A Beginner’s Guide To Marathi Cinema

Paresh Mokashi, National Award-winning director of Harishchandrachi Factory, lists five Marathi films you absolutely cannot miss

 

ALL OF WHAT’S LEFT OF DADASAHEB PHALKE’S FILMS

“No Phalke film in its full form is available now. We have 10 minutes of Raja Harischandra (1913), five minutes of Kaliya Mardan (1919), and a bit of others—so this assorted Phalke bouquet of 50-60 minutes could be treated as one film. Phalke’s work teaches us how he made movies and conceived special effects without the help of modern technology.

Because I focused my own film Harishchandrachi Factory on that period of Phalke’s work, I ended up going through all his work. I’m still trying to figure how he shot this one scene in Mohini Bhasmasur (1913) where many people come out of a rakshas’s body. They start performing a threatening dance and then go back inside his body.

There’s another dream sequence where the head of a rakshas goes up, comes down, and then sticks to his body again. He created all these effects using whatever techniques were at his disposal in that era and I think one must try to learn from his brilliance.”

AMRIT MANTHAN (1934)

Amrit Manthan“Most people will recommend Kunku (1937) and Manoos (1939) as their favourite films of V Shantaram. But I will go for this one because for the first time in Indian history, Shantaram uses an extreme close-up of an eye that fills up the entire screen. He didn’t use this just as a gimmick, but the effect he created within the story was amazing.

This is a story of a progressive king Kantivarma who bans the sacrifice of animals and humans and his regressive guru who wants to stick to the old customs. Shantaram focuses on the eye of the villain while he’s igniting the crowds to go against his king.

I remember watching this film sometime in the 1980s when my friends at Pune’s Film and Television Institute used to smuggle me in for screenings. That’s how I got access to some great Marathi cinema.”

GHASHIRAM KOTWAL (1976)

Ghashiram Kotwal

“I must confess that this is a very strange film adapted from Vijay Tendulkar’s play. Nobody likes it. I was very bored when I saw it the first time. But that could be because I had already seen the play, which I thought was one of the best theatre productions the country has ever seen. So the film couldn’t match my expectations. But then I kept thinking about that film and after a while I realized that translating a play to film is an interesting experiment in its own way.

The filmmaker Mani Kaul uses some modern elements in a play set in the late 17th century. For example, a Brahmin from Nana Phadnavis’s era is says a dialogue while touching an electricity pole. The film deals with themes like corruption and makes references to some modern day politicians as well. I give full marks to Mani Kaul for at least coming up with something radically different.”

SHANTATA! COURT CHALU AAHE (1972)

Shantata Court Chalu Aahe

“This was the other theatre piece that was translated into film, but more successfully this time. I could never see the play—again by Vijay Tendulkar—because it had already finished its run before I got into theatre. Unlike Ghashiram Kotwal, in Shantata! Court Chalu Aahe director Satyadev Dubey repeated almost the same cast of the Marathi stage production. It was a play within a play about a group of teachers who stage a mock trial. It’s a very nice cinematic production that one must watch.”

SONGADYA (1970)

Songadya-

“This was the first film of Dada Kondke (he holds a record for the highest number of silver jubilee films) in his long chain of super-hits and golden jubilees. Cinematically speaking, it is not a brilliant film at all but it is a great example of how a novice can become successful because of some simple things.

In the film, Kondke plays a village simpleton who is thrown out of his home by his mother and is given shelter by a tamasha dancer with whom he falls in love. While performing with her, he becomes Songadya—a very important character in tamasha performance. He makes people laugh with his jokes while the girl dances. This movie was a huge success and marked Kondke’s first foray into film production before he became a director.”

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