Crusaders of Change- मराठी चित्रपटाचे शंभर वर्ष
It was hundred years back when Marathi film industry registered its inception. After gaining both critical and commercial accolades, the Marathi film industry strives to be the Crusader of Change.
No, it is not only 100 years old; it has tried to break away from social stigma by creating awareness through means of entertainment.
The year 1912 not only proved to be a landmark for the Indian Cinema, it also led to the birth of a new regional cinema industry- the Marathi film industry. It was back in 1912, that Pundalik the first Marathi film directed by Dadasaheb Torne, was released. Posters in dailies like the Times of India had created a buzz and grabbed the audiences, who eventually appreciated the film. Soon after, Dadasaheb Phalke’s Raja Harishchandra was a major breakthrough which introduced indigenous production of a motion picture in the country. Not only was it a landmark film for Indian cinema, but marked an initiation of the Marathi film industry too.
It becomes important to note the significant contribution made by Marathi film industry to the World cinema. Over the years, Marathi films have spanned a gamut of areas- often making audiences roll on the floor at the same time talking about issues of societal importance.
Post the era of Ashok Saraf’s frolic, the focus of contemporary Marathi cinema has significantly shifted to highlighting social issues which haunt the middle-class families at large, even today. Their aim rests to work as crusaders of change.
One of the initial films which portrayed realism of the society was V Shantaram’s Kunku. Released in 1937, it was one of the first films to contest the idea of arranged marriages which often ignore women’s rights. The film is a social commentary of Neera’s life, who is forced to marry a widower of her father’s age. An online film critic with the name Memsaab story says “Kunku is made with such stark realism and simplicity that it takes your breath away, and the social commentary at the heart of the film seems (to me anyway) to be way before its time.” Blog link- http://memsaabstory.com/?s=kunku
Interestingly, Marathi cinema has often touched upon issues pertaining to female sexuality in a middle-class scenario. One such film Gargi (2008) directed by Ashish Ubale aimed to break away from the stereotypical notions about female’s sexuality. The plotline focuses on the female protagonist who enjoys sexual encounters and is not averse to the idea of one-night stands. Bharti Kale, a marathi-film buff believes “Gargi breaks away from the stereotypical ways in which women express their sexuality. But there is more to it which the society needs to understand. And such films help people realise the same. Marathi cinema must often explore these so called ‘bold’ issues.”
Similarly, the critically acclaimed film Jogwa (2009) directed by Rajiv Patil underlines the hypocrisy of society and a woman’s struggle against sexual violation, discrimination and servitude. Abhishikta Ray, a member of Sophia College’s Film Society says “Jogwa is a revolution! Powerful performances and strong plotline creates a dramatic effect on the audience.”
Champions, one of the films to have bagged the 58th National Award 2011 held in Pune, focuses on the perils of rampant illiteracy and child labour. The producers of the film have made tremendous efforts to hold screenings of the film in several schools across the state.
Several colleges offering Mass Media courses in the city have integrated Marathi films in film screening programmes. As part of Bachelor of Mass Media (BMM) course, KJ Somaiya College screens Harishchandrachi Factory and Natrang to acquaint students with Marathi cinema, every year. Prarthana Uppal, a Journalism student says “Marathi films enhance our understanding of cinema. These films mostly deal with real-life issues and are important to get a holistic knowledge while understanding cinema.”
It must be noted that Marathi films have been critically acclaimed and have gained commercial success. The industry continues to be in the good run after several Marathi films being nominated for the Academy awards.
Manisha Lakhe, head of content at Film Orbit opines that Marathi film makers have always tried to make movies with a social message. Even family dramas of the 70s highlighted household problems. For instance, Jhenda tackled the problem that young men face when their loyalties are divided. “As long as the message reaches people via a good story, the ills balanced out with humour, cinema can make a difference.” she further adds.