Movies

Marathi cinema in high gear

The Marathi movie market is set to enter into a new phase of growth as Star, Reliance ADAG and the Sakaal Group plan to launch general entertainment channels in this langauge space.

Marathi film producers suddenly see a fresh demand for their content, which was being consumed largely by Zee Marathi and to a lesser extent by ETV Marathi.

Satellite TV telecast rights for Marathi movies have surged, encouraging producers to increase their production pipeline. "The average purchase of these rights for the popular movies have more than doubled," says a trade expert who is involved in such transactions.

There are also more outright purchase of movies and at higher prices. Zee Marathi is said to have spent Rs 4.6 million for the perpetual rights of Tingya, much more than a hit Marathi movie would have cost two years back.

Some movie rights holders are hanging on to their library with the expectation that prices will further escalate. Says Video Palace owner Nanu Bhai, "I have some 30 Marathi superhit movie rights along with Everest Video. But we are in no hurry to sell them. Let prices further increase."

Top five grosser of 2007-08
Films Total Collections
De Dhakka RS 60 million
Saade Maade Teen RS 45 million
Valu RS 30-35 million
Tingya RS 15 million
Aamhi Satpute RS 12.5 million

It is only after 2004, when Shwaas (which literally means breathe) gave a fresh lease of life to Marathi cinema. Even though Shwaas was sent to Academy awards, the producers had to hunt for money through charity shows to present the film there.

Post Shwaas, however, the market started expanding. The awareness about Marathi cinema increased considerably with creativity in subject, promotion, distribution and technical advancements. Also in Maharashtra, the state government’s rule that every multiplex has to run Marathi movies has changed the fate of this market.

But what has fuelled the growth is the entry of corporates into the market. The roster includes Zee Entertainment Enterprise Ltd (Zeel), Reliance and Mukta Arts.

Zee has been the most aggressive player. Zeel director of regional channels Nitin Vaidya had earlier told Indiantelevision.com that it would be investing RS 300 million for a slate of 15 Marathi movies in two years.

Mukta Arts has also chalked out its production plans. The Subhash Ghai promoted company released Sanai Choughade on 20 June; another flick Prarambh is slated for August release.

With the pumping in of more money, the industry is going to see more movies being made. In 2006, around 45 movies were released in theaters while the number rose to 67 in 2007. In 2008, more then 80 movies are expected to hit the theatres.

The size of the market is expanding. Says Akhil Bharatiya Marathi Chitrapat Mahamandal president Ajay Sarpotdar, "The Marathi movie market (theatrical) was not more than RS 50 million in 2006. It managed to touch RS 160 million last year with the government‘s screening rule for multiplexes. In the first six months of this year, we have already crossed RS 220 million and expect to over Rs 350 million by the end of the year.”

The major problem with Marathi cinema was its promotion and distribution wherein a lot depended on word of mouth publicity. Even though a Marathi movie costs not more than RS 6-7 million, producers did not have enough cash to put in money for promotions.

That game is fast changing. As per market estimates, Zee Talkies has invested over RS 15 million in promotion of De Dhakka, a budget earlier unheard of. The movie has reaped over RS 60 million in collections so far.

“With the kind of publicity we can do through our network, we already have an advantage over our rivals. We are bullish about the Marathi movie market,” says a senior executive in Zee Talkies.

Mukta Arts is also planning to invest in scripts, marketing and promotion. "We are in search for good scripts as content is what drives the audience,” says Mukta Arts CEO Ravi Gupta.

Adds senior Marathi producer Mahesh Kothare, “With the right kind of money, promotions and marketing, the Marathi movie market is growing very fast. Corporatisation is an added boon as they can easily spend over Rs 10 million in promotions.”

Being made on as low as Rs 6-7 million budgets, the business dynamics has turned favourable as Marathi general entertainment channels grow in number and are keen to lap up movie content.

Sums up Galgale Nighale‘s director Kedar Shinde: “We are currently in the first gear. Very soon, we will be driving in high gear.”

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