Cinematic representation in Marathi cinema


THE Maratha history started in the 17th century has a significant and pervasive presence in Maharashtra. The Maratha state was established at the end of the medieval era in western India in the 17th century by a charismatic leader, Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. His invocations in the legends and folk stories were not limited to his sole identification as a founder of the Maratha state in 1674. Instead, he is often remembered as a foremost torchbearer of a political order that laid the foundations of the mighty Maratha Empire. By the turn of the 18th century, the same Maratha power that succeeded Shivaji had politically established itself beyond the confines of western India and became a formidable challenger to the Mughal dominance in India.

With the arrival of colonialism, the fascination for historical accounts of Shivaji and the Maratha empire has only grown ostensibly. Modern scholarship used Maratha history as a vital trope to comprehend the past and foreground its distinct historical heritage in western India. Prachi Deshpande has rightly stated in her work that Maratha history is physically inscribed into modern cities and towns of Maharashtra. As a result, many schools, public parks, universities, and awards are named after historical figures associated with Maratha history. It has thus played a decisive role in shaping the region’s political and cultural identity during the colonial and postcolonial periods. This was also reflected in the new forms of entertainment platforms like cinema emerging prominently in the late colonial period. In the 20th century and later, cinema became the most articulate carrier of these ideas. 

With the advent of the talkies in the 1930s, the questions concerning the past received wider reception
from the masses. Many movies, particularly those made in the early phase of Marathi cinema, centred on the themes associated with historical and mythological characters. The introduction of a variety of these characters in the public sphere through cinema not only affected the content of the cinema but also played a crucial role in shaping the perception of the past, identity, and history. The early Marathi cinema, influenced by conservative nationalism and colonial scholarship, facilitated a particular historical vision to represent the past in the wider public sphere. This  significantly shaped the content of the cinema of the later years. Therefore, ideas invoking social order, social hierarchy, politics, and religion in the historical cinema led to a reinforcement of distinct narratives of the past and the present in the public sphere.

In this context, this paper will focus on investigating the nature of the representation of Maratha history in Marathi cinema since the early 1930s. Through this, it seeks to understand the relationship between cinematic representation and the politics of the time. The paper argues that the hyper-nationalist depiction of Maratha history also played an enabling role in stereotyping the minorities, and subsequently facilitating the incorporation of the conservative, upper caste-centric narratives into the social, intellectual, and political mainstream. Second, the paper also highlights the intimate association between cinematic narratives and discourses associated with mass mobilization and political power. 

For the last one hundred and fifty years, historical accounts of the Maratha empire have been consistently invoked in the more extensive discussions on memory, history, and politics. It has been a curious subject of inquiry across generations that evoked special admiration and adulation for the period that led to the establishment of the powerful empire in the 18th century. Consequently, during the colonial period, it was also able to attract the attention of different political/ideological camps that began to emerge, which included the nationalists, anti-caste radicals, and the proponents of Hindu nationalist movements.

Interestingly, each of these camps interpreted history differently. Despite the availability of diverse interpretations of medieval history, the makers of Marathi cinema, from the beginning, selectively invoked Chatrapati Shivaji as a social and religious conservative who upheld Brahmanical norms. On the other hand, the narratives of the Maratha struggle for power of the 17th and 18th centuries that became dominant in the post-independence era were mainly woven through a parochial and bigoted anti-Muslim framework.

Jotirao Phule was one of the first modern polemicists in the 19th century to invoke Maratha history in the public sphere from a non-Brahmin perspective. The distinct intellectual milieu associated with the 19th century pushed him to draw a unique interpretation of Shivaji and Marathi history beyond the conventional narratives of valour and courage often associated with its  account. Phule saw Shivaji as a Shudra ruler who regenerated a distinct sense of self-respect among the masses beyond the parochialism of caste and religion. He further constructed a ballad (powada) on Shivaji depicting him as a ruler who actively promoted social integration and harmony.

Phule depicted Shivaji as a progressive and just ruler who foregrounded an inimitable sense of political consciousness among the masses of the 17th century. According to Phule, Shivaji’s political initiatives eventually led to the mobilization of diverse elements of society into the sphere of the political. The consciousness instilled by Shivaji led to significant social and political churning in western India, thereby creating a narrative of social assertion and social justice.

