Hailing the Maharashtra government’s earlier directive to multiplexes to mandatorily screen a Marathi film at prime time, Bengal film directors said such a move was necessary for the Bengali film industry as well.
Last week, the Maharashtra government had said multiplexes must reserve at least one screen for a Marathi film during prime time i.e. 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., thereby inviting severe backlash from several film personalities who stated that the government was imposing its will on multiplexes. Bowing down to the criticisms, the Maharashtra government soon revised its order and the time was extended from 12 noon to 9 p.m.
While pointing out that the revised timings don’t help matters much, film-maker Indranil Roychoudhury said the previous order would have boosted independent Bengali film-makers if a similar order was passed in West Bengal. His film Phoring was pulled off multiplexes on the fifth day but went on to become a massive hit on television and internet.
“Initially, multiplexes had offered to present a variety of films which the single screens couldn’t do. That policy doesn’t stand now as multiplexes screen more of big budget films as that guarantees them more revenue. Even if a similar order is passed in Bengal, multiplexes here will wriggle out and will screen crowd-pulling big-budget films instead of small-budget, alternative cinema,” Mr. Roychoudhury said.
Due to the strong Marathi polity in Maharashtra, Marathi films are already popular in the State, he said.
“Independent Bengali films depend on word of mouth publicity and usually start pulling in crowds after the second week. Even if such films are screened in Bengal’s multiplexes, they will be pulled out of the halls if they fail to fill up the halls in the first week,” Mr. Roychoudhury added.
Admitting that independent Bengali film-makers face difficulties in getting multiplex releases, film-maker Shiboprasad Mukhopadhyay said an order, along the lines of the Maharashtra government, would boost the variety of Bengali films. His first film Icche was pulled off multiplexes in the second week.
“Besides Hindi films, we also have to compete with English films. While commercial Bengali films have a separate audience of their own and are mostly shown in separate stand alone halls, parallel Bengali films are released in multiplexes,” Mr. Mukhopadhyay said.
Bengali films will only survive if the State government decides to put in influential support into it, said documentary film-maker Sagnik Chatterjee.