Maharashtra must look at other ways to promote Marathi cinema instead of reserving prime time slots
It is perhaps meant to be a fillip for Marathi cinema, but the Maharashtra government’s diktat to multiplexes to show a Marathi film on at least one screen during prime time (6 pm to 9 pm) may not achieve much. More so given the state capital, Mumbai, is the centre of Hindi mainstream cinema, or Bollywood. The government does have the right to promote the state’s culture and language, but that can’t be a forced exercise compelling distributors and theatre-owners to ignore their business interests. In any case, the state already has made it mandatory for theatres to have at least 210 screenings of Marathi movies per year. A good Marathi movie, on any given day, would be watched by people and that hardly requires the support of any such diktat.
The state trying to influence movie viewership has more chances of boomeranging than yielding the desired results. The Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce (KFCC), for instance, forced a two-month delay (from the release date) for the screening of non-Kannada films in 2004. But, in Bengaluru, overall collections fell—given the city’s significant non-Kannadiga population—reducing the margins for distributors and theatre-owners. The latter agitated vehemently against the KFCC diktat and it had to be withdrawn. As for Maharashtra, Bollywood films’ high-priced ticket sales at multiplexes are a significant contributor to the state’s coffers through entertainment duty and other taxes. Even if it is a matter of one show in a day, if it turn out to be a losing proposition for theatre-owners, the government will also hardly benefit. The state would do better to realise there are a host of other, less contentious methods to popularise Marathi cinema.