Even though Bollywood is more widely known, what makes India's film industry unique is regional language films.
Regional film industry has over the years contributed quality content, and now they are also getting box office recognition. One such segment is the Gujarati film industry, which is slowly but steadily getting attention from the mainstream audience.
Take the example of Shu Thayu which is setting a new benchmark for Gujarati films. With 900 shows on 212 screens, the movie collected Rs 2.52 crore in two days of its release.
Another film that created ripples in the Gujarati film industry, Chal Man Jeetva Jaiye, which released towards the end of 2017, recounted the riveting saga of a business family. It was immensely successful at the box office and also received critical acclaim.
Over the last few years, the segment has been undergoing a transformation moving away from traditional/folklore/mythological settings and subjects, to the more modern ones, including those touching its vast NRI population. It is also performing well at the box office due to improvement in production quality and technology, upsurge in movie marketing and an increase in youth-centric movies.
The biggest Gujarati hit, Chhello Divas (The Last Day), released at the end of 2015 made about Rs 17 crore. The film was also remade in Hindi, titled Days of Tafree.
On the back of this strong growth, Anurag Kashyap’s production house, Phantom Films, decided to co-produce two Gujarati movies — Bey Yaar and Kewi Rite Jaish — providing a larger scale for Gujarati cinema.
However, the picture wasn’t always rosy for the segment. Unlike the last two-three years, Gujarati film industry was in a grim situation for around a decade due to traditional content. But now the segment is on a revival mode thanks to a spurt in urban-centric films with growing investment.
In 2015, the box office collection for Gujarati films was over Rs 55 crore, up from Rs 7 crore in 2014, according to a 2016 KPMG report.
On the back of this revival, producers are exploring new themes to cater to an audience that is getting more urbanised. Till the end of 2010, most Gujarati movies were primarily made around rural and social themes, wherein the lead actor was shown wearing a kediyu, a traditional dhoti and turban, and dancing to garbha songs. But the past few years can be termed as the 'new age' for Gujarati cinema, with new concepts, fresh faces and better techniques making inroads.
Gujarati films that have done well at the box office in the past few years, such as Chal Man Jeetva Jaiye, Gujjubhai The Great and Chhello Divas, among others, have broken the stereotypes associated with Gujarati cinema. Instead of portraying a family that stays in a village, these stories revolve around youngsters and families in an urban setup.
Other factors that are helping Gujarati film industry improve include the reach of multiplexes in smaller towns.
Also, as Gujarati films are doing good business, it is helping several regional films being considered for overseas and digital rights.Gujarat government, too, is lending a helping hand to the segment. The state announced ‘Quality-based Gujarat Film Encouragement Policy-2016’ under which it offers financial assistance of up to Rs 50 lakh to movie producers as per the film quality and cash rewards in the range of Rs 2-5 crore to films which win international awards.