In the era of OTT, Marathi cinema, too, has made its space across all streaming platforms. While the modern idea of Marathi cinema is synonymous to films like Sairat and Court, we believe there are a host of lesser known and under-appreciated gems available on platforms other than Amazon Prime and Netflix. Here’s a look at the best Marathi movies on Hotstar, across genres, streaming right now:
1. Shala (2011)
Adapted from a novel of the same name by Milind Bokil, this romantic-drama claimed two National Awards; the Silver Lotus for the Best Feature Film in Marathi category and the National Film Award for Best Screenplay. Harking back to the nostalgia of school days and a sweet adolescence filled with naivete, the film is set in the turbulent era of Emergency. It follows four ninth grade kids who are keen on shaping their own destiny.
Directed by Sujay Dahake, the film peeps into the life of a school boy, tracing his love for his classmate. Thematically, the film plays around with the idea of how adolescent love pans out at its very core. Questioning, while providing subtle answers, the film is a wholesome treat to watch. Get ready to press the rewind button with Shala!
2. Samna (1974) – thriller
Directed by Jabbar Patel, this film began its journey by entering into the 25th Berlin International Film Festival. The film earned a nomination for the Golden Berlin Bear at the festival, and was critically well received. It became a landmark film in the history of Marathi film industry owing to its questioning of rural politics prevalent in Maharashtra whilst exploring the subgenres of thriller, crime and drama. Samna boasts brilliant performances from Mohan Agashe, Nilu Phule, Shriram Lagoo, Smita Patil and Vilas Rakate. The film draws power not just from its rustic story, but also from its edgy writing (courtesy, Jabbar Patel, Vijay Tendulkar) and dialogue delivery.
Watch Samna on Hotstar
3. Chaukat Raja (1991)
A tale of the many fruits of empathy, compassion and understanding for the society’s larger good, this film is based on a family which collectively shoulders the responsibility of a mentally challenged person. They go on to encourage him to develop his skills, while dealing with their own instabilities on an internal level. One year after its release, the film won earned Dilip Prabhavalkar a Maharashtra State Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of a disabled boy. The film is, indeed, a testament to sensitive treatment of the subject matter in the realm of mental health. The Sanjay Surkar directorial, along with a powerful message, delivers on the front of the plot as well. That, a film like this came along in a decade that didn’t much for Marathi cinema is in itself, noteworthy.
4. Gabhricha Paus (2009)
Translating to ‘The Damned Rain’ in Marathi language, this film brilliantly encompasses the unremarkable lives of a farmer family, dependent on the rain, yet resilient in pursuit. Based on drought-stricken Vidarbha region, the film involves the theme of farmer suicides at its core. It touches upon a range of issues ranging from lack of structural as well as reliable credit for farmers to the issue of rural loan sharks. Neck deep in the pool of debt and struggling to survive each day, the farmers and their issues are treated with great sensitivity. It is by inculcating many themes and touching upon many threads in that zone that Ghabricha Paus finds its power.
Exceptional cinematography and gripping portrayals of the main characters go on to add to the marvel that the film is. With its great maturity in storytelling, the film truly shows a mirror to the society that thrives off of the farmers’ exploitation. A true tale of indomitable spirits and struggles which are more than every day, it has also traveled to several film festivals and won two regional awards.
5. Morya (2011)
Hinging upon the themes that emerge organically from Ganesh Chaturthi, this film deals with the commercialization and the sense of competition that often overpowers the intent behind the celebration of a popular festival. Director Avadhoot Gupta taps into the sensibilities of the people with ease, as he deals with a subject that is already close to the hearts of not just the Marathi population, but people across the world.
The characters in the film are etched with care, as they fight till the last straw to prove their superiority in celebrating the Ganeshotsav with pomp and show. As their concerns lie in the shallow aspect of winning even in the space of a divine festival, we are forced to look within, into the hustle-bustle of our day-to-day lives. Marked by commendable performances all round, Morya is a well-intentioned effort.
