Mahesh Manjrekar's Crusade

You all know Mahesh Manjrekar as the director of such critically acclaimed films as Vaastav, Astitva and Viruddh, but the Bombay-born filmmaker wears many hats. He’s producer, actor, writer and even playback singer!  Now add to that – promoter of Marathi cinema!  He was in the United States recently to root for Marathi cinema, where he got his beginnings.

“Marathi films don’t have exposure here even though there’s a big population of Maharashtrians in America,” he says. “So I wanted to create an outlet over here, a scheme which would be good for audiences here as well as for the people who make movies.”

Manjrekar was in Edison, NJ, for the first ever Marathi Film Festival. Says Manjrekar, “We are not looking to make money out of it, but to create a little awareness. No one is taking initiative to bring these films here. I am a born Maharashtrian and I feel the state of Marathi films is going down.” Indeed, even in Maharashtra almost every one speaks Hindi, so Bollywood has made inroads into the audience for Marathi films.

The director plans to shoot a film in New Jersey and has only admiration for NRIs: “They are contributing to both countries and are still connected to the culture. These people have adapted, but they have not let go of where they came from. After so many years of being in America, they have not lost touch with their language. In fact we have lost touch living in Bombay! I’m amazed at the way people speak Marathi and the way they grasp the language. They are still doing Marathi and Hindi theater. I could live here for one year and still not feel homesick!”

Manjrekar fans have a treat coming up. The director, who’s known for his realistic films, is currently making a film about a struggler in the city of Bombay – and it has just one character, Manjrekar himself:  “It’s an experimental film. I’ve acted in it and directed it and written it. It’s a one-man show for one hour and 40 minutes. It goes all around Bombay and though its one character. I’m the only actor. I feel it’s two characters because the camera is a character too.”

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