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Interview Marathi

I belong to a new generation that hopes to take Marathi cinema pan-India: Amey Wagh


The actor is part of Aditya Sarpotdar's experimental zombie comedy Zombivli, which was released in theatres on 26 January.

Shriram Iyengar

Effortless in his comedy, Amey Wagh's presence in Zombivli is one of its highlights. The Aditya Sarpotdar zombie comedy opened in theatres on 26 January and marks Marathi cinema's introduction to the genre of zombie films, a genre Wagh is more than familiar with.

At the launch of the trailer for Zombivli, the actor was full of praise for some of his favourite zombie films from World War Z (2013) to Shaun Of The Dead (2004) and said the theme was one of the prime reasons why he agreed to do Sarpotdar's film.

"It is my favourite genre, and the reason is that in a zombie film, the zombie has to be the focus. The hero is the zombie. The story around them has to be good enough to succeed," Wagh emphasized.

The film is set in the distant Mumbai suburb of Dombivli, which is caught in an infectious spread leading to the zombification of its people. Wagh's co-stars in the novel project are Lalit Prabhakar, Vaidehi Parshurami and Trupti Khamkar.

The actor is also part of several web-series, including Cartel (2021) and the upcoming Asur 2 (2022) and Tigmanshu Dhulia's The Great Indian Murder (2022). Describing this as a creative period, he said, "It is literally a balancing act I am on. I don't know how much work I have done from the end of the first lockdown till now. I have completed four web-series, four Marathi films, and one Hindi film. It is a lot of work."

However, Wagh admitted there is some way to go before Marathi cinema can upstage Hindi in the country's financial capital. Citing the example of Malayalam cinema's rise in the pandemic, he said, "I belong to a new generation that wants to take Marathi cinema to a pan-India audience. Just like Malayalam cinema has managed to do, we wish to make films that reach out to the larger Indian audience."

For now, though, he is part of Sarpotdar's zombie comedy in theatres in the first month of the year 2022. Excerpts from the interview:

What drove you to pick this film, and how did the experience pan out?

It is my favourite genre, and the reason is that in a zombie film, the zombie has to be the focus. The hero is the zombie. The story around them has to be good enough to succeed. Train To Busan (2016), World War Z (2013), Zombieland (2009), Shaun Of The Dead (2004) are films I love. I thought Go Goa Gone (2013) was an interesting experiment.

I had never thought anyone in Marathi cinema would attempt this genre. So when I got a call to read the script, I was very surprised. Then I got a call from Aditya [Sarpotdar] suggesting I should take up the film because he was going to direct it. That was the key.

Lalit Prabhakar, Vaidehi Parshurami and Amey Wagh at the Zombivli trailer launch

It is not an easy genre. The director has to be technically sound since a lot of elements like camerawork, editing, sound, VFX have to come together.

Often, the VFX takes priority over the story in such genres. What convinced you about the writing here?

I won't go into the specifics of the story, but the hook line, 'Zombies in Dombivli', was the clincher for me. How do Dombivlikars then find a way past this was the formation of the story.

The pandemic has pushed regional cinema to newer grounds. Filmmakers are exploring, perhaps not in scale, but in subject and treatment terms, novel grounds. Is this the direction Marathi cinema should pursue more?

Marathi cinema has always been forward-thinking that way. Yet, there is the shadow of Hindi cinema hanging over it. We are the only state where two film industries are competing for attention. Hindi has a pan-India appeal, so, perhaps, it has a larger scale.

This does not mean Marathi cinema has a smaller demographic or scale. Sadly, the attention they receive is not good enough. It is a two-way street. We often give examples from the Southern film industries in this matter. Yet, as creatively as their industries make films, the audience watches them just as faithfully. Marathi cinema is also moving in that direction.

There is negativity around this subject, but I belong to a new generation that wants to take Marathi cinema to a pan-India audience. Just like Malayalam cinema has managed to do, we wish to make films that reach out to the larger Indian audience. I work in Hindi films as well, but I would always give priority to a project in Marathi. The industry has the potential for that, and as part of a new generation, it becomes our duty to try that.

There is also an audience developing that does not limit itself within the language barrier. Subtitles have changed that. So, is creative content the key?

Exactly. I think on OTTs we watch content from all over the world. Money Heist, made in Spanish, has become a rage all over the world. Whatever we make will be held up against the world. That's why I feel confident about Zombivli. While the theme and subject may be foreign to Marathi cinema, the story is far more rooted.

Is that something you take into consideration when you choose projects?

I don't think I choose good projects. I think good films are coming to me. I have only learned to say no to the ones I am not comfortable with. The moment I read Zombivli, I knew I wanted to do this film. There was no second thought to it. I suppose you could say I choose projects when it comes to web-series. It is a larger commitment and takes six or seven months of shooting.

Luckily for me, Asur and Cartel did very well. Along with Zombivli, I have The Great Indian Murder coming up on Disney+ Hotstar [with] an impressive cast and director.

You also have a number of Hindi projects lined up. One of them is Govinda Naam Mera alongside Vicky Kaushal, Bhumi Pednekar and Kiara Advani. How is this balancing act going?

It is literally a balancing act I am on. I don't know how much work I have done from the end of the first lockdown till now. I have completed four web-series, four Marathi films and one Hindi film. It is a lot of work. It is a crazy joyride, but I am looking forward to it.

I am just excited that all of this work will slowly come to the attention of the audience. I did struggle to manage the dates for all this, but I considered it compensation for the three or four months I spent at home. The next one-and-a-half years will see quite a bit of my work, and interesting work, arrive on the screen.

Despite the growing democratization of platforms, there is still a gap between Marathi cinema and the scale of Hindi. How do you see this gap being filled?

In these last few years, everyone has come on an equal footing. Hindi cinema will have to struggle, just as much as Marathi cinema, to draw audiences into theatres. The South will have to do the same. We are all on the same level after the lockdown.

Jhimma (2021) did exceptional business after the lockdown, and even Pandu (2021) did well. That gave us confidence. Our date was at 4 February, and theatre owners and distributors told us to advance the release. That is a big thing, and we wanted to capitalize on that. 

Moreover, it is futile to wait for Zombivli on the OTT. After all, the experience of a zombie film is best enjoyed on the big screen.