Director’s Choice

Satish Manwar
With Marathi Cinema making big news on the international arena, Pranav Kulkarni speaks to five of its most influential directors

Satish Manwar

Claim to fame
Gabricha Paus

He might be just one film old, but for director Satish Manwar, the soul of his film Gabhrich Paus (The Damned Rain) is 'sensitivity'. The story of Kisna a farmer who is trying to get a good crop in the drought-stricken Vidarbha region of Maharashtra, is based on the issue of farmer suicides, something that Manwar, being born in Vidarbha witnessed right from his childhood.

"I always admired creativity. But till Class12, my definitions of creativity were different. The larger-than-life Bollywood films dominated my cinematic tastes initially. But I realised that there was a striking difference between what was being portrayed on the silver screen and what existed in real life," says Manwar whose journey till date has been motivated by his efforts to amalgamate reality with portrayal.

"I started upgrading my knowledge by watching different genres of films after 1999. Not only that, I started reading books that imparted new vision to look at cinema. In the same year, I came to Pune to do my MA in Theatrics and those years changed my outlook towards films," says Manwar.

The credible aspect of Manwar's first film is the fact that he has not taken any formal education in films and Manwar says, "I learnt through experiences. Rather than assisting directors, I started making expressing my thoughts through documentaries made on my own. During my stay in Pune I made documentaries such as- Wisest fool on the Earth, Bin Biyancha Zaad, Goshtichya Goshtichi Goshta. I later moved to Mumbai and made short films like- Cigarettes, Alvida, Bar Bar and Majhya Watnicha Khara Khura."

In 2003, Manwar penned down the story of Gabhricha Paus and then began the most difficult search- the producer hunt. "I was looking for a producer for four years until 2007 when Prashant Pethe showed faith in me and agreed to finance the project. I would write even before Gabhricha Paus, but this script was closer to my heart," smiles Manwar who is currently working on a couple of plays.

With a string of acclaims and accolades won at several international film festivals across the globe Manwar still recollects the best ever appreciation as that by a farmer in Rotterdam. "He came and told me that what he saw in the film was his story. The success of Gabhricha Paus lies in the fact that it got communicated well. His reaction moved me because it made me realise that emotions have no language and with cinema I finally know the language to convey emotions- it goes through hearts and not through mouth," he says on a parting note.

Sumitra Bhave & Sunil Sukhthankar

Claim to fame
Ek Cup Chya

Marathi cinema might have come of age and started touching the audiences' hearts since the past few years. But even when it was on the verge of becoming extinct, the director duo was single handedly running the movement of making quality films. Be it Doghi, the first film they made in 1995 depicting the story of two sisters in rural India or Devrai that unveils the mysterious world of a schizophrenic patient or for that matter the recent Gho Mala Asla Hava, a comedy, director duo Sumitra Bhave and Sunil Sukhthankar exactly know what it takes to depict complex subjects in a simple manner.

With Bhave coming from a social-work background and Sukhthankar from the FTII school of thoughts, the duo's films are both- technically sound as well as socially apt. "Disagreements are a part of our filmmaking process. But thankfully the fact that we have been working together and delivering quality films means that the disagreement has been rather constructive. For instance, in Doghi, there is a scene where the two sisters walk out angrily and together sit outside the house. As a filmmaker, I was keen on the aesthetics of the shot and told them to sit in a particular manner so that the frame looked good. Sumitra didi looked at it from a social perspective and changed their sitting style saying they would not sit like the earlier one given the situation that it was," says Sukhthankar.

Having managed to garner appreciation from critics as well as commercial success, the duo feels that their cinema belongs to the parallel stream when it comes to theme and commercial when it comes to success. "For instance, our film 10v F was based on the loopholes in education system. Even though it was thematically parallel cinema it did compete against many commercial films. Not only that, the Government of Maharashtra issued a GR making changes in the education system giving reference to the film we made," smiles Sukhthankar.

Amongst the bandwagon of filmmakers who look at films as a medium of earning money, the duo has its priorities and logistics clear. "Our films are immortal. People will have to take note of them. Their social impact is sure to happen. For us, filmmaking is not business. " says Bhave.

Paresh mokashi

Claim to fame
Harishchandrachi Factory

Director Paresh Mokashi's story is similar to the one he's depicted in his film- Harishchandrachi Factory. The film, which is based on the story of Dadasaheb Phalke and the process of making his film 'Raja Harishchandra', the first film made on the Indian soil, has had the honour of becoming India's official entry to the Oscars this year.

"I decided to make a film on the story of making Raja Harishchandra while reading Dadasaheb Phalke's biography in 2005. While I wrote the script in the same year, I wasted four years looking for a producer. Surprisingly, no one would turn down the script, but despite being interested, none was willing to invest on a newcomer like me," says Mokashi, who, in 2008 decided produce the film himself and even mortgaged his house to raise money for production.