6. Farzand (2018)
Digpal Lanjekar’s historical epic tells the brave tale of one of Chhatrapati Sivaji’s trusted military leaders, Kondaji Farzand. But, instead of going down the traditional route of a character study, Farzand follows the warrior and his army of 60 soldiers in their attempt to win back the Panhala fort. Ankit Mohan as the valiant fighter is extremely effective, and so is the rest of the cast comprising of seasoned veterans like Chinmay Mandrelkar and Mrunal Kulkarni. The action sequences are well-crafted, but it’s sadly let down by sub-par visual effects.
Despite the fact that Farzand doesn’t offer anything new to its viewers, it’s still an ambitious undertaking that manages to keep one engaged for most of its 155-minute runtime.
7. Ranga Patanga (2016)
Set in rural Maharashtra, Ranga Patanga is a well-intentioned social satire that talks about the appalling state of farmers today and the blatant politicization of their issues. Jumman, played by the delightful Makrand Anaspure is a poor peasant who’s just lost his two oxen Ranga and Patanga. With the help of his loyal friend, Popat, he sets about investigating the disappearance of the oxen. On this journey, they come across Kaustubh, an opportunistic TV reporter who finds their story fascinating and wants to cover it. The story immediately gains traction and Jumman unwillingly gets caught up in the middle of a feeding frenzy.
The first half plays out like a black comedy and is entertaining to watch. But, after the intermission, the film veers off its original trajectory as the tone suddenly becomes more serious. The ending seems a little far-fetched and overly simplifies the distressing issue of farmer suicide. Despite its flaws, Ranga Patanga should be lauded for its unconventional approach of telling a story with a social message attached to it.
8. Tu Tithe Mee (1998)
Centered around several stark realities of life, the film involves a set of events wherein the children take decisions for their old age parents, leading to an overall disaster that is later solved at the behest of lost time. Directed by Sanjay Surkar, the film won 2 National Awards including Best Feature Film in Marathi. Besides, it won 12 State Film awards and 5 Filmfare awards.
The film, that would go on to inspire Amitabh Bachchan-starrer Baghban 5 years later, centres around a man who, after his retirement, comes to realise the bitter truth of his reality. He has missed out on the sweet pleasures of life while being busy tending to his family. Resolute to not let any more of his time go waste, he decides to enjoy life to the fullest. But, as fate would have it, he is separated from his wife. And forced to live in isolation from half of his family. A story like this was sure to work with the Indian audiences, as our culture is deeply rooted in togetherness and family life.
9. YZ (2016)
This interesting concoction of many genres including comedy, romance, coming-of-age and drama is a proven rollercoaster ride for its viewers. The film follows the adventures and misadventures of a 33-year-old history teacher, naive and romantically inexperienced. The exploration of a misshapen identity oscillating between that of a boy and a man is the most interesting aspect of the film.
Turning the meaning of the cussword abbreviation around, the film proves the mettle of the writer-director duo Sameer Vidwans and Kshitij Patwardhan. It is a slice-of-life and rather relatable piece of cinema; YZ takes the viewers on a journey of exploring the modern themes of loneliness, love and acceptance.
These are the 10 best Marathi movies on Hotstar that should make it to your watchlist. From the times of the first Marathi film Shree Pundalik (1912) to today, Marathi cinema has come a long way. One of the finest and ever-proliferating regional film industries in India, the Marathi industry is coveted as the birthplace of cinema. Raja Harishchandra (1913) which is hailed as India’s first full length feature, was a Marathi film directed by Dhundhiraj Govind Phalke.
To top it all, the highest regard in Indian cinema, the Dadasaheb Phalke Award is given away every year by the government of Maharasthra. The state is clearly a cinema hub, with the Bombay film industry alongwith the first Indian film school based within its periphery.
So, for the uninitiated, I’ll leave you with the best Marathi movies for beginners. Some of the finest Marathi films in the history of cinema, these are essential viewing.
(Additional writing by Shreyas D.S.)