Sunday, June 12, 2016

Lights out in Malegaon: What’s killing Mollywood? Written by Zeeshan Shaikh - The Indian Express

The Indian Express

Lights out in Malegaon: What’s killing Mollywood?

The once-thriving ‘Mollywood’ in this town, popularised by the documentary Supermen of Malegaon, hasn’t seen a release in two years. Its posterboy has called time on his celluloid dreams

Updated: Jun 12, 2016, 11:10

2008 Malegaon blast, Malegaon blast, 2008 blast case, 2008 blast, malegaon updates, malegaon case bail, Shakir nasir, Malegaon related story, Praveen Takkalki, Prasad Purohit, Sudhakar Chaturvedi, India newsNasir runs an eatery now and says is focused on his “akhirat (afterlife)”. (Express photo by-Zeeshan Sheikh)
“We are making films without equipment. We have no weapons but we’re fighting a war. And winning it,” says a character in the critically-acclaimed 2012 documentary Supermen of Malegaon, as he describes the then thriving low-budget film industry in the little town in Nashik district. Four years on, however, increasing social media entertainment and video piracy have pushed Mollywood, Malegaon’s own little Bollywood, to the brink of losing that war: there has not been a single release from its celluloid depots for the past two years.
For Shakir Nasir, the industry’s poster boy, the prolonged hiatus has meant curtains on his 15-year film career, and on that of many others like him in the powerloom town.
The 38-year-old changed professions early last year and now runs ‘Hotel Prince’, a bustling restaurant adjacent to the Malegaon bus stop. He spends his days checking on customers, instructing waiters, preparing bills and offering namaaz — a far cry from shooting sequences on a camcorder mounted on cycles and trucks, among other things. “The entertainment industry is a tough one. You need to completely transform yourself to be a part of it. I could not match up to the demands it was placing on me and so decided to quit,” smiles Nasir, sitting at the counter of his restaurant.
While he also blames increasing online entertainment options and video piracy for the losses faced by the industry, there is another factor that influenced his decision to quit. “I have transitioned from Mollywood to Maulviwood. Films gave me fame but they took me away from the purpose of my existence. Earlier I didn’t offer namaaz but now I get restless if I miss it… I am focusing on improving my akhirat (afterlife) now,” he says. “There was also some opposition to filmmaking from religious heads in the town,” he adds.
Before it hit the headlines for communal violence and blasts, Malegaon, about 250 km from Mumbai, had been churning out locally made films for years.
The town always had a healthy and vibrant cultural space, and the first low-cost indigenous film, Qatil Khazana, was shot in 1972. In recent times, men like Nasir kept the industry alive, releasing about a dozen-odd films a year, all shot with camcorders. The formula was simple: spoofs of mainstream Bollywood and Hollywood films on a shoe-string budget, with a rag-tag crew, actors from the town and scenes peppered with colloquial expressions. The result was films like Khandesh Ke Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, Koi Hil Gaya and Nasir’s 2011 hit Malegaon Ke Sholay, made on a budget of Rs 50,000, which grossed about Rs 2 lakh.
“I owned a small video parlour and learned about direction, camera and editing by watching films there. I was 20 when I directed my first film — a social thriller made in 1998 — but that didn’t work. So I decided to adapt commercially successful films to cater to local sensibilities,” recalls Nasir. He claims that some of his movies were even bought by Mumbai-based distributors, who would go on to sell their DVDs across India.
The industry began getting noticed when reporters converged on the town after the 2006 blasts. It really hit the big time after documentary filmmaker Faiza Ahmad Khan made Supermen of Malegaon, which chronicled Nasir working on his directorial venture, Yeh Hai Malegaon Ka Superman. The documentary went on to pick up laurels in film festivals from Rome to Durham and instantly shot Nasir to fame, even though Yeh Hai Malegaon Ka Superman remains unreleased.
“I got many awards and even landed a deal to direct a TV series, Malegaon ka Chintu. The show ran for three years and I even travelled abroad. But the good times have ended now,” Nasir says.
Malegaon still has close to 15 conventional theatres that screen Bollywood films, and 15 video parlours, where Mollywood films were the staple earlier. Even district headquarters Nashik, thrice the size of Malegaon, doesn’t have more theatres.
Then there are plays organised by the Malegaon Drama Art Culture Association. Its president Siraj Dular, a pioneer in the local filmmaking industry who was associated with Qatil Khazana, believes failure to reinvent was a major reason for Mollywood’s downfall. “With the limited resources, the boys did good work, they were technically sound. But artistically, they were not offering anything new to the audience. A certain degree of fatigue set in for viewers, which was never addressed,” Dular says.
“People like it when those on screen speak in their language. They lapped it up, the media lapped it up and we got famous. Come to think of it, we were given a status bigger than what we actually were,” observes Faroghue Jafri, who has written and directed over 15 Mollywood films.
He blames piracy and “jealousy on the part of city elders” for the industry’s collapse. “Piracy broke our back. Distributors who bought our films put the onus of checking piracy on us too. Imagine writing, directing, financing and then picking up fights on the streets to stop piracy,” Jafri says. “Then there were people in the village who just couldn’t handle our fame. There was an insidious campaign against us. There are at least four poets, two actors and one director under every roof in Malegaon, but the industry here is dying, ” he adds.
Disheartened by the turn of events, like Nasir, Jafri too has decided to switch professions. “ In 2010, I went to Mumbai to try my luck in Bollywood and made Rs 5,000 a month working for an Urdu newspaper. I couldn’t survive and decided to return to Malegaon. I am now completing the final draft of my Urdu novel,” he says.
Back at the restaurant, Nasir is busy tallying bills of the day. Between instructing the waiters, he says, “I think I got carried away with all the fame that came my way. I was happy then but I am happier now. There are no plans to make films anytime soon, but if I do, it will not be for commercial purposes. Everything is for Allah to decide now,” says Nasir.

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