While many laughed at him for having ventured into the 'risky profession' without any prior experience, Mokashi was sure about the script that he was banking on. "I was exposed to different genres of films during my college days in Pune. I was sure about the strength of the script I was working on. Not having learnt filmmaking was according to me an added advantage for the simple reason that my creative instincts were pure and original. And I personally feel that if a director knows what he wants, technicalities such as angles, editing, sound and so on are mere formalities. I had written plays earlier. I had what a director needs the most- a visual sense and a faith in the story I wanted to tell," says he.

Terming the 'struggle' period as the most important in an artiste's life, Mokashi adds, "This period is important because it tests your creative forces. For the creation to be effective, what goes behind it's making is equally important. There is a scene in the film where Phalke's wife asks him which ornaments could be sold in order to raise money for the film. Raja Harishchandra created history because of the sacrifice that went behind it."

Umesh Kulkarni

Claim to fame

Critical acclaim and commercial success might be the two sides of the cinematic fulcrum but director Umesh Kulkarni, with his debut film Valu has managed the balancing act rather effectively. The story of how characters in the village behave according to their tendencies and blame it on Valu meaning Bull when it puts them in awkward situations not only won Kulkarni countless accolades at national and international festivals, but also earned him the much needed appreciation for his simple and earthly style of narration.

One of the greatest rewards however came when Kulkarni was approached by Amitabh Bachchan Corporation (AB Corp) for directing their film Vihir that will be ready for release soon. "Jaya Bachchan being the alumnus of the FTII had also seen my film Girni that I had made during the days at FTII. She liked both the films- Valu and Girni so much that they offered me Vihir," says Kulkarni whose Vihir has already recieved global acolades and is set to release soon.

While Valu was produced by Kulkarni himself, Vihir was financed by A B Corp. commenting on whether external pressures affect his creativity, Kulkarni says, "Thankfully, the producers gave me all the freedom right from script to shooting to selection of locations. And that I believe is important for a filmmaker. With Valu, I established the first dialogue with my audience. With Vihir, I have to say something taking into consideration the already developed rapport."

Commerce graduate and an inter CA student, Kulkarni started his filmmaking stint with holding a clap for Sumitra Bhave's film followed by assisting her for over six years along with formal education at the FTII. "I always knew that I loved to do a lot of things. I have always been interested in choreography, painting, music, theatre and so on. The reason I decided to take up filmmaking was because filmmaking involves all these aspects. Further, it also gave me the opportunity to meet countless people and travel to places," he smiles adding, "Valu was my experiment to find the freedom within human emotions. It was my first film after the FTII and I wanted to make it without any compromise. The fact that it was appreciated boosted my confidence."

What started on a naïve note in 1995 has today become a matured approach for Kulkarni. Unveiling the secret behind his simplicity Kulkarni adds, "Association with veterans such as Bhave along with my friends circle from the film industry imparted a different approach of looking towards life. And all this just made me realise that the soul of creativity is nothing but understanding the answer for- who am I. And for me the answer is- I am still simple."

Sachin Kolhatkar

Claim to fame
Gandha, Nirop, Restaurant

Director Sachin Kundalkar prefers to call himself- storyteller. And then, be it his films- Restaurant, Gandha, Nirop or the plays and stories he's written, the core of his inspiration remains the urge to narrate the story to his audiences irrespective of the forms of representation. But ask him to make a film out of his play and the director says, "Theatre and cinema are two different mediums and using the script written for one form for the other, is something that I do not like to venture into."

It was during his school days that Kundalkar had approached well-known director Ashutosh Gowarikar showing his interest in assisting Gowarikar. "He told me to go home and instead come back after completing my education. I went back but the urge to become a filmmaker remained intact even during my graduation days. In fact I joined Sumitra Bhave and Sunil Sukhthankar to assist them on their first film Doghi during my first year in college," says Kundalkar who later enrolled himself for a course at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII).

While accepting the influence of Sumitra Bhave's creative thought process on his filmmaking style, Kundalkar feels that his selection of topics is different from Bhave's. "I do not believe that films are a medium of creating social awareness. It is a medium of telling a story and probably one of the most popular mediums of doing so," he says adding, "Commercial success of Marathi cinema is linked not only to the filmmakers and audiences but also to the distributors who need to mature with the changed perception about Marathi cinema."

From documentaries such as- Out-of-the-box in 2000 during his FTII days to Shubhra Kahi in 2004 or The Bath in 2005 just before he ventured into mainstream cinema with Restaurant, Kundalkar's style is characterised with his ability to unveil the subject in an interesting manner where the audience is left free and in fact encouraged to draw their own conclusions. Kundalkar was also the first one to make a film in Marathi that had three different stories linked by one theme- Gandha meaning smell.

With Ashutosh Gowarikar and Anurag Kashyap as his close friends and favourite filmmakers, Kundalkar says, "Today, filmmaking is not limited to showing them in theatres only. Language is not the barrier for my films. Instead, it is the means to create the background and the ambiance needed for effective portrayal of the subject."

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