The Marathi film industry started the same time as the Hindi film industry. In fact many Indian regional film industries started at the same time. The Marathi film industry competed with Hindi film industry to a large extent. Around the mid-90s, the Marathi film industry started churning out mindless stuff, mostly insane comedies. The audience started declining. At one time when having a Marathi movie poster shown predominantly in billboards, it was reduced to a mere 1 -2 release a year. The Marathi actors started working in Bollywood.
The government then introduced schemes and incentives for the film industry. Although still not producing that many movies, the Marathi movie industry has recovered a lot. A “Shwaas” even made it to the Oscar. A “Bhook” was a contender for Oscars this year. The movies were released in rest of Maharahstra instead of Mumbai where the crowd was metropolitan and more diverse. Marathi movies did get released but in multiplexes. Instead of competing with main stream bollywood drama, Marathi movies are achieving moderate to huge success in smaller interior towns then trying to compete with Bollywood movies in Metropolitian cities.
Now the question is, are the regional movies losing the battle with Bollywood. Hollywood is hardly any competition even though a large number of people do speak English, Bollywood is still hot in spite of all the problems it has. The Marathi film industry has stabilized a lot after the downfall in 90s. Although not the same as its pre-90s glory, it still has a firm hold. The south is doing well in terms of regional movies. Rajnikant commands the highest fee among all the actors in India. Tamil movies make big business and more than bollywood and Hollywood movies.
Malayalam cinema also is surviving and making quality movies. Though it did suffer in between, actors like Mammooty and Mohanlal are big names in Kerala. Bhojpuri movies are churning bollywood duplicates and making big money to become lucrative market for others to join in.
Then what happens to others. What about Gujrathi, Oriya, Bengali and even the once in a while kashmiri movies. Do they have a future? The regional movies are like the markets in smaller countries in Europe which produces 10-20 movies a year. They do find a market but do they have the strength to make an impact on the global market. To some extent, they do. Whatever be the language, quality would always be appreciated. The best arguments would be Korean and Chinese movie. Although chinese movies have a big market in China, korean are coming with more surprises. Many Korean movies are being adapted into Hollywood.
So why can’t Indian Regional movies foray into the International market? The most important reason would be of course money. When Shwaas was nominated for Oscars, the producers had to undergo a lot of hardship to promote the film in the Academy. They still fell short to match up to other competitors. Another important reason has to be the language. As there are many Hindi speaking audience or people who know Hindi, Bollywood will always find a audience. Regional film will suffer that handicap, always.
If it is a good film, audience will surely appreciate it but if the movie is in foreign language, then the subtitles have to be good. I found out in some Marathi movies that the subtitles tell a different story altogether. What the character say and what the subtitles covey is totally different. We have to promote movies in all languages to global audience rather than just Bollywood. Indian movies do not have a good reputation and the global audience always thinks it as being a song and dance routine. These are the comments I have heard from my Dutch colleagues.
When I look at Marathi movies, I find that the treatment and the stories are different. The same I find with Bengali and Malayalam cinema. Bollywood is not very keen on experiments nor is the bollywood audience keen to accept experiment movies. The regional movies meanwhile can find fine balance between creativity and commercialization and a better representative of Indian Cinema
After all, Bollywood is not Indian Cinema!