Making A Difference In The World of Cinema


Depicting realistic stories around got him a National Award. Nagraj Manjule, a director hailing from the interiors of Maharashtra, from a small community called the Wadar in a small village Jeur in Solapur district, Manjule’s story of success is sudden but not surprising.

Manjule was completely new to the world of cinema when his first experimental movie ‘Pistulya’ received the National Award for Best Debut (Non-Feature) Film in its 58th edition; and it was the turning point in his cinematic career.

The Genesis of Marathi Cinema

After the father of Indian Cinema, Dadasaheb Phalke, a creative man from Maharashtra, made the first full-length feature film Raja Harishchandra that marked his debut as producer-director-screenwriter, Marathi cinema has seen many ups and downs since. Post the era of Bhalji Pendharkar, Dada Kondke, V Shantaram and their likes, Marathi cinema had lost its charm. The situation remained the same until a decade ago when ‘Shwas’ was released by debutant director Sandeep Sawant; following which, directors like Umesh Kulkarni, Mahesh Manjrekar, Mangesh Hadawle and Sujay Dahake came up with interesting Marathi cinematic interpretations on varied topics. And now, this year when India is celebrating its Hundred Years of Cinema, the world of Marathi cinema stands out proudly. It is this trend of valued Marathi cinema that Manjule is carrying forward and has bagged 20 related awards in addition to the National Award for his film Pistulya.

The Struggle before bagging the National Award

Manjule’s life has not been an easy walk. The Pistulya director struggled for basic education during his childhood; as the community he belonged to gave little importance to education. His struggle for education and hunger for quality education brought him to the New Arts College in Ahmednagar, where he pursued a course in media studies. Pistulya was his last year film project which won accolades in the state as well as at a national level. Even as Pistulya talks about the struggle that he faced in his life for education, it is still, according to Manjule, not his autobiography.

Synopsis of Pistulya

The protagonist in the movie hails from a community called Pardhi from a small village and dreams of receiving quality education, but fails to get it due to economic and social barriers.  Being from a denotified Pardhi community, the community also does not give ample of importance to education. The kid in the movie then joins a gang of thieves to accomplish his dream of pursuing education.

“When I was supposed to make a movie for my college project, I did not struggle to find a story. I always liked to depict the real picture based upon my life and so, decided to make the same a topic of my movie. I was unaware about different aspects of cinema before this one,” says Manjule. Now Manjule has started observing the realistic side of everything referred to him by his friends and tries to learn of the smallest nuances in the same.

‘Marathi Cinema aping Bollywood’

According to the National Award winner, Marathi cinema is busy aping Bollywood and this trend is what makes him unhappy. “There is a definite difference between the affluent class and the rural class in Marathi cinema. As most of the film-makers belong to affluent class in Marathi cinema world, their topics hover around city stories. I think film-makers from rural areas must come ahead and make films  on social and sensitive topics. There are stories in each and every corner and depicting them is my passion,” Manjule asserts.

Making “quality cinema” has always remained Manjule's passion and he has never thought about success. “When I made my first film, I never thought that I will ever get a National Award. I just did my work and success followed. Though the award came as a surprise, it was, all the same, motivating and helped me to believe in myself,” he adds.

Manjule's current projects
Now, Manjule is working on his next film Fandry. A simple romantic story, this movie talks about the shortcomings of a human and how can one overcome the same. Before making movies, he never thought that he would be a film-maker ever. During his college days in Pune he has worked a watchman, ironed clothes and struggled with all such jobs. It was only after he made his first movie as a project at the age of 33, did he realise that he can work in the cinematic world. Manjule has also launched a book of poems.

Manjule says he would like to continue to work on issues like tribal community or other social problems that he personally has undergone. He wishes to present a serious take on social issues in the society and wants to present what he see in the surroundings as it is.

"I don't know where I would be after 5-10 years, but surely know that I would continue making cinema. Be it in Marathi, Bollywood or even Hollywood. I want to do good work and come what may, I would love to do it," Manjule signs off.


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