Shivaji was therefore described by Phule as Kulvadibhushan, which was translated as the pride of the peasants and toiling masses. He used this exceptional epithet to foreground a unique account of Shivaji and the Maratha empire in the light of anti-Muslim, upper caste and conservative narratives emerging in the 19th century. Phule’s account was one of the first and most significant attempts to place Maratha history in the nascent non-Brahmin discourse of the 19th century. Compared to his upper caste contemporaries, Phule consistently attempted to construct an alternative history of subalternity by creatively interpreting signs and codes of the past. After Phule’s death, the anti-caste radicals, including Narayan Meghaji Lokhande, Vitthal Ramji Shinde, Chatrapati Shahu, B.R. Ambedkar, and Nana Patil employed somewhat similar interpretations of Maratha history in Maharashtra, thereby distancing them from dominant hyper-nationalist and Hindu conservative interpretations of history.1 

Since the 19th century, there have been concerted attempts to showcase Shivaji and Maratha history through the ideological framework of Hindu revivalism and cultural assertion. Such Hindu-centric historical narratives have played a significantly crucial role in boosting anti-Muslim and caste-conservative interpretations of Indian history. Interestingly, such blatantly awkward interpretations of the past received proactive political patronage and support from the dominant nationalist camps during the colonial period. It occupied a hegemonic space in the discussions on precolonial India that associated Indian civilization solely with Hindu religion and culture.

On the other hand, ever since the establishment of colonial rule in the 19th century, the Bombay presidency has been an important site of political and social activism. It provided a platform for diverse socio-political movements that eventually shaped the trajectory of the region and nation in the 20th century. Apart from producing an effective brand of vibrant nationalist politics, mainly endorsed by the Indian National Congress, the region was simultaneously a nucleus of progressive, conservative nationalist, and right wing brand of politics. Among those diverse voices, the non-Brahmin political movement played the most crucial role in decisively shaping the operational language of politics in the region.

The roots of non-Brahmin politics can be traced to the Satyashodhak Samaj, an organization founded by Jotirao Phule in 1873. The activism of the Samaj was not solely limited to intellectually voicing the grievances of the ‘non-Brahmin’ castes. It also made critical attempts to mobilize the masses and challenge the hegemony of upper caste dominated nationalism. Non-Brahmin politics emerged with an agenda that sought to challenge the political and social conservatism of nationalist politics. With the death of Tilak in 1920, the conservative nationalist camp lost its dominance within congress to the non-Brahmins.

Simultaneously, with the emergence of Gandhi on the political horizon, the non-Brahmin groups, particularly those associated with the Maratha caste, largely joined Congress. The Montague-Chelmsford reforms of 1919 encouraged Marathas, a caste that largely dominated the rural peasantry in the region to actively participate in the provincial power politics. It thus ensured the representation of the Maratha caste in politics beyond tokenism. By the 1930s, the Marathas were eventually successful in appropriating a dominant space in the regional political setup. Subsequently, with its large population, it was a matter of time before the Marathas became the ruling community of Maharashtra.

Interestingly, despite their joining hands with the Congress-led dominant nationalist camp, the Brahmin versus non-Brahmin debate remained intact in the public sphere. Politically speaking, it significantly affected the Brahmin claim over the regional political sphere. Thus, the domination of the Brahmins had considerably reduced after the decades of the 1930s. Yet, this did not guarantee the triumph of radical Satyashodhak standpoint of history over the evidently anti-Muslim and caste-conservative nationalist histories. In this complex socio-political scenario that unfolded in the aftermath of the 1930s, the dominant historical narrative of nationalism didn’t undergo a significant change. In fact, these narratives helped the Maratha caste gain substantial legitimacy as a politically dominant community. Most importantly, it also largely helped in refurbishing and popularizing anti-Muslim and conservative interpretations of the history of Marathas.

The historical accounts produced by the nationalists, particularly concerning medieval India had already foregrounded a narrative of Hindu victimization, Muslim antagonism and conservative Brahmanical idealism. Commentators, intellectuals, and activists of the Marathi public sphere in the late 19th and early 20th centuries participated in the discussion and propped up Muslims as ‘outsiders’ and the assailants of the great ‘Hindu’ nation.

With the ascension of non-Brahmins, in regional politics, things didn’t change substantially, as mentioned before. Therefore, the representation of pre-colonial history in Marathi cinema had many complex layers. It cannot be understood by simplistically separating the right versus the left spectrum of politics, Brahmin versus non-Brahmin, and nationalist versus colonial interpretations of history. Yet, the accounts associated with Shivaji and Maratha history recreated through Marathi cinema only ended up consolidating and reinforcing old narratives of Hindu anxiety. The cinema contributed immensely to instil ‘prejudiced’ and ‘hate’ narratives about Muslims in the post-colonial period, which was seldom challenged by the succeeding filmmakers in the 20th century.

