Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Celebral void on Marathi celluloid

There have been many a debate - staged and otherwise - on what "ails" the Marathi entertainment industry of today. In fact, such arguments are in themselves a mega industry, and a rewarding pastime for the few enterprising among Marathi minds.

In recent times, we have seen offbeat Marathi films surfacing with unfailing regularity but variety, as we have often seen, does not necessarily promise quality. Worse, intoxicated by their disproportionate success, some of the directors and lead players of such films have become demi gods. And ironically, the flood of "offers" now leaves them with little time to explore sensitive themes.

No wonder, despite a strikingly rich and insightful literature, Marathi cinema is still stuck with family sob stories and mindless comedies. This is indeed a collective failure - of film makers, writers, actors, viewers and of course the oh-so-powerful critics. While most of the Marathi film makers operate in a "compromise" mode to desperately design a hit film, our viewers are happy with only such relief that allows them the luxury of switched-off minds. On the other hand, our actors have a single-minded aspiration of making it big in Bollywood - after all, a half-scene with Shahrukh Khan makes one a global icon zillion times faster than a Marathi film that could at best fetch an award at a film fest.

The less said about the critics, the better. While the mechanical star system of the regional press - print and electronic included - is largely shallow and disgustingly objective, the "English" scribes covering Marathi entertainment are an elite community - overtly thrilled with their brazen authority and thoroughly convinced of their intellectual superiority. Now that leaves no room whatsoever for something called responsibility. No wonder, they have no qualms in resorting to plagiarism and borrowed wisdom, however subtle and camaflouged it turns out to be. Worse, in the sole excitement to showcase their intelligence, they miss the film's soul. There's hardly any respect for the maker's perspective in the blatant exhibition of their own perception.

And the theory of relativity in their heads is simplistic, not simple - the more sarcastic and bitter the condemnation gets, the more learned the critic becomes (read appears). Interestingly, when the same critics turn filmmakers, they merrily chew the same gums that they once loathed with such disdain. Yet, such is the mighty aura that aspiring film makers try to win their approvals, ahead of engaging viewers.

There's no acknowledgment whatsoever, from filmmakers and critics alike, of the pressing need to raise the bar in as many aspects as possible - whether choice of scripts, methods of acting or directorial styles. Like every other field, this industry badly needs the participation of thinking individuals across disciplines. If not co-creation, collaboration is easily feasible if the industry wakes up to it. For a vulnerable industry where the availability of funds define the framework of creativity, nothing can be more heartening. Only if the industry opens up to the spirit of open source...

Nevertheless, amidst the widespread chaos that prevails, films like Vihir and Jogvaa leave us stunned - rooted in authentic regional settings but wedded to some hardcore universal truths all the same. Yes, films like Natrang, Valu, Harishchandrachi Factory and even the gawdy Lalbag Paral were refreshing all right but the introspective quality of Vihir is a rare cinematic experience - only matched before by the reclusive duo of Sumitra Bhave - Sunil Sukhtankar who have told us some of the most engaging stories on the silver screen.

More on the film Vihir is available at

Among other things, the film questions the very meaning of "relationships" - the social defintions of "kith and kin" or blood relations. The protagonist, an adoloscent, is perplexed beyond what his age permits, but the director has kept the quandary child-like and that's this film's biggest achievement. And the script is god-sent for Marathi cinema. Hope aspiring film makers are already inspired to sketch more timeless creations on the celluloid landscape.

Talk of timeless creations and one thinks of directors like Raja Paranjpe, actors like Chandrakant Gokhale, writers like G D Madgulkar and music maestros like Sudhir Phadke. Not that their films were free of pet patterns and cliches, but their unquestionable sincerity, way ahead of brilliance, in furthering the cause of good cinema is still a coveted benchmark... only if we care to look back.

Right Season, Wright Reason

Recalling a dated piece that has enough to keep it relevant in the wake of the Kohli-Kumble controversy... John Wright’s Indian Summers m...