20 Best Marathi Movies That You Must Watch

It was in 1896 that the cinema came to India, in the form of 6 films by the Lumiere brothers sent to be screened at the Novety Theatre in Mumbai at a ticket price of 8 annas each. And India’s obsession with moving pictures grew steadily. It was while watching one of these lavish imported films named ‘The Life Of Christ’ that Dadasaheb Phalke, a photographer, had a Eureka moment which led to the genesis of Indian cinema. He later said “While the life of Christ was rolling before my eyes I was mentally visualising the gods Shri Krishnu, Shri Ramchandra, their Gokul and Ayodhya”. He gathered an all-Marathi crew to create the 3700 feet of film which would be known as ‘Raja Hairshchandra’, India’s first ever full-length feature, and incidentally the very first Marathi film as well.

Dadasaheb Phalke produced over 90 more films as Indian cinema flourished. But in spite of legendary directors like Acharya Atre and V. Shantaram helming some memorable films, the Marathi film industry was overshadowed by its more notable neighbour – Bollywood. Nonetheless, the 1970s saw a wide range of films, from tragedies involving tamasha artistes to comedies starring the famous double-entendre master Dada Kondke. In the 1980s, two actors, namely Ashok Saraf and Laxmikant Berde, made a slew of iconic comedies and catapulted to stardom, working with actors-turned-directors Mahesh Kothare and Sachin Pilgaonkar. Some of these films are still cult crowd favourites.

But the true renaissance of the Marathi film industry began in the new millennium, as evidenced by the presence of 13 films released post the year 2000 on this list. Strong-willed, content-driven and intimate to the issues of its Maharashtrian milieu, it has come of age. So much so that Marathi cinema hogged the spotlight at the 64th National Awards with its psychologically probing films. As someone who has grown up on Marathi films and has lived a couple hundred metres from the legendary Prabhat Talkies in Pune for a quarter of his life, I consider it my job, nay, my duty, to honour the best and the greatest Marathi movies. Here they are:

 

20. Katyar Kaljat Ghusli (2015)

An adaptation of a play of the same name, ‘Katyar..’ is a musical of epic proportions beyond anything ever seen in Marathi cinema. The film centers around a prestigious dagger bestowed upon the greatest poet in the kingdom of Vishrampur, and how the lust for the dagger (which symbolises the fame associated with its acquisition) and pride of his own artistic prowess drives a man to do unspeakable harm to another man who had always considered him a friend. Enveloped in his ego, he finally rediscovers his love for music through a disciple of the man he betrayed. The film is a thorough entertainer, with its culturally significant subject matter, grandiose sets, star-studded ensemble and one of the best Marathi soundtracks of recent times. A melodious extravaganza.

 

19. Deool (2011)

Keshya, the village simpleton of a sleepy village called Mangrul, sees a mirage of Lord Dutta while napping under a tree. Against the advise of Anna, a respected and educated old man and Bhau, a politician who wants to build a hospital in the village to showcase development, Keshya makes a hue and cry about his visions. The news gets sensationalised and before you know it, Mangrul is a hub of devotional commercialisation while actual devotion takes a backseat. Director Umesh Kukarni, also known for his films ‘Vaalu’ and ‘Vhir’, is a master at putting current issues on celluloid, and his tackling of the effect globalisation has had on the tiny villages of the country is sublime. Put in powerhouse performances by Nana Patekar as Bhau and Dilip Prabhawalkar as Anna, and we get a gem of a minimalist film.

 

18. Jogwa (2009)

The reason for the revival of Marathi movies is the fearless quest of its filmmakers to get a grip of social pitfalls still rife across the state. ‘Jogwa’ deals with one such archaic tradition of Devdasi, wherein people are forced to give up their entire lives, dreams and worldly desires to the servitude of a deity. Suli is one such jogti who is forced by the rampantly superstitious community to live this life, but she finds solace in Tayappa, a man who is forced to drape a sari as per custom, whose plight mirrors hers. Their forbidden love and the oppression they face due to it make a heart-wrenching tale, complemented with perfection by the music of Ajay-Atul. ‘Jogwa’ was the recipient of 5 National Awards, including two for vocalists Hariharan and Shreya Ghoshal for this tearful melody which will pierce a hole through your heart whether you know Marathi or not.

 

17. Ashi Hi Banwa Banwi (1989)

As I said a while ago, 1980s and onwards, Ashok Saraf, Laxmikant Berde, Sachin Pilgaonkar and Mahesh Kothare made many a riotous film, but none of them can come within touching distance of this hootfest starring three of these four actors. A remake of Hrishi Da’s 1966 ‘Biwi Aur Makan’, it stars Saraf as Dhananjay, a street-smart salesman who makes his buddies Parshuram and Sudhir play the wives of him and his brother Shantanu to get an apartment where bachelors are forbidden (nothing can be more relevant in today’s world for us bachelors than this social issue!) But then two ladies enter the fray, one of them being Shantanu’s girlfriend and Sudhir falling for the other! With a perfectly picked ensemble who seem to run away with their characters, ‘Ashi Hi Banwa Banwi’ is the flagship comedy of Marathi Cinema.

 

16. Fandry (2013)

Love. Without a thought of colour, caste, creed or society. That simply is the nucleus of this 2013 film directed by Nagraj Manjule who later rose to fame with the enormously successful ‘Sairat’ (the absence of which from this list is sure to get me death threats!) Jabya lives on the fringes of the village with parents who do menial jobs. He falls head-over-heels for Shalu, whose parents areare saving money to get her married. But their financial gap isn’t the only problem; Jabya is a Dalit whereas Shalu belongs to an upper caste. the failure of Jabya’s innocent attempts to woo Shalu, while being oppressed and humiliated by the society (who call him ‘Fandry’ or a pig), make him reach a boiling point of exasperation post which he hurls a stone at one of the perpetrators, but the stone is shown hurling towards the audience as credits roll, as we are the true perpetrators of the caste system still lurking in our lives. A hard-hitting statement.

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