Netflix is gradually but steadily beginning to build up its regional library of content. Last week, we put together a list of the best Tamil films on the streaming platform. This week, we’ve plucked out the best Marathi movies on Netflix for you to stream and watch (in reverse chronological order):
1. Sairat (2016)
Love stories are a celluloid staple for their popular, emotionally engaging appeal. Their trite portrayal may have stripped the genre of its inventive potential but once in a while comes along a filmmaker, resuscitating our fading hope. Nagraj Manjule takes an oft-seen premise of teenage love (an upper-caste, political leader’s daughter Archie and a fisherman’s son Parshya). The story trails the beginnings of first love, the escape, the hurdles, parental, societal pressures. But it’s the treatment where Sairat stands apart from the usual crop of romantic films. It steers the romantic flights of fancy into a real, relatable terrain, that our films seldom explore. A progressive, realistically anchored film, Sairat thrives on its minimalist storytelling and raw, natural performances.
Winsome performances abound but Rinku Rajguru (Archie) and Akash Thosar (Parshya) are the heartbeat of the film. Sairat earnestly captures the innocence of first love through the chemistry between its protagonists. And Ajay-Atul’s sublime score, with a character of its own, aids the chemistry.
Recommended: Kaasav (2017) Review: Finely Observed Drama
2. Natsamrat (2016)
Remakes are tricky and remake of a legendary Marathi play is quicksand. Shreeram Lagoo’s portrayal of a tragic stage actor can never be replicated. The only way Nana Patekar could have stood the test would be by giving it a unique voice. Dr. Lagoo’s Ganpat Belwalkar was a revered patriarch who was a victim of circumstances. Nana’s rendition is more of a flawed father who does not understand the new rules of the world.
Nana played to his strength and the anger of a dejected father was palpable and heart-wrenching. Medha Manjrekar’s restrained performance beautifully complimented this anger. In a no-holds-barred Nana show, Medha provided the much needed stability of a loyal, loving wife.
VV Shirwadkar’s play’s iconic moments come to life in Natsamrat. Belwalkar’s loneliness through his soliloquys — from asking for a roof on his head, contemplating to be or not to be, to the breaking point where he gets lost in the characters he played on stage — is all brilliantly mounted.
The audience resonated with the love and passion of the writers and director’s attempt to recreate the magic of Natsamrat on celluloid. Very few risks in the film business have paid off this well.
3. YZ (2016)
Bold, progressive ideas are sprinkled all over this witty, breezy film. The dialogues are crisp. Both Akshay Tanksale and Sagar Deshmukh share electrifying bro-chemistry while delivering superb lines.
Sameer Vidwans’ film maturely handles themes like sex before marriage, arranged marriage, age gap in relationships, and stigma on divorcees, yet never takes them too seriously. Gajanan Kulkarni’s transformation from a wimpy, diffident boy to a man who refuses to succumb to societal pressure feels organic. Sagar Deshmukh gives an understated performance and the finest in recent times. The entire film rests on his shoulders and he is rock solid with a magical screen presence.
4. Killa (2015)
Killa trails an 11-year old Chinmay (Archit Deodhar) who adapts to a new life, a new world after his father’s death. This nostalgic trip back to childhood is a delicate, refreshing and beautiful piece of cinema. Cinematographer Avinash Arun succeeds at telling a simple story with profundity in an astounding directorial debut. Few films stay with you long after you’ve finished watching them. This is one of them. Don’t miss it!
5. Court (2014)
Judiciary system in real life is about one percent histrionics and ninety-nine percent colossal boredom. Most films take this one percent and exaggerate it for cinematic effect. Court is a rare film that way. It shows that oft ignored side and reflects it from a mirror that highlights the hypocrisies of our legal system.
The movie instills a fear in you without attempting to even startle you. The director understands that there is no need for any background score when just the day-to-day proceedings in the session’s court are scary enough.
Truth is stranger than fiction and Court presents the naked truth like no film you’ve ever seen before.
6. Deool (2011)
Deool came way before Bollywood’s similar satirical takes on commercialization of religion — Oh My God, PK.
It’s is a story of a village simpleton (Keshya) who, as an effect of a heat stroke, hallucinates Dutta (God), atop a hill. The news soon spreads across the village. This culminates into a series of events where believers as well as non-believers take advantage of the situation, commercializing god and religion. From the newspaper guy to the village sarpanch, everyone recognizes a business opportunity in it.
How a small, insignificant incident snowballs into a series of events blown out of proportion, is so masterfully executed. This film, so subtly, dealt with a rampant social issue.
Writer and director Girish and Umesh Kulkarni received several angry calls from right wing political pawns for its bold depiction of rural politics with god and godmen.
Exceptional performances from the cast — Nana Patekar, Mohan Agashe, Sonali Kulkarni, Girish Kulkarni, Dilip Prabhavalkar, Usha Nadkarni make Deool worth your time.
7. Harishchandrachi Factory (2009)
This film captures the journey of the making of the first Indian film (by Dadasaheb Phalke) in the early 20th century.
Dadasaheb Phalke is an eccentric but highly enterprising Marathi gentleman who falls in love with the art of movie-making when he first sees moving pictures. In British-ruled India, where poverty was rampant, Dadasaheb, with meager wage, ventures with a dream to create an Indian film Raja Harishchandra.
The ridiculousness of the dream of a common Indian man is dealt with equal lack of seriousness. Absurd supporting characters abound, it deals with themes like superstition, societal pressure, inequality, regressive mindset about women in a way that never feels like a moral science lecture. The 1913 India is portrayed as it was — regressive, naïve, poor but human nonetheless.
The art and cinematography is commendable, given that it pulled off the period aspect on a shoestring budget.
I wish I could claim a Marathi film was the first ever Indian film. Alas, it was a silent film. But I take solace in the fact that it was a Marathi who made the first Indian film (Raja Harishchandra (1913)).
8. Valu: The Bull (2008)
This is a story about a village and a forest officer’s efforts to catch a mad wild bull. Except that it is not. The bull is just the representation of the villagers’ joblessness and internal politics.
The wild bull is a fantasy concocted by villagers in order to make the village a tad bit interesting. The beauty is the contradiction that the people are not lying. In fact, they are naively convinced that the bull is out there to harm them. Their behavior is what makes the bull harmful than misunderstood.
Girish Kulkarni and Umesh Vinayak Kulkarni’s debut film propelled Marathi industry to new heights with its innovative storyline and unique rural setting. Marathi films never explored the funny side of rural politics. The makers accepted the rural idiosyncrasies and presented their flaws in an extremely humane manner.
The brilliant writing blends entertainment with poignant commentary on rural issues like lack of toilets, youth representation in politics, suppressed lovers and animal oppression.
The film takes a dig at the society where everyone is attention hungry. The forest officer’s brother who is out there to make a documentary about catching bull is, instead, made to film everything from children’s dances to a dejected lover’s story.
Subtle and witty jokes fly from all sides. I find something new to laugh at every time I watch Valu. The ensemble cast is in top form and brings a chuckle in seemingly ordinary moments. A fine example is Bharti Achrekar’s expressions when her husband, the sarpanch, narrates a story of how the village’s donkeys were part of the Panipat battle.
Girish, Umesh introduced a brand of intelligent, understated cinema that was lacking in Marathi industry for a long time.
What did we miss? Do share your recommendations in the comments below or write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. For the uninitiated, we’ll leave you with the best Marathi movies/classics for beginners. These 8 films should be on every cinephile’s must-watch list.
By Shridhar Kulkarni, Mansi Dutta