By Justin Rao Mumbai, Dec 26: While Bollywood continued to make splashes at the box office with its Khans and Kapoors, Marathi film industry rose to prominence and delivered yet again with its content and storytelling.
Some of the Marathi films which stood out this year were "Court", "Killa", "Katyar Kaljat Ghusali", "Highway", "Mumbai Pune Mumbai 2" and "Double Seat".
The most successful and critically acclaimed of the lot was the National award winning "Court". The courtroom-drama was director Chaitanya Tamhane's debut effort in examining the Indian legal system through the trail of an ageing folk singer.
Bagging the maximum number of national and international awards by an Indian film - so far 18 - "Court" was also India's selection to the 88th Academy Awards in the best foreign language film category. Coming close to the massive critical acclaim was debut director Avinash Arun's "Killa".
Continuing with the theme of adolescents in its cinema (many Marathi films are based on children, much like the Iranian films) "Killa" was a warm, mesmerising journey about a 11-year old boy who has a difficult time coping with the death of his father.
"Killa" bagged the National Award for best feature film in Marathi. Interestingly, Avinash was also the cinematographer of "Masaan", another film which did wonders at international film festivals, including winning two awards at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival.
While both "Court" and "Killa" were slightly on the artistic side, another debutante director, Subodh Bhave, gave perhaps one of the biggest blockbusters of Marathi cinema, "Katyar Kaljat Ghusali".
The Diwali-release, starred Sachin Pilgaonkar and marked the acting debut of popular musician Shankar Mahadevan. "Katyar Kaljat Ghusali", based on a 1967 play of the same name, enthralled the audience with the performance and music (by Shankar Ehsaan Loy).
In an interview with PTI, Sachin Pilgaonkar had said he was overjoyed with the phenomenal success of Marathi films, which was just the beginning of greater glory ahead.
"Marathi cinema is destined to go to the next level and achieve greater heights. It's about time for Marathi films to make a global mark. Not that it wasn't doing good earlier but right now it is in an excellent phase."
The film set the cash registers ringing, despite facing competition from a big budget Bollywood film "Prem Ratan Dhan Payo" starring Salman Khan and Sonam Kapoor. The musical-drama also faced competition from another Marathi film released on the same date- "Mumbai Pune Mumbai 2".
Sequel to the 2010 super-hit film, "Mumbai Pune Mumbai 2", made a place for itself despite a Bollywood blockbuster and popular Marathi drama. If "Katyar Kaljat Ghusali" marked Shankar's foray into acting, another film "Highway" saw the Marathi acting debut of Bollywood actress Huma Qureshi and Tisca Chopra and musical debut of composer Amit Trivedi.
"Highway" was one of the most talked about films this year owing to its original, out-of-the-box idea of an entire movie being set on the Pune-Mumbai expressway where the lives of the ensemble cast intersects when the traffic comes to a grinding halt.
"Highway" comes from the terrific director-writer combo of Umesh Kulkarni and Girish Kulkarni, who earlier gave critically acclaimed films like "Vihir" (produced by megastar Amitabh Bachchan) and "Deool".
Apart from these, Ravi Jadhav struck gold again with the highly popular sequel of his super hit "Timepass".
The 2015 romantic-comedy-drama "Timepass 2" not only earned rave reviews but also proved to be a success at the box office. Ankush Choudhary and Mukta Barve starrer "Double Seat" too met with both, box office and critical acclaim, with its story of a married couple trying to find their place in Mumbai.
Even the Marathi superhero film "Baji" found its audience. While 2015 was excellent for Marathi film industry, the coming year seems to be more promising with the release of Nana Patekar's "Natsamrat", directed by Mahesh Manjrekar, coming out on January 1, 2016.