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‘Munjya’ Director Credits Success to Marathi Cultural Roots

In an era where cinema halls are grappling for audiences, Munjya, a horror comedy featuring the rising star Abhay Verma, directed by Marathi filmmaker Aditya Sarpotdar, has shattered expectations, crossing the Rs 100-crore mark at the box office earlier this week. This landmark achievement makes it only the third Bollywood film to reach this milestone in the current year, following in the footsteps of Fighter and Shaitaan.

Sarpotdar, who has previously helmed acclaimed Marathi films like Faster Fene (2017) and Zombivli (2022), attributes Munjya’s success to its deep roots in Maharashtrian folklore. He explains, “Munjya’s narrative dug deep into local Maharashtrian culture, giving the story and characters a unique flavor. When I visited theatres, the audience mentioned they were eager to watch something that deviated from conventional storytelling templates.”

The film reimagines the folklore of a Brahmin boy who, after his untimely death, turns into a mischievous spirit inhabiting a peepal tree. Sarpotdar’s decision to use this cultural narrative has set a new benchmark for what constitutes a box-office hit. “A Rs 100-crore film undoubtedly raises the bar. This milestone gives us the confidence to keep creating films where the story and plot are the real stars, where talent is favored over sheer star power, and where the emotional connection takes precedence over scale,” Sarpotdar shares. “Though I have made over eight feature films in Marathi, this success reaffirms my commitment to the storytelling approach I’ve always followed.”

The news of Munjya’s box office triumph has resonated across the Marathi film industry, leading to celebratory gatherings among his peers. For Sarpotdar, this victory goes beyond personal achievement. “In the Marathi film industry, we’ve always been supportive of one another. The journey to not only create larger-scale films in Hindi but also make a significant mark has been challenging. Therefore, the success of any of our films signals a collective victory for the Marathi filmmakers’ community. Bollywood is gradually opening its doors to regional talent as more people realize that audiences are inclined towards high-quality content above all else. Regional filmmakers have consistently placed content above star power,” he asserts.

The director confirmed that a sequel to Munjya is indeed on the horizon, leaving fans eagerly anticipating the continuation of the unique storyline. Before diving into the sequel, however, Sarpotdar is set to add yet another film to his portfolio—a romantic horror fantasy, tentatively titled Vampires of Vijay Nagar. Collaborating with producer Dinesh Vijan, this film will once again explore the horror comedy genre and feature the popular actor Ayushmann Khurrana.

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So, what makes a Rs 100-crore film in a year where many have failed to leave a mark at the box office? As Sarpotdar contemplates his film’s remarkable success, he emphasizes the importance of a compelling narrative grounded in cultural authenticity. “What worked is that Munjya’s narrative was rooted in local Maharashtrian folklore. The story and the character were unique. When I visited theatres, most people said they were waiting to watch a movie that did not follow the storytelling template.”

With Munjya, Aditya Sarpotdar has managed to achieve what few have. Revisiting the folklore of a Brahmin boy who, after his death, becomes a mischievous spirit residing on a peepal tree, he has created a compelling narrative that appeals to both the heart and the cultural heritage of Maharashtrian audiences. He adds, “A Rs 100-crore film certainly sets the bar high. This gives us confidence to continue making films where the story and plot are the stars, where talent is preferred over star value, and where the scale is secondary to the story’s emotional connect. I’ve made over eight feature films in Marathi. I want to follow the way I have been making films all along.”

In light of this tremendous accomplishment, Sarpotdar finds himself surrounded by congratulatory peers from the Marathi film industry. Viewing Munjya’s success as a collective win, he says, “As filmmakers from the Marathi film industry, we’ve always supported each other. We know how difficult it has been to not only make our movies on a bigger scale in Hindi but also to make a mark in this industry. So, the success of any of our movies is a collective success of the Marathi filmmakers’ community. Now, Bollywood is opening up to regional talent as we all are realizing that the audience prefers content over everything else. Regional filmmakers have always prioritized content over star power.”

Wrapping up our conversation, Sarpotdar also discloses future projects, starting with a romantic horror fantasy titled Vampires of Vijay Nagar. Partnering with producer Dinesh Vijan and featuring Ayushmann Khurrana, he plans to further contribute to the horror comedy universe, much to the anticipation of fans.

With these endeavors, Sarpotdar reinforces his belief that compelling stories and cultural authenticity are the keys to cinematic success, promising a future filled with innovative and engaging films.