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Who disrupted the entertainment space of the Marathi Manoos – cinema or television?

Both Marathi film and cinema industries are suddenly riding high. Whether Marathi cinema inspired the qualitative change in the regional television or vice versa, remains a chicken and egg conundrum

BestMediaInfo Bureau | Mumbai |April 18, 2016

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The Marathi film industry is suddenly catching up with regional counterparts and coming out of the shadow of its big daddy – Bollywood. The industry has of late, produced more than four blockbusters in a year.

Titles like ‘Natasamrat’, ‘Kaljaat Ghusali’, ‘Mumbai Pune Mumbai 2’, ‘Deool Band’ and ‘Daagdi Chaawl’, have grossed earnings of anything between Rs 15 crores and Rs 60 crores at the box office. Cine industry experts say Marathi cinema was growing at a fast pace and that of the 104 films that were released in 2015, about 15 or 20 did really well.

Recognizing the pace at which the industry was growing, the Filmfare Awards were held for Marathi cinema for the first time. The award ceremony was telecast on Colors Marathi and raked in good advertising monies and had a good viewership. The viewership garnered by the event was 0.89 TVR, as per BARC numbers (4+ Maharashtra), against the 0.75 TVR (4+ HSM) clocked by Filmfare Awards for Bollywood.

Which changed first – film or TV?

Marathi cinema has experienced this sudden momentum in growth over the past three or four years. The growth stemmed from improved quality of production, an increased flow of monies, glamour, stronger storylines, better actors and resulted in an increased footfall at the movie theatres. The growth in Marathi cinema was pegged at 200 per cent in 2014, at a discussion at the annual FICCI Frames event in Mumbai recently. Hindi cinema, in contrast, only registered a growth of 0.6 per cent.

Television and cinema exist in an inter-dependent eco-system in any market, including the Hindi film and television one. Some say the progress was first evident on Marathi television, which then provided a better platform for promotion of Marathi cinema. Others believe that the upgraded standards within Marathi cinema had prompted the changes in television.

Marathi movies have smaller budgets and so, a box office business of Rs 40 crores or Rs 50 crores brings a huge rate of return on investment. Top-notch Marathi films have budgets that range between Rs 1 crore and Rs 3 crore, but low-budget films can be made for as little as Rs 50 lakh to Rs 65 lakh.

In one estimate, a small film, which manages to get a good audience in rural areas and rakes in Rs 6 crores to Rs 8 crores, does good business. Investment in such films are usually Rs 2 crore, including the cost of marketing and distribution. So, when a film with a Rs 2 crore to Rs 3 crore budget crosses Rs 30 crore at the box office, it’s a runaway success. Films like ‘Fandry’ fall into this category.

These big business equations started off with ‘Me Shivajiraje Bhosale Boltoy’ in 2009. The film collected about Rs 22 crore at the box office. The first Marathi film to cross the Rs 40 crore mark at the box office was the Riteish Deshmukh starrer, ‘Lai Bhaari’ (2014). ‘Timepass’, produced the same year, collected Rs 30 crore.

Box office hits

A reason for the growth of Marathi films was the better distribution channels, independent producers, better footfall in the theatres and the Maharashtra government’s move to mandate multiplexes to reserve at least one screen for showing a Marathi movie in the prime-time slot of 6 PM to 9 PM.

Deepak Rajadhyaksha, Business Head, Zee Marathi, feels that the business model was changing with increasing demand for films of the genre. “Recently, the film genre has seen a good variety in the concepts and production quality, both. Producers are experimenting with newer concepts and are taking risks with monies too. This is putting a lot of pressure on the marketing streams, ultimately attracting good number of viewers,” he said.

‘Katyaar Kaljat Ghusali’, starring Shankar Mahadevan and ‘Natasamrat’, raked in huge monies overseas too, particularly in the US, UK and West Asia. The films grossed close to Rs 15 crore to Rs 20 crore at the box office in these markets. Such box office earnings are huge for Marathi films, which are usually made on budgets ranging between Rs 3 crores and Rs 5 crores.

Shooting locales also play a part in these polished productions. Rohan Rane, Programming Head, 9X Jhakaas and Head of Network Brand Solutions, said, “The Marathi movies are being shot at international locations, adding the aspirational value to it. Glamour is added to the industry, courtesy the success parties and award functions. Plus, music is growing and inviting a lot of variety. There is a lot of crossover of talent to add an icing on the cake, like Sonu Nigam has sung umpteen songs in Marathi after ‘Gaarvaa’. Most of the Marathi speaking audience recognize him as a singer in Bollywood and hence such instances attract takers for the Marathi music and ultimately, cinema.”