Marathi cinema rose to prominence as an effective source of entertainment for the masses only in the 1950s. Since the late 1940s, Marathi cinema production has emerged slowly and steadily after the near financial collapse of the studios and production houses. The censor machinery introduced by colonial rule further tightened its control over cinema production and subsequently made it difficult to produce a financially viable cinema. Compared to the 1930s, Marathi cinema, from the late 1940s onwards, started catering to more popular and mainstream content.  Since the decades of the 1950s, along with hardcore nationalist historical narratives, a distinct type of cinematic content and storyline was provided a dominant space in Marathi cinema. For example, stories based on the righteousness and moral uprightness of the rural countryside were often contrasted with the growing decadence of morality in urban spaces like cities and towns.

The seemingly static and secluded world of the rural countryside (that largely adhered to hierarchical caste norms) was often used as an ideal trope by the makers of the cinema to showcase the glory and greatness of Indian culture vis-à-vis the unruliness of the cities (which were largely associated with violation of caste norms, vibrancy, and liberal environment). It is not as if these issues were not incorporated in the earlier period. What was conspicuous in the cinema after the 1950s was an evident absence of diversity in the content, particularly in dealing with the interpretation of the past.

In light of the complex interrelationship between colonialism, nationalism, caste, and capitalism, it is important to understand the trajectory of Marathi cinema and its portrayal of historical events and characters. The depiction of Maratha history, for instance, in Marathi cinema helps us to understand the implications, modulations and nuances of the historical interpretations in the cinema vis-a-vis the larger socio-political and historical backdrop of western India.

Since its inception, Marathi cinema invested resources in pushing the historical content associated with the precolonial past. The pioneers of cinema had realized the potential of historical, mythological, and religious content that would attract popular support for the newly arrived mass entertainment platform. One of the first historical dramas produced in India, Sinhgad (a silent movie based on the conquest of the Sinhagad fort by Shivaji), released in 1923, attained so much popularity that it propelled the colonial government to introduce an entertainment tax. The tax was to be levied on each ticket bought by the cinema viewers, and that share was appropriated by the government.

The historical accounts associated with the Marathas, therefore, helped in establishing cinema in the city of Bombay. The cinematic narratives based on historical accounts attracted people to the theatres, which produced a remarkable effect in popularizing the genre of historical war drama. Movies such as Sinhgad (a sound movie) in 1933, Sant Tukaram in 1936, Swarajya Seemevar in 1937, Netaji Palkar in 1939, and Baji Prabhu Deshpande in 1939 inaugurated an era that pushed people to engage with Maratha history differently. These movies reproduced military adventures of the medieval era on the newly arrived theatre screens of Bombay, which invited a new mode of mass engagement with history that invoked the past through imageries and theatrics.

However, compared to the Marathi historical cinema of the post-independence era, the movies produced in the 1930s were different from the subsequent period. Of course, the technology used in the post-1950s era was far more advanced than in the 1930s. But the decade of the 1930s was also different in terms of the content and storyline. Insofar as the content of the historical cinema was concerned, the 1930s produced different possibilities to engage with the past. It also reflected the socio-political churning that was unfolding in India at that point in time. Therefore, the cinema was relatively free from stagnant narratives that became dominant in the post-1950s era. For example, one of the most popular movies of the 1930s, Sinhgad (1933) did not explicitly invoke the same Brahmin-centric and anti-Muslim narratives of Maratha history as was common in the period after the late 1940s.

Further, the contribution of Brahmins associated with Shivaji and the formation of the Maratha state, such as Dadoji Kondadev and Samartha Ramdas, was not invoked in the same movie unnecessarily as compared to the movies produced after the late 1940s. Simultaneously, Shivaji was not referred to as a protector of cows and Brahmins. Compared to the pan-Indian apprehension against Muslims in the late colonial period, the anti-Muslim stance was interestingly kept to a minimum in the movie. There are different explanations to understand why the 1930s became distinctly different from the later decades. One possible explanation would be that it was the burgeoning phase of Marathi cinema, which made the cinema makers more conscious about how to tread the path cautiously.

