the most important dilemma in Pune over the last couple of years - the overt frictional strife because of westernization and the "new age" urban lifestyle that accompanies big paypackets in the white-collar industries. Strife not only among generations, but among people in different strata. A latent animosity against the more hedonistic aspects of such a life comes to the fore when incidents like the ILS ragging incident take place. Pune is churning and that Saat_chya Aat Gharaat is about a certain viewpoint in the middle of this.
Shwaas (dir: Sandeep Sawant) has been commented upon in length by Gaurav & Sarika, so I'll throw in some other aspects. There was a certain singlemindedness in the story that few successful Indian movies are able to demonstrate. No songs were thought to be necessary (Saat_chya Aat Gharaat sadly fell prey to this), minimalism was in play in the length of the story and in small points such as the faceless wife of Dr. Sane (btw, they portrayed Puneri doctors/clinics brilliantly). The expansiveness was reserved for photographing the Konkan coast in all its glorious dimensions, again something that is relevant to the story. Getting real nurses/doctors etc. is something that worked. Interestingly, Ashwin Chitale, the actor who won the Best Child Actor award still seems to have no comprehension of what all this acclaim means, as a recent interview of his displayed.
This is a good time to be making Marathi films for the people are receptive and the financiers may be more inclined than ever before. Since there seems to be no active media funnel for receiving news on upcoming films, we don't know what lies in store in the immediate future, but the opportunity is knocking loudly right now.