Shobhaa De Vs. Shiv Sena Twitter Battle, And The Real Talk On Marathi Cinema

Posted on April 14, 2015 in Media, Society

By Sourabh Harihar:

The recent hullabaloo around Shobhaa De’s comments about the mandatory screening of Marathi films at prime-time in multiplexes across Maharashtra has drawn a barrage of reactions from all ends of the opinionated spectrum. However, in the noise surrounding her tweets and the Shiv Sena’s typically outrageous retaliation, the real debate on the fate of Marathi cinema seems to have lost direction.

In fact, her remark has brought to light the very irony of the situation – how many multiplex going, Marathi speaking people are willing to go watch a Marathi movie, especially when the theatres are now asked to have screenings during prime hours? However conducive the government policy, the movies are only going to do business if they get the desired audiences to the theatres. If the Sena really cared about Marathi movies, what they could have done is open newer avenues for the promotion of Marathi cinema, not just within Maharashtra but outside. But given the Sena’s reputation as an excessively jingoistic, provocative and controversy-loving outfit, the last thing they would want is a constructive discussion with the public about this issue. In fact, it is interesting to mention here that the provision for the mandatory time-slots in multiplexes was brought into policy by Mr Vinod Tawde (the education and culture minister of the state), who belongs to the BJP and not to the Sena. Therefore, the Sena outcry on Shobhaa De’s tweet could only be construed as reflecting how desperate the Sena is to gain political mileage, in a state where it is fast losing ground to the BJP.

De on her part is rightly being defended for her freedom to express her opinions. However, under the garb of free speech, one can’t ignore the fact that a well-known public figure such as her, who also incidentally calls herself a proud Maharashtrian, expressed such apathy towards the cause of Marathi films. While she may have taken a quick U-turn by apologising and feigning love for Marathi movies, the damage had been done by her first jibe. What is even more surprising is that this came at a time when the Marathi film industry has been churning out some of the best movies in its history. Only in the past 5 years, Marathi movies have won 5 Swarna Kamals at the National Film Awards (four in various Best Film categories and one for Best Direction). In such a backdrop, De’s tweet may not have been ill-intended but was arguably ill-placed. As for the Sena protests and the dispatch of the yummy-looking ‘dahi missal- vada pav’ parcel to her house, what was put forward as symbolism has ended up becoming a joke.

In this high-pitch drama around her adversaries, the assessment of the real impact of the policy has taken a backseat. This year’s national-award winning Marathi film Court, which has also garnered several international accolades, releases on the 17th of April. How many multiplexes manage to attract packed houses for the screenings of this much-acclaimed movie would be a real test of the mandatory-screening decree.

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