Marathi film industry is the oldest form of Indian Cinema with the first Marathi film – Shree Pundalik (by Dadasaheb Torne) releasing on May 18th, 1912. With pioneers like Dadasaheb Phalke, who directed his first feature film – Raja Harishchandra – in 1913, the Marathi film industry expanded very rapidly and production houses owned wholly by Maharashtrians set up shop in Mumbai and the western Maharashtra city of Kolhapur. The 1920s and 30s were the golden decades for Marathi cinema with the film Sant Tukaram (produced by the Prabhat Film Company) becoming the first Indian film to win the Best Film Award at the Venice Film Festival in 1937. Marathi cinema continued its dominance in the 1940s and 1950s with the film Shyamchi Aai winning the President’s Gold Medal for Cinema in the very first edition of the National Film Awards in 1954. The 60s saw the advent of greats like V. Shantaram and in the 70s Dada Kondke became very well known for his sense of humor and his pun-ridden films, many of which became cult classics in Indian cinema. The decline of Marathi cinema had begun in the 70s with the Hindi film industry – Bollywood – based in Mumbai picking up steam with big budget productions. Proximity to Bollywood, lack of audience, language barrier and minimal budget for publicity/marketing, etc were some of the key factors that led to decline of Marathi cinema in the 80s and 90s. “Marathi films were treated as unwanted relative by Bollywood films which met with success due to big budgets and national reach” says Sai Paranjpe. New wave producers and film makers like Abhijeet Gholap and Girish Kulkarni agree with Paranjpe and mention the lack of business strategies, marketing, publicity, shoe string budgets and sparse distribution contributing to the decline.
However, in the new millennium the Marathi cinema has seen a strong resurgence and a new wave of Marathi films with both critical acclaim and commercial success have been produced. In 2004, the film Shwaas was given the Golden Lotus National Award and was the first Marathi film after Shyamchi Aai (1954) to receive the President’s Gold Medal. It was also India’s official entry to the 77th Academy Awards in the foreign language film category. In 2009, the Marathi Film Harishchandrachi Factory, which was based on Dadasaheb Phalke’s journey in making India’s first feature film, was India’s official entry to the 82nd Academy Awards. In 2012, Marathi film Deool won the best Golden Lotus National Award for the best feature film. With these recent successes in Marathi films, the Government of Maharashtra has started film grants to initiate seed projects. The new wave Marathi films have explored bold subjects with very innovative scripts and original screenplay. With support from production houses such as Shrinagar Films and Zee Telefilms and with dedicated TV channels on Marathi movies, the resurgence in Marathi cinema has been able to keep up speed. The influx of funds has boosted the production values and films like Natrang and Balgandharva very aptly demonstrate the resurgence in high quality new wave Marathi cinema. In June 2012, set on one of the highest budgets in Marathi cinema, remake of the original Marathi film – Sant Tukaram – released. The first 100 years of Marathi cinema have been exquisite with some of the finest filmmakers and actors in Indian cinema coming from this industry. We look forward to many more years of glory for a film industry that pioneered Indian cinema and put Indian cinema on the global platform.
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