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Interview Marathi

LIFFT India: Marathi cinema is most alive, most exciting, says director Govind Nihalani

At the recenty concluded LIFFT India 2017 Awards and Filmotsav, director Govind Nihalani spoke to Cinestaan.com about why he chose to make a film in Marathi, and the reason he thinks it is one of the most productive branches of Indian cinema today.

Photo: LIFFT India

Shriram Iyengar

While the LIFFT India 2017 Awards and Filmotsav entered its final day, director Govind Nihalani made a rare appearance at the festival. Nihalani's Ti Ani Itar (2017) was screened at the closing ceremony of the festival. The director was at his conversational best, encouraging youngsters, and talking to friends such as Mita Vashisht and Pia Benegal at the venue.

Nihalani's film Ti Ani Itar released earlier, with Subodh Bhave and Sonali Kulkarni in the lead. The story has been adapted for big screen by Shanta Gokhale from Manjula Padmanabhan’s play, Lights Out. The sensitive film speaks about the class ignorance of the intelligentsia and their silence about the evils that surround them. Made by the director of Aakrosh (1980) and Ardh Satya (1983), it carried a powerful effect.

Cinestaan.com caught up with the director to speak about the festival's inclusivity of art, his decision to make a film in Marathi, and the rise of regional cinema.

Following are excerpts from the interview:

LIFFT India seeks to cover multiple art forms — theatre, art, poetry and cinema. How do you approach it?

I think it is a very good beginning. You also have to see that LIFFT India is in a particular space. In a place like Lonavla, you also have certain limitations. As the first attempt of its kind, it has been conceived well.

I think, you cannot sustain just as a film festival. It will not be very easy because of the number of people living here. Therefore, converting it into a wider cultural event is a very good idea. Every activity here is also associated with performing arts or literature or something like that. In the overall scene, it becomes full of variety, and consistently has a chance to grow.

The disciplines that have been brought in are very exciting. I think they have managed to get very good and talented people to participate. I had come here before, and now, what I see is a big jump and a very good jump. It is a very good attempt, but needs working on. It is not going to be easy to establish it in a place like Lonavla.

The festival, any festival, needs a lot more support to sustain. Where does this support need to come from?

Well, that is very difficult to say. But you've got enough space to stage various events, simultaneously. A location like Lonavla is a great advantage. People don't have to travel a lot. This should continue and grow. Also, people need to become aware and come and participate. It might be interesting to connect this event with other events that take place in the city. Therefore, it will be interesting to think about growing the festival, not as one event in a year, but two or three in a year.

There is an attraction of cinema though, as the glamourous attraction, for any newcomer to the industry. Is that a flaw?

Well, glamour is not some kind of a negtive quality. Glamour is beautiful also. The thing is, one has to look beyond glamour as well. It should not be an anti-glamour thing though. Glamour has to do with beauty, and every art has to do with beauty. So, I think it should provide an inclusive kind of platform for people who work in films to feel an involvement with things around them. Like a writer has to be aware of what is going around them in a cultural space.

That is why the cultural nature of this festival needs to be its strength. It requires consistent effort.  

While first time filmmakers have the opportunity to screen their films at festivals, the market is still competitive to allow them a chance in theatres. As a filmmaker who has struggled against this system and continues to do so, do you see it changing?

It is too early to talk about that. You think of the commerce and markets much later. Wherever the market exists, it has taken years to establish. If you want to do it, good. But don't expect it soon.

Also, Ti Ani Itar was the closing film of the festival. It is your first film in Marathi, is there a reason why you opted for Marathi as the language of expression for the film?

Why did I choose to make it in Marathi? Because I thought a subject like this will be accepted in the Marathi space much more easily than any other language. I think the Marathi cinema space at the moment, is perhaps, of all the regional languages in India, is the most alive, the most exciting. I am not talking about the box office success. But this is a good space to be. People are responding to it.

The audience, new audience in Marathi, is responding to the new ideas and content which is a very important element when you compare it to other languages that are producing films at the moment.

Another important thing I found was that the Marathi acting talent is very good. I am not saying that other languages are not good. Since I work only in Hindi and Marathi, between the two, at the moment, the kind of talent I needed, I found in Marathi cinema. It was very exciting talent to work with. The way we evolved the working relationship between actors and director and the writer was very exciting. It was the first time I was doing that kind of an experiment and I am very happy with the results.

Marathi cinema is certainly capturing a lot of interest of big producers. People are beginning to put in a lot of money. Priyanka Chopra has produced Marathi films, and will continue, Karan Johar is remaking a Marathi film. So how does this inflow of money affect content creation and the quality of content?

This is a work in progress. I wouldn't say that Marathi is attracting huge funding at the moment. But there are people who are looking at it. People think, now, it may be possible. Ultimately, it is the audience which makes cinema work. A filmmaker can bring in ideas, technique, and a lot of experimentation and expression. But in the end, it is the audience which takes the interest and makes cinema sustainable. I think the cinema has attracted such attention.

It is not like everybody is rushing into Marathi cinema, but it is started. People are noticing it.

Does the presence of the big names help?

It will definitely help, because of them some film is getting made. Marathi is not losing anything by it. It can only grow and take advantage of this investment.

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