One of the firsts in Marathi Cinema which lead to the change towards improvement was ‘Tingya’, directed by Mangesh Hadawale. The movie was well received by the audiences and was among the first few to gather as much as Rs 5 crore at the box office, despite being made at a modest budget of Rs 22 lakh. “The movie got both, critical and commercial acclaims, however, the offers that I received after ‘Tingya’ were mainly from the Hindi film industry,” said Hadawale. “People in the Marathi space couldn’t really foresee much then, but now, the scenario is different and it is poised to grow much bigger,” he said.

The TV – cinema connection

One of the direct connections of television and cinema is the purchase of satellite rights of the movies, which, as on date, is a very small revenue stream for Marathi movies. Of all the movies released in a year, about 22 to 28 get sold to the broadcasters, according to Anuj Poddar, Head, Colors Marathi. “About six to seven films are really good which attract audiences on TV too, at least for the few initial airings,” he said.

“Other than these, 10 to 15 other movies get average tractions and can be used in longer intervals, giving viewership similar to events or special episodes,” he went on to say, adding, “But rest of the films, don’t really work. Now, for me to make business sense, the satellite rights of the movies should not be beyond my special programming or events which I generally telecast on weekend evening prime time.”

Marathi television has evolved too, in terms of production quality and costs and in terms of advertising monies too. The eyeballs have increased, with more youngsters taking to television. Deepak Rajadhyaksha, Business Head, Zee Marathi, agreed that there was an increase in both advertising monies and production costs. “Marathi TV space is growing and Zee has played a vital role in this, just as it has in the film industry’s growth. I would say, TV is accredited to film success in the Marathi regional space.”

The film promotions across channels is also boosting the performance of movies on the bigger screens. One of the media planners who didn’t wish to be named, said that the television channels were one of the biggest marketing tools for the movies. “Earlier, there was a kind of dominance by a particular TV channel in the Marathi genre,” he said, adding, “Zee TV, basis their production house, wouldn’t get advertising of films on any other channels. However, now, with more and more independent producers coming in, this problem is solved. Additionally, the consumption of music on channels like ‘Jhakaas’ also play an important role.”

The experts have appreciated how the packaging and presentation of the regional music channel was almost on a par with the mainstream Hindi music channels, giving a polished look. 9X Jhakaas has also started a special slot for the ‘Making Of’ Marathi movies. Rane explains, “This will obviously grow audience interest in the movies and vice-versa, that the increasing interest of the audience has prompted us to take it a step ahead. We have a dedicated weekly show for it. Now, the producers are themselves shooting the makings of the films.”

How long will the boom last?

Experts believe that the content in the Marathi films would get stronger as time progresses, even though, more efforts were needed in distribution. Hadawale said, “Initially, it was Zee talkies which took responsibility for creating space for Marathi cinema on the Hindi bus, in terms of distribution. Marathi cinema is considered to be a Rs 1500 crore industry today. In the recent national award evaluation, where I was a part of the jury for the west zone, 41 out of 46 films were Marathi, five others being Konkani and Gujarati. However, 16 of these producers were Gujarati, this shows the potential of the industry.”

Industry veteran Jabbar Patel, who has spent over four decades in Marathi theatre and cinema, credits young talent for the improved values and culture in Marathi cinema. “At the Pune International Festival 2016, there were 80 Marathi films, against the 32 which participated in 2015. Plus, the trend of leading Bollywood actors getting into Marathi cinema is another encouraging thing,” he said.

Rane points out that the scope was huge and never ending, considering how all production houses like Eros, Viacom and people like Sanjay Leela Bhansali, were getting into the Marathi space. “The actors and movies are moving out from the ‘movie watching’ space and growing into brands. Swwapnil Joshi recently launched his own fashion line with Max, which shows that the industry is growing and is slated to grow further,” Rane said.

Amol Mohandas from Group M, shares an interesting insight about Marathi households. “Unlike the typical metro households where children and parents are all confined to their respective rooms for TV watching, a typical Marathi household watches TV together. This increases the knowledge transfer about whatever information is available on the internet about the TV content, actors and films. Hence, adoption of digital by the upper generation is faster in the Marathi space. Plus, the aspirational values in the movies being made now, is very high. The growth and expansion of the popularity of Marathi cinema will be manifold.”

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