On the other hand, if we go a little deeper into this enquiry, one can also possibly argue that it was a decade dominated by transformative political ideas that shaped Bombay and beyond. In this period, radical nationalist groups associated with the left wing of Congress became increasingly active in the Bombay Presidency. Also, in this decade, the non-Brahmin groups in western India led by the Marathas who had earlier established their politics by critiquing Brahmin hegemony, began to gradually proclaim their presence beyond the confines of parochial party politics. This was the nascent phase of the Maratha caste as the dominant political player in the changed colonial context. The 1930s also saw a refurbished focus on the caste question, particularly concerning untouchability. The leaders associated with this question, M.K. Gandhi and B.R. Ambedkar, consequently played a crucial role in altering the discussion on the past and present. It was evidently manifested in the movies such as Sant Tukaram (1936) and Netaji Palkar (1939).

The content and representation thus changed palpably after the decades of the 1930s. Since the late 19th century, the historical account of the Marathas was often invoked through the imageries of war and violence. Therefore, the warrior portrayal of Shivaji became synony-mous with this construction. The upper caste dominated Marathi intelligentsia of the late 19th and early 20th centuries amplified this narrative. The pioneers of the Marathi cinema were acutely aware of the importance of Maratha history to reach a wider audience. It tapped on the popular construction of Shivaji and Maratha history produced through historical novels, polemical tracts, monographs and festivals in the 19th and 20th centuries. In these writings, the Muslim adversaries of the Marathas were propped up as chief opponents of the Maratha’s quest for independence. Simultaneously, the role of the Brahmins in the creation of Maratha Swaraj was continuously invoked in the literature.

The Marathi cinema uncritically accepted such histories and tried to adhere to the dominant storyline articulated by the regional upper caste intelligentsia. The ascendance of this narrative became conspiciously prominent in the late 1940s. One of the first movies that unabashedly invoked these ideals that became a sort of a template in the Marathi cinema was Jay Bhavani, released in 1947. It was directed by Jaishankar Danve, with a story and screenplay written by a veteran filmmaker, Bhalji Pendharkar, who was widely known for his vocal support for RSS and Hindu Mahasabha.

Interestingly, this movie begins with a placard that states that the movie was dedicated to those who did not discriminate between useless nonviolence and mindless violence ¼vR;afrd vfgalk gh fujFkZd fgals brdhp R;kT; vkgs- vls eku.kkŒ; lokZl½- The statement was not only a critique of nonviolence (associated with Gandhian politics) but also a reiteration of an ideological stance (of glorifying violence) which was usually associated with the contemporary Hindu nationalist political discourse of the time.

The movie is also overwhelmed with references to Ramdas, a controversial Brahmin bhakti poet of the 17th century, who had argued about the necessity to establish a social order based on Brahmin supremacy. The arrival of Muslims thus was interpreted by him as a breakdown of social order which led to the decadence of Brahmins. Irrespective of what unfolded in the 17th century and how professional historians would interpret the period, the selective remarks about Ramdas in the movie thus suggest an orientation to a particular ideological stance of the filmmakers. Since the 19th century, the upper caste conservative intelligentsia consistently invoked Ramdas as a philoso-pher and poet associated with Hindu nationalism, caste superiority, and anti-Muslim politics.

The evident conflict between Brahmins and Marathas in the 19th and 20th centuries is also conspicuously revealed through such portraits.  Non-Brahmins, including the Marathas, are often projected as those who were less committed to fulfilling the responsibility to establish the Hindu state. On the other hand, Brahmins led by Ramdas and his sect were invoked with respect and admiration.

Since the release of Jay Bhavani, Marathi cinema began to actively use religion, caste, and politics to negotiate with the historical content. It was primarily done to denote Maratha history as a glorious episode of Hindu assertion on the cinematic screens. Thus, Dev, Desh and Dharm (translated as the divinity, nation/country, and religion/Hinduism) became monumental catchwords of the Marathi cinema through which this link was finally established after the 1940s. The newfound vocabulary used by the cinema in the late 1940s was  significantly different from the optimism articulated by the secular constitution that was being prepared then.

Yet, it is ironic that the genre of historical cinema, which was rooted in regressive/conservative war drama began to foreground solidly in Marathi cinema at the time of independence.  One of the possible reasons for the evident change in the cinematic stance can be attributed to the losing efficacy of non-Brahmin politics in the regional public sphere. With the advent of the 1940s, the Marathas, a dominant component in the non-Brahmin political camp, had already distanced themselves from the radical agenda of non-Brahminism and anti-caste politics. The Maratha leadership was successful in establishing the Marathas as a dominant ruling community in the region.

