With theatres still shut, almost all big Bollywood films slated to release in 2020 have been bought or on verge of being acquired by various OTT platforms, however, the same does not seem to be the case with Marathi entertainment
By Akshay Bardapurkar
Four months of lockdown and still counting while the only thing that keeps us inside our homes is the incessant entertainment being bombarded on us from all sides.
We witnessed almost about forty web series and more than twenty top films which had their debut on the over-the-top (OTT) platforms during these times as an outcome in consideration of the bleak future of theatrical releases for next few months. The reaction initially lacked lustre, but as Covid lockdown began to extend every month, the financial turmoil started hitting small filmmakers and then almost everyone, all of a sudden, they started seeing God in the OTT’s.
As a result, almost all big Bollywood films slated to release in 2020 have been bought or on verge of being acquired by various platforms, however, nothing seems well with regional cinema such as marathi entertainment. Marathi cinema has always been plagued with numerous problems, be it getting into theatres or primetime shows of screens, or audience and now the struggle continues on OTT as well. Marathi cinema has seen worst of the commercial side (barring a few lucky films). Its lull is never-ending and there are over forty cinemas due for release. With non-operational theatres due to lockdown, these small filmmakers who have had put a few crores individually are left thirsty and deprived.
So what is the real problem with Marathi cinema in this new normal era? I have been sitting in my drawing room like many others, pondering over the fact and observe a maximum of Marathi entertainment has remained untouched by theatres to the new era of OTT. Marathi cinema is adjudicated by everyone as the best cinema. It bags many awards, travels globally and is also in news, many times for its sheer talent of conceptualising great scripts, perfect technicality and seamless acting, but I firmly believe that it lacks the brand value and package. However, I have been witness to certain big studio releases also with eminent names and gigantic budgets all going for a toss simply because it didn’t strike a chord with the audience.
Scripts based on a rural backdrop or to the ones alike Hollywood, nothing seems to work for Marathi films. After spending quite a few nights introspecting as to what exactly is wrong with my regional space, I have arrived at this conclusion with personal experience and market study that there is an absence of a star element in Marathi cinema, unlike other regional cinemas. Here the superstar in the theatre, plays and of television fails to sizzle on the Silver Big Screen. Marathi cinema lacks a Rajnikant of Tamil, a Manoj Tiwari of Bhojpuri, a Prabhas of Telegu, a Prosenjit of Bengal, a Mammooty of Malayalam Cinema and of course an Amitabh Bachchan of Hindi Cinema.
So the answer to the empty seats of theatres to no seats available on the OTT is the lack of a phenomenon called Superstar. We have had some great names now and then in the past but either they graduated to being cast in other film industry or have overworked to an extreme that the audience just refuses to find any glaze in them.
Hope the talent agencies, the casting directors and directors realize this very soon and create opportunities that irrespective of the brilliant content they also focus on creating brands in the form of superstars so that in the real sense Marathi cinema goes over the top and the producer gets enough courage to produce a few more movies.
Hope my own regional fraternity realizes this sooner or later, that although “Content is the king, but in order to attain the Commercial Kingdom Stardom is the key!” You may be here, there and everywhere but to be over the top seems to be a distant dream for now.
The author is founder of AB Film Company Pvt. Ltd and Planet Marathi.