Marathi cinema’s band of brothers

New-age Marathi cinemais all about challenging age-old notions of what ‘works’

May 07, 2016 02:48 am | Updated September 12, 2016 10:53 am IST

Nagraj Manjule, director of 'Sairat'. Photo: Special Arrangement/Jignesh Mistry

Nagraj Manjule, director of 'Sairat'. Photo: Special Arrangement/Jignesh Mistry

“We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;

For he to-day that sheds his blood with me

Shall be my brother…”

This line from the famous St. Crispin’s Day speech in William Shakespeare’s play, Henry V , quoted in Penny Marshall’s film Renaissance Man , rings very true for me because it encapsulates the spirit with which a bunch of young filmmakers are making cinema in Marathi. Some call it ‘new age’, some ‘neo-modern’, but for us it is just telling stories that we believe in, challenging age-old notions of what ‘works’ and making sure we all make the most of the opportunities bestowed upon us. It is exciting for me be making films in the times of talented contemporaries such as Sujay Dahake, Avinash Arun, Samit Kakkad, Aditya Sarpotdar, and Nagraj Manjule, whose Sairat is at the moment drawing serpentine queues and breaking box office records.

The best of times

We have all been part in awe and part critical of each other’s works right from the outset. Within this group of filmmakers, there has been no insecurity, not a tinge of jealousy for one another, ever. We choose to discuss our work with each other and truly wish that our films succeed in whatever it is that they are trying to do. We feel elated when one of our films works and we are heartbroken when a film crashes.

No wonder it is the best of times to be making Marathi films. The creative synergy and collaborations and the support and respect we have for each other reminds me of the mid 90s when Ram Gopal Varma got into the Hindi film scene and opened up doors to raw, zealous, passionate talent such as Anurag Kashyap, Shimit Amin, Chandan Arora, E. Nivas, Prawaal Raman and many more.

However, the young, alternative Marathi cinema has some bugs to contend with as well. Marathi films, until quite recently, were not under the pressure of box office performance as they are now. Of late, we have started speaking of opening weekends and record collections. There is a constant pressure to recover the cost of production (CoP) and a perennial fight to have a bigger CoP so that our vision can fly in its full glory. While this might be more an immediate issue and no major concern in our larger creative journeys, it is something that also worries us at times, at least some of us. It pulls us into a vicious circle and somewhere deep within it does seem to take away a bit of the artistic freedom that we all strive for. Some, like our collective mentor and guiding light, Umesh Kulkarni, are so unfairly talented that they have found a voice and an audience and a way to make films uncompromisingly — something the rest of us are constantly aspiring to achieve.

Getting inspired

Ultimately, it all boils down to embracing the endless possibilities that filmmaking provides us and having unflinching faith in our own vision as filmmakers. However, at a time when we have access to every single film made in any part of the world, when we have Netflix and torrents, when a Game of Thrones becomes a global epic, there is a challenge to us young filmmakers (in any part of the world, not just Maharashtra or India) that is bigger than the box office diktats: how do we continue to be relevant, how do we manage to make films that will stand the test of time? The boundaries of the world have disappeared and hence the uniqueness of stories diluted. It is hard. Is there nothing new to tell? Hasn’t everything there is to say already been said by someone somewhere? It is a time when we all need a bit of a shake-up, a little jolt, a little bulb that goes click and makes us get up and feel inspired.

And that is the beauty of my band of brothers. Every once in a while, like Nagraj has just now, one of us clicks one such bulb that shines so bright that it makes the rest of us sit up and come up with something new, unusual and non-conforming. This little jolt, the little shake-up; isn’t that what renaissance is ultimately all about?

Nikhil Mahajan is the director of Pune 52 and Baji.

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