The establishment of the Maratha hegemony was completed by embracing Congress dominance and the hegemonic politics of nationalism. Therefore, questions concerning caste, social equality, critique of religious inequalities, and reframing of social structure did not find enough resonance in the political agenda of the dominant Maratha-centric regional leadership. The Maratha leadership associated with Congress instead largely tried to reconfigure itself with the social status quo and thereby ideologically attuned itself to the Brahmin-centric conservative caste discourse.

The new vocabulary of Marathi cinema in the 1940s also reflects how the compromise on the Maratha-Brahmin conflict was carried out between Marathas and Brahmins. It was primarily achieved through the demarcation of spheres assigned to each group, where the political sphere associated with electoral politics and mass mobilization was usurped by the Marathas. On the other hand, the cultural sphere that produced writers, editors and intellectuals and artists were left to the Brahmins.

Since the late 1940s, anti-Muslim and distinctly pro-Brahmin ideas were continuously applied in the cinema catering to the historical genre. In Chatrapati Shivaji, a movie produced in 1952, the character of Shivaji was portrayed as an immensely ritualistic and temple-going Hindu. On the other hand, the Muslims were represented, albeit very finely, as dark, dubious, and evil opponents of the Hindus. Interestingly, references to the destruction of temples by Muslims were often invoked to provoke the audience. Also, the stories associated with the oppression of Hindu women by Muslim men, that began to emerge glaringly in the early 20th century communal discourse, were ironically reinstated in Marathi cinema. It was used uncritically in Chatrapati Shivaji.

Many more historical movies produced in Marathi conveniently used the usual tropes to address the Hindu-Muslim conflict. For example, Muslim administrators were often portrayed as uncouth and immoral abductors of Hindu women. In Maratha Tituka Melvava, an iconic movie released in 1964, the protagonist highlights the plight of the Hindu women to provide a historical background of medieval Maharashtra before the ascendance of Shivaji. Women were shown as subjected
to human trafficking and sexual enslavement without any disclaimers. It was Raja Shivchatrapati, another movie released in 1974, that portrayed Muslims as perpetual harassers and sexual predators. This peculiar representation of history was the result of both polarized communal politics of the time and the hegemonic nationalist interpretation of Maratha history that became dominant in the late 19th century.

From the period between the 1940s and the 1990s, Shivaji was often projected as Go Brahman Pratipalak (protector of cows and Brahmins). For example, in a coronation ceremony of Shivaji, depicted in Raja Shivchatrapati (1974), he was ritually declared as Hindu Pat Patshah and Go-Brahman Pratipalak. The Brahmin-centric narrative around Shivaji and Maratha history is one of the common threads that connect a variety of narratives within Marathi cinema of this period. As mentioned earlier, Samarth Ramdas, a Bhakti poet of the 17th century emerged as a larger than life figure in these cinematic narratives. He was consistently shown as a chief proponent of the Maratha quest for swaraj.

Despite weak historical evidence to suggest Shivaji’s association with Ramdas, the movies indiscriminately portrayed the latter as a teacher and a close ally of Shivaji. On the other hand, Dadoji Konddev, another Brahmin associate of Shivaji and his father Shahaji, was portrayed as a central figure in the establishment of the Maratha Swarajya (independent Maratha state). Although caste was largely invisibilized, the Brahmins in such narratives became the ideological flagbearers of swaraj, and the Marathas became its executioners. The diversity within society was seldom invoked, and the storyline was largely confined to Brahmins and Marathas. Shivaji’s association with different social groups and communities that led to his ascendance as a charismatic leader was conveniently ignored in such narratives.

By the turn of the 1990s, movies based on historical accounts lost their position of prominence in Marathi cinema. It largely resulted in the ascendance of the comedy genre that had already established its strong foundations in the decade of the 1970s. In the succeeding decades of the 1980s and the 1990s, Marathi movies based on the comedy genre succeeded in pushing the historical genre to oblivion. Despite this evident collapse, the historical movies in the 1990s continued their assertive anti-Muslim rhetoric and caste-conservative storyline. However, after the 1990s, Marathi movies based on the historical genre were rarely produced. The larger socio-political shifts in the background were mainly responsible for the palpable changes taking place in cinema. The certainty of narrative associated with a Brahmin-centric articulation of the Maratha past began to receive an evident challenge in the decades after the 1990s.

