New Delhi: National Award-winning director Nagraj Manjule’s latest offering Sairat has become the highest-grossing Marathi film ever. With earnings of 41.11 crore at the end of 11 days, according to movie website Bollywood Hungama, the romantic film has beaten the records of previous Marathi blockbusters like Duniyadari (2013), Lai Bhaari (2014) and Natsamrat (2016).

After notching up collections of 25.50 crore in the first week, the film, starring Rinku Rajguru and Akash Thosar, increased its screen count from 400 to 450 in the second week, minting an additional 15.61 crore. Apart from Maharashtra, it was also released in parts of Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Delhi and Goa with subtitles. The usual screen count for a Marathi film is 250-300.

“We had always expected the film to do very well, perhaps in the range of our previous release Duniyadari, which made around Rs25 crore. But there was no anticipation of success of such historic proportions," said Nitin Keni, chief executive officer at Essel Vision Productions Ltd, the company which co-produced the film.

Keni attributed the phenomenal response to the film to two factors, the first being the immensely popular music score by composer duo Ajay-Atul.

“Right from the first teaser released in January, the music had caught on," said trade analyst Atul Mohan. “The songs are one of the best in recent times and likely to be loved even by those who aren’t familiar with the Marathi language."

To be sure, Sairat’s promotional campaign depended hugely on the music score. The first teaser was followed by an elaborate music release party and the circulation of all songs across digital and electronic platforms.

The second contributing factor, according to Keni, has been the rawness of the rural set-up and the lead pair that appears very non-actor-like in its performance. The film tells the inter-caste love story of a young couple in rural India.

Previous Marathi grossers like Riteish Deshmukh-starrer Lai Bhaari and Sanjay Jadhav-directed Duniyadari made around 25 crore each, according to trade experts. Sairat has also surpassed the collections of big-ticket Bollywood films like Fitoor ( 19.28 crore), Rocky Handsome ( 25.15 crore) and Jai Gangaajal ( 32.63 crore) that released this year in many more screens.

In its second week, the romantic musical also withstood competition from Hindi releases like Sunny Leone-starrer One Night Stand and horror flick 1920 London that made 1.20 crore and 10.31 crore, respectively.

“The market for regional films may be limited but there is always a section of the audience that prefers Marathi cinema over Hollywood and Hindi films because of familiarity with the local language," said analyst Mohan.

He also mentioned that the Essel group has cultivated a sense of trust among audiences in the region with films like Duniyadari and Timepass.

“Plus, in the case of Sairat, there was a lot of talk on what the big deal about this film was. That resulted in many people going for it despite not being able to connect with the language. Shows in multiplexes were increased even though pirated DVDs were available three days after release," he said.

At the same time, Keni added that regional cinema scoring on home ground is not an entirely new phenomenon. Sairat is merely the latest example of the recent entry of Marathi cinema into the big league with films like Duniyadari and Lai Bhaari. “Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam cinema have always held their own in the south. It’s just that Marathi films have come into their own now," Keni said.

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