It’s a golden phase for Marathi cinema. Films are finally getting their due and good cinema is garnering both critical acclaim and commercial success. This seems like a perfect time for enterprising people like Nittin Keni, Manish Vashisth and Ashish Chaughule to put the spotlight on Marathi cinema overseas. Their plans are big and enthusiasm unmatched.
Here’s more from the men who were in the city to tell us what their new venture Filmidesh is all about.
“I think Marathi cinema is a force to reckon with. It didn’t have proper distribution channels the way Hindi films had. I have distributed a lot of Hindi films overseas,” says Keni. “The only way we could distribute Marathi movies overseas was by way of shows organised on personal request. Plus, the benefit didn’t reach everyone. There was a lot of uncertainty. I have experienced this for films like Duniyadari, Kaksparsh and Sairat too. I used to get a lot of enquiries but they would pay pittance or not pay at all. Yet I used to give the film as it had to go out. We realised that there was an opportunity as well as a vacuum. There was hunger for big screen cinema overseas and for the whole movie-watching experience. We looked at the potential city by city and decided to offer something unique — a combination of digital and theatrical. We named it Filmidesh. It’s not only about films but also about our culture. We were not just interested in it because of its commercial aspect. BMM (Bruhan Maharashtra Mandal, North America) therefore was a perfect fit. It is into a lot of things — Marathi culture, education and festivals. It was a meeting of minds, a confluence of thoughts,” he adds.
“We have 150,000 registered families in the US and Canada under the BMM umbrella,” Chaughule elaborates. “Everybody likes movies. But getting to watch Indian movies in the US was not easy. I remember watching Karan Arjun during winter from midnight to 3 am, it being the only available time slot. Things have changed today. Watching Indian movies has become a norm. The content is getting better. What’s lacking is the consistency. It’s one area that we intend to address through Filmidesh,” he explains.
“Some years ago, Marathi movies were showcased in jatras, as 60 per cent income came from there. People would take prints and actually conduct shows.
“There were films that never got released in Mumbai or Pune, but went on to become hits in jatras. Thanks to multiplexes and government support, things have improved now,” adds Keni.
So will there be consistency in the release dates too, we wonder.
“We intend to showcase two latest movies every month. If the producers allow us, the theatrical release can be on the same day. We need to deliver early for that. But if the producer gives us the movie after the release, there could be a slight delay. After the theatrical release, movies will be available on the digital platform depending on the contract. Digital would be the second phase that would be initiated within a period of 90 days. The library will include plays, shows, and short films too. Also, there will be app-based services,” Keni elaborates.
“Apart from the digital portal, there will be Meet & Greet and other events that allow interaction between audiences, actors and filmmakers,” Chaughule explains further.
This initiative will be a boon for producers too. Says Keni, “Perhaps not to a great extent but it will create a revenue stream. “This opportunity was not there earlier and producers would lose money to middlemen. Filmidesh will pay upfront for the overseas rights. So contrary to the custom where they get paid 90 days after the movie is released, we’ll ensure that they are paid before the release. Although we may be starting with North America, we’ll soon be looking at other countries including Australia, Singapore and Mauritius.”
“Filmidesh is basically a distribution platform. We are not getting into the production aspect of the film. But if it’s good or commercially viable, we will definitely support it by giving it the right exposure,” he adds.
Filmidesh will begin its journey with films titled Bogda, Savita Damodar Paranjpe and Take Care Good Night — all rich in content and not typical masala flicks. Is there a comfort zone, we ask. “Marathi audiences the world over are very discerning. They are extremely content conscious. So we intend to cater to what they need first and slowly move on to diverse genres,” says Keni.