On the other hand, the combustive mix of Mandal politics, economic liberalization and identity politics crucially shaped the terrain of post-1990s India. It was manifested in creating an assertive space for the upwardly mobile politicized class within backward communities. It consequently played a significant role in altering the public sphere and thereby engaging with diverse questions concerning caste, politics, and identity in a new manner. The Hindutva politics, which was re-established in the 1990s on evident anti-Muslim rhetoric, had to foreground its politics through a promise to include socially backward communities in the political mainstream.

Consequent to the socio-political churning of the 1990s, a new demand to incorporate diverse histories and representation in the political and cultural spheres reframed the discourse of identity and victimhood. The Marathi cinema reemerged in the new millennium with new questions and concerns vis-à-vis larger society. Against this backdrop, since the 2010s the production of the movies on Maratha history has begun, albeit very slowly but with a fresh approach. In the last few years, the content of historical drama has significantly transformed. Movies such as Farzand (2018), Hirkani (2019) and Fattehshikast (2019) reflect the change. For example, Hirkani (2018) is a story of a milkmaid who belonged to the Gawli caste. Accordingly, she was able to impress Shivaji through her courage and valour. As a result, Shivaji honoured her by renaming one of the fort towers after her name.

On the other hand, Farzand and Fattehshikast portray characters from different social groups to argue about the inclusivity of Shivaji’s Swarajya. Interestingly, we find almost no reference to Shivaji as Go-Brahmin Pratipalak. The narrative of the inherent superiority of Brahmins does not find a prominent place in the movie storyline. The churning of the 1990s also provided an opportunity to initiate a formidable critique against Brahmin-centric interpretations of the past. The emergence of different socio-political organizations including BAMCEF (Backward and Minority Communities Employee Federation), a former frontal organization of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) played a crucial role in the discourse on transformation in Maharashtra.

Simultaneously, newly emerged mass organizations such as the Sambhaji Brigade and the Maratha Seva Sangh also manifested the newfound critique of Brahmin-centric conservative nationalist histories within the Maratha community. This was substantially reflected in cinematic representation. 

On the other hand, in the last ten years, the anti-Muslim stance in Marathi cinema has witnessed a significant revival through subtle imageries and descriptions. With the rise of Hindutva politics, the discourse around Islam and Muslims has shifted to sharp attacks on the role of Muslims in the past. The perception of Muslims to be supposedly incompatible with the social and political spheres has not changed significantly even today. With the arrival of backward caste politics, the representational value of the backward and marginalized groups in the larger public sphere has significantly increased. It is primarily manifested by showcasing their capacity to disrupt the socio-political equilibrium (through nuisance or capacity to cause socio-political inconvenience). Therefore, the  representation of different marginalized groups in the last few years has significantly risen, which is not the case with Muslims.

The genre of historical cinema is not just limited to invoking different historical events in a chronological form, but it is also about engaging with the present. Therefore, the movies based on Shivaji and Maratha history, written since the early 20th century directs our attention to contemporary discussions on social structures and political power. The changing interpretations of the past in the cinema also reflect how cinema negotiates with the present. Second, in the last few years, the significance accorded to Brahmin characters (like Ramdas or Dadoji Konddev) has palpably dwindled in the cinematic narratives. It reflects the socio-political churning that inaugurated transformation in the 1990s. Therefore, the impact of identity politics and economic reforms significantly altered the ideological landscape of Marathi cinema.

Compared to the period between the decade of 1940s and the 1980s, the ideological, social, and material infrastructure of the present has undergone a significant change. The availability of technological resources and means of communication have created a fair environment for film-makers coming from different social backgrounds. This has remarkably shaped the narrative of historic genre in Marathi cinema. Yet, despite transformative changes introduced in the cinematic narrative, the imagery of the history of the Marathas being associated with religion, war and violence has not changed.


Prachi Deshpande, Creative Pasts: Historical Memory and Identity in Western India, 1700-1960. Columbia University Press, 2007.

Meera Kosambi, Gender, Culture, and Performance. Routledge, 2017.

Véronique Bénéï,  ‘Globalization’ and regional(ist) Cinema in Western India: Public Culture, Private Media, and the Reproduction of a Hindu National(ist) Hero, 1930s-2000s. South Asian Popular Culture, 2008.

Rosalind O’Hanlon, Caste, Conflict, and Ideology: Mahatma Jotirao Phule and Low Caste Protest in Nineteenth-Century Western India. Cambridge University Press, 2002.

Stewart Gordan, The Marathas 1600–1818. The New Cambridge History of India. Cambridge University Press, 1993.

Gail Omvedt, Cultural Revolt in a Colonial Society. Scientific Socialist Education Trust, 1976.