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“Marathi filmmakers finally have clarity about entertaining the audience”

His latest release Duniyadari has hit the jackpot at the box office, and now he is toying with an idea for his next film. Marathi filmmaker Sanjay Jadhav talks to Sagorika Dasgupta about his roller-coaster ride in the film industry and lessons learnt

Did you ever think that Duniyadari would do so well at the box office?

Not even in my wildest dreams did I think the film would do so well. My earlier films had not done well and I was a little skeptical about Duniyadari too. But I was positive that I had made a genuinely good film that people would like.

Were there any lessons you learnt from your earlier films?

After my earlier films didn’t do well, I gave myself some time to analyse where I was going wrong. I wanted to retrace my steps instead of moping about the past. In fact there was some elaborate research that went into the making of Duniyadari. About two years ago, before we started filming, we went to the Raheja School of Business Management and Research and asked the students to do a case study on why Marathi films were not doing well at the box office.

Their research was very insightful. We realised that Mararthi films lacked marketing and promotional thrust, due to which a lot of films went unnoticed. So I incorporated all those learnings in my filmmaking strategy. Usually, Marathi films begin promotions just two to three weeks before their release and do the music launch a month prior to the film’s release. Then they stop at that.

My research also spoke about the psyche of the Marathi audience, which is very shy of visiting cinema halls to watch the first-day first show. They would first ask around and take a consensus of neighbours and friends before watching a film in cinemas. They also prefer to watch a film with their family so even if one family member is not keen on watching the film, they give it a miss.

So for Duniyadari, I began the promotions six months in advance. I created a lot of buzz and got a house-full opening on July 19. The weeks thereafter, the business just kept growing.

But didn’t the broad marketing strategy add to the cost of the film?

It did, but we had accounted for it in the budget. We had allocated a chunk of our budget for marketing and promotions right from the time the film went on the floors, so it wasn’t an afterthought. It was a calculated move. It was a risk we were willing to take.

I know it could have backfired but we used the content of the film wisely to make sure the marketing struck gold. So we had a song in the film for which 11 Marathi celebs had lent their voice. It included big names like Sachin Pilgaonkar, Mahesh Manjrekar and so on. We asked all these actors to turn up at the music launch and they obliged. In the four months prior to the film’s release, we launched one theatrical trailer every month till the film released. And every trailer was different from the previous one.

How did the idea of the film come about?

This goes back a long time. My mother was a teacher and she was of the school of thought that a teacher’s son should either become a doctor or an engineer. So even though I was always interested in films, she was strict about my studies. I enrolled with an engineering college and during that time, I had read a novel on which Duniyadari was based.

When I read the book, I wondered how no one had thought of making a film on this subject. At the time I had no intention of working in the film industry. But the day I graduated, I handed my engineering degree to my mother and moved towards the film industry. When I decided to make the film, I couldn’t find producers to back the film. But, luckily, things fell into place.

You began your film career as a cinematographer…

I began my career as an assistant ad filmmaker. Later, I directed TV shows. At that time, the screenplay writer for my TV show decided to produce a film and so he asked me to direct a Marathi feature film for him. I directed my first film, Checkmate, in 2008, for which I did the cinematography too. And, yes, during those times, I did the cinematography for a lot of films. Cinematography is ingrained in my system. Even when I am directing, I have a roving cinematographer’s eye and keep a look out for shadows. (Laughs)

As a director, you have made an action film, a thriller and drama. Which genre do you prefer most and which is the most challenging?

Every genre is challenging. I believe in Murphy’s Law, in that if something can go wrong, it will. Maine bahut dhakke kha ke seekha hai. And I don’t regret it because that has helped me learn a lot. When I made Checkmate, which was a thriller, I was on Cloud 9. I thought this film would change the look of Marathi films. I felt I had made a milestone film. When it didn’t work, I didn’t understand why the audience didn’t like it.

I gave it a lot of thought and realised that the film was very Hollywoodesque and the Marathi audience couldn’t connect to it. I made Phakta Ladh Mhana, with Mahesh Manjrekar, and the film drew a large audience loyal to him. But that too wasn’t such a blockbuster. I later made Ringa Ringa, which was about schizophrenia. Again, this was a very alien concept to the audience. I eventually understood that it is important to make films that the audience connects to because you are making films to entertain them.

You have announced your next project which will have the same cast and crew of Duniyadari. What’s happening on that front?

Yes, I had made that announcement a few days ago. But I am planning to hold back for a while because I want to develop the story a little more before we start filming. So I am busy with the story development of that film these days.

You have done the cinematography of a few Hindi films too. Don’t you want to direct a Hindi film?

I want to direct a Hind film but with a big producer. I don’t want to make a Hindi film just for the heck of it. The Hindi film audience is exposed to much more content than the regional guys. So I want to partner with a producer who can take the film to the level that it deserves. The production house has to have the marketing muscle to back the film.

Do you think the Marathi film industry has evolved?

I am proud of my generation of Marathi filmmakers. Each film these days is different from the others, and filmmakers have started thinking commercially too. There was a certain kind of glory that filmmakers like Sachin Pilgaonkar and Mahesh Kothare had brought to Marathi cinema. The filmmakers who came in after them would only copy these two directors. As a result, there was no newness left in the Marathi industry. Anything a tad different would be branded as parallel cinema. But the young breed of filmmakers and my colleagues like Satish Rajwade and Nishikant Kamath are coming up with films with revolutionary concepts but there is also clarity about entertaining the audience. This is the best time to be a Marathi filmmaker.

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