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New Delhi: A bunch of smaller, regional language films in Marathi, Punjabi and Bengali are doing well despite the Bollywood storm at the box office led by Gangubai Kathiawadi and The Kashmir Files over the past few months. 

Marathi films Pawankhind, Jhimma and Pandu and Punjabi film Aaja Mexico Challiye have benefited from pent-up demand among audiences who have stayed at home for long and the fact that multiplexes often plan region-wise showcasing to give them adequate space. Trade experts said people have discovered so much content during the lockdown that they now keep track of offerings in multiple languages and the word-of-mouth for them on social media.

For example, Pawankhind, a historical drama based on the life of Marathi warrior Baji Prabhu Deshpande, had made Rs. 12.17 crore in its first week in theatres in February, at a time when Maharashtra was still operating at 50% capacity. Aaja Mexico Challiye, starring popular Punjabi singer and actor Ammy Virk, on the other hand, had earned close to Rs. 4 crore over its opening weekend.

“Over the past few weeks, content in any language, be it Marathi, Hindi or English, has worked as long as it’s compelling," Pravin Chalikwar, director of Priti Cinemas in Parbani, Maharashtra said adding that it might be a better idea for film releases to be slightly spaced out though for each offering to manage higher collections. 

He further pointed out that nowadays regional movie audiences are also familiar with the work of directors and actors and Pawankind, especially benefited from director Digpal Lanjekar’s previous track record of delivering hits besides the fact that it is based on a real story, a trend that has caught the fancy of viewers over the past few years. Chalikwar split shows between Pawankhind and Bollywood offering Gangubai Kathiawadi that had released the same week.

Marathi film producer Akshay Bardapurkar said regional content has benefited post the pandemic from people wanting to step out of home and looking for fun experiences with the family, after remaining locked up for so long. “Besides, people have discovered and watched so much new content at home during the pandemic that their whole perspective has changed towards regional language films and shows. They keep track of whatever is being spoken about or trending on social media and the word-of-mouth around it," Bardapurkar said adding that in several places in Maharashtra, Marathi films are even doing better than Hindi titles. The only challenge, he pointed out is that often distributors of big Bollywood movies lock several shows and screens in advance, while regional films grow with positive feedback and see their shows gradually increase in number.

Film producer, trade and exhibition expert Girish Johar said small and regional films help build viewer habits where if they come for one film, they are likely to head back soon for others. “It’s like a cycle, and anyway these films are important for multiplexes because bigger projects are spaced out and only take up a few weeks every year. So they can’t afford to short change them," Johar said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lata Jha

Lata Jha covers media and entertainment for Mint. She focuses on the film, television, video and audio streaming businesses. She is a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism. She can be found at the movies, when not writing about them.
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