M-town’s rise over the past decade has been exciting, to say the least. But this year, Marathi filmmakers took the industry to a whole new level. Marathi films have almost perfected the art of balancing audience expectations and critical scrutiny. The films set box office records this year with even Bollywood turning to Marathi cinema for remakes. (Read: Why ‘Sairat’ remake is a bad idea, Bollywood). Evolving audience tastes and staggering amount of revenue have propelled the Marathi industry to new heights. So, here are the four Marathi films that led the success, and are my favorites of the year.
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.
Manjrekar shrewdly recognized that a film is a completely different format from a play. He raised a master art work of abandoned stages and life on footpath. It would take me a whole other article to describe how much I enjoyed the scenes featuring Vikram Gokhale and Nana Patekar. The Vikram Gokhale subplot was a masterstroke which was not present in the original play.
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.
Honestly speaking, YZ’s trailer didn’t intrigue me. I thought it was just another remake of 40 Year Old Virgin. But the romantic comedy drama far exceeded my expectations and made it to my list.
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.
The 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. He makes you think of him as a loser when he wants you to, and take him as seriously when he rises above the character’s vulnerabilities.
Only an unafraid first-time director could have made such a film. Director Sameer Vidwans clearly had a blast making the film and that’s what makes YZ special.
Our films take death too seriously. Promises are made and shattering truths are revealed using intense narratives/flashbacks. But the non-dramatic, ordinary death has its own charm. And hospital drama Ventilator captures it perfectly.
Ashutosh Gowarikar, along with several other family members — a mix of colorful, eccentric characters — get together to meet the dying relative on a ventilator. The setting is simple, with the story hardly moving outside the hospital. Ventilator carries the unique charm of a Hrishikesh Mukherjee or a Raju Hirani (who is also director Rajesh Mapuskar’ mentor) film. Small moments convey multiple emotions. Nothing feels artificial or fake. The twists cater to the characters’ growing arc. And the humor is consistent throughout.
The special thing about Ventilator is that it doesn’t try to give solutions to problems. It doesn’t judges anyone; it only puts forth various sides of human emotions. The film takes great restraint to pull back from going full blast on father-son relationship issues.
Ventilator brings back the most fundamental strengths of storytelling: great cast and brilliant writing. Rajesh Mapuskar proves you don’t need big sets and over-the-top drama to take audiences on an emotional rollercoaster ride.
Recommended: 5 Marathi Movies For Beginners
Where do I begin? Sairat is an accumulation of the efforts of the Marathi industry in all these years. Both the urban and rural audience took to the film, a true-blue blockbuster that didn’t compromise on content.
Sairat is the Sholay of Marathi film industry.
Nagraj Manjule’s genius has been dissected and discussed many times, from his technique to the heartfelt performances extracted from the leads. Both Rinku and Akshay immerse themselves in the characters and never miss a beat. For the record, both are non-actors. But only untrained actors could have given such natural performances.
Every moment of the love story — Parshya’s jump into the river when he hears of Archie, their rendezvous in the farms, Archie’s confidence, their escape from the goons — is epic. And the film manages it all without expensive sets and on a bare budget (2 crore). Even their little house in Hyderabad is so beautifully scaled over the slum landscape.
Ajay-Atul’s music is as instrumental to the film’s success as Manjule’s direction. The rousing soundtracks lend the film its grand, epic feel.
Films like these familiarize you with your core. You don’t just care for the characters, but feel and live them. They make you realize you are way more human than you’d imagined yourselves to be.
Sairat is not a film. It’s an experience. I wish I could erase all memory of it so that I could experience the first high over and over.
By Shridhar Kulkarni
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