In the saint films like Sant Tukaram (1936) and Sant Dyaneshwar (1940) there is an attempt towards regional-cultural negotiation of the biographical genre., Nnarratives one around the life of respective Saints are presented through its emphasis on devotional philosophy, which could be read as Non-Brahmin culture. Here we see, possibilities of challenging the caste and, gender hierarchies byand centralising folk performancetive forms like bhajans and kirtans, and significantly hymns, spoken words by these Saints which are commonly referred to as abhangas. Through these films, there is cultural negotiation which subtly points towardssuggests towards questions of caste, gender and performance formstivity in Prabhat (Ingle, 2017). Through the iconic image of Tukaram, the ‘regional’ Marathi cinema that then emerges then is a recasting of: –
Historical and popular presence of narrative biography of saints within the Marathi social sphere, performance of folk forms such as abhangas, which evokes secular, non-Brahmin Bhakti/devotional philosophy asserting regional Marathi cultural everydayness and the language of Bhakti, evoking the devotional register that is uniquely vernacular and regional which however is not exclusively territorial or governed by constraints of statist policies’ (Ingle, 2017, p. 46).
Thus, through films like Sant Tukaram (1936) and later Sant Dnyaneshwar (1940), Sant Sakhu (1941)) where the linguistic was relocated within the devotional philosophy underlining the secular and non-Brahmin tendencies, and narrative conflict assumed social and caste significance and the miraculous which manifests the divinity of the saint, is indicative of how cinematic institution was mobilised to address regional social spaces (Ingle, 2017, p. 46). This reading of the Prabhat’s saint films then feeds into my understanding of how the narrative tendencies and aesthetics of vernacular linguistic performance formstive, devotional philosophy and songs through which the question of caste and gender were being negotiated which were central toin engendering the public imagination of the modern Marathi cultural milieu. Prabhat Studio which was almost synonymous with Marathi cinema in the pre-Independence era, through its cinema including aesthetics, ideas, and politics attempted towards consolidateing a modern Marathi middle class and upper caste public.
Post-Studio Era – Shifting Discourses of Marathi ‘Gramin Chitrapat’ or ‘Rural’ Cinema
While in its early period Marathi films drew its audiences from the middle classes that were also frequent audiencewho also frequented to the Marathi theatre, after 1947 there was a shift in this audience which in turn led to the shift in the themes of the films which were aimed towards working class audiences., Tthus middle class was not the only audience for the Marathi cinema. The World War which impacted the regional film industries drastically, including Marathi film industry, due to cuts on imports of cinematographic film or the film stock and establishing a control system on it., Tthis led to providing to limited film stock which was given to the Hindi cinema emerging as a national cinema., Tthis ultimately marked an end of the Studio era in Marathi film industry. Thus, the post-studio era marked complete alteration of the economic conditions leading to change in the audience structure of the Marathi films which constituted of working class.
There were a growing number of industrial and migrant workers who were living in cities, small-towns with their roots still in villages. This change in the audiences led to the productioning of a new trend within Marathi film industry with the makingproduction of the films such as Jay Malhar (1947) and Lok Shahir Ram Joshi (1947) which could be considered within the ambit of what later in 1960s came to be known as ‘gramin chitrapat’ or rural cinema., Tthe rural thematic dealt with in a realist manner and, and the inclusion of theperformative ‘popular’ performance forms of Tamasha and Lavani pointed todeterministic of shifting social spaces as well as audiences. The revival of Marathi film industry was marked through the centralisation of the performancetive form of Tamasha which led to the rise of the sub-genre of Tamasha films. While Tamasha and Lavani were considered as being central to the culture of working class and lower caste, it did witnessed serious changes within its structure and form with the rise of the bourgeois theatre form and its concerns with middle class and upper caste morality leading to the marginalisation and displacement of the hereditary lower caste performers.
Marathi theatre was being re-framed on the lines of upper caste and middle class norms of respectability which claimed Tamasha and Lavani, twhichat was performed by sangeet bharees i.e. all lower caste women’s performing troupes, as being vulgar and immoral which legitimised the caste, gender, and class hierarchies within the Marathi public imagination (Rege, 2002). Hansa Wadkar, the Marathi actress in her autobiography You Ask, I Tell shares her thoughts on being offered the film Lok Shahir Ram Joshi (1947):
As I was leaving, Baburao (Painter) asked me. ‘If we produce a film on tamasha, will you act in it?’ I said ‘No, no. How will I be able to do that?’ As a child I had seen tamasha surreptitiously and knew what tamasha meant. I said, ‘I will not work in a tamasha’ (Wadkar, 2013, p. 48)