Shivaji’s heroism and Maharashtrian pride inspires families in Christchurch

The pride of Maharashtra (Photo by Preeti Gaikwad)

History was created on 12th March 2022 with ‘Pawankhind’ becoming the first Marathi movie to be screened in a cinema hall in Christchurch.

Many people from the Marathi-speaking community enjoyed the movie at the boutique cinema hall Silky Otter.

When the movie ended, Onkar spontaneously shouted, “Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Ki,”  with the audience responding with equal energy ‘Jai,’ Vishakha Tibe said.

“Onkar and I were thrilled to watch a Marathi movie in Christchurch. It made us feel at home those three hours. It was fun watching the movie with fellow Maharashtrians. We are always fascinated by Shivaji Maharaj and his life’s journey,” Vishakha said.

“We have grown up listening to stories of Chhatrapati Shivaji, his loyal and brave associates and learnt through History lessons in school. But watching it on a big screen was a thrilling experience. We hope that we will be successful in bringing such experiences more often and connect us to our roots and language. This will also help us to stay in touch with our culture,” Kaivalya and Samhita Canay said.

Shirish Paranjape

Inspiring leaders

“Marathi-speaking children like us were raised listening to the stories of brave freedom fighters from our grandparents. This battle of Pawankhind (July 13, 1660) was etched on the inward eye of my mind since childhood. To see this cinematic portrayal filled my eyes with tears and my heart with the Maratha pride. They fought for ‘Swarajya’ self-rule. They taught us the values of dedication, tenacity, bravery, fearlessness in the face of death and a mindset of self-respect and self-rule. All these values are very relevant even in the contemporary world and very important to pass on to the younger generations. As a Maratha-Kiwi, I am happy to be able to access and enjoy the culture and stories of my ancestors,” Surekha Korg said.

“‘Pawankhind’ is a thoroughly cinematic experience that is fully fit for big screens. Thank you to the “Christchurch Marathi Association” for providing us with an opportunity to see the movie and enjoy the ambience of theatre. Watching the siege of Panhala Fort by Siddi Jauhar stirred my childhood memories of visiting the place on school trips.”

Some of the guests at the theatre (Photo by Durgesh Kolhe)

Learning from history

“While watching the movie, I was translating the battles of Chhatrapati Shivaji’s escape plan. As I am from  Kolhapur, the movie took me back to my native town. I look forward to more shows and plays,” Prachi Dongare-Pawar said.

Jyoti Kawale said, “We loved the movie very much. I am happy that we could see our history in New Zealand. I felt as if I was in Maharashtra, with our people, watching history unfold. The cinema hall was very nice, and I would love to see more Marathi movies at this hall.”

However, it was not all smooth sailing.

Marathi movie ‘Jhimma’ was planned to be screened in Christchurch in December 2021.

But this did not happen due to a technicality – ‘Apli Manse,’ a Christchurch based not-for-profit group, although active on Facebook, could not qualify for Censor exemption, because it is not registered as a Charity.

Sudhir Joshi provided guidance, which led to the ‘Christchurch Marathi Group” registered as a Charitable Society. This paved the way for the screening of ‘Pawankhind’.

An emotional journey

Preeti Gaikwad said, “Watching Pawankhind was an emotional journey. I am away from India for 14 years now. Two to three years after I moved to Christchurch, I was missing everything about India. Back then, even Hindi movies were not playing in Christchurch. Auckland, on the other hand, was a different story. So I used to envy Aucklanders for having lots of Indian things like Indian movies, food shops, clothing stores etc. Then I started to accept the fact that this is how it is and not to moan about things. “After a few years, we started getting Hindi movies and a few regional movies like Punjabi, Telugu, Malayalam but not Marathi in Christchurch. Hence, watching ‘Pawankhind’ was an emotional experience.”

Impact on children

Vishaka said that her son Malhar loves history as the interest runs in the family.

After watching the movie, he wanted to go to India to meet Shivaji and his soldiers. He was disappointed to know that it was not possible!

“This is not just a movie, but a lesson in history which I want to pass on to my children. When my son watched it with me and liked the movie, I had a feeling of achievement – of having imparted our rich tradition, literature and art to the new generation,” Preeti Gaikwad said.

Everyone appreciated the organising team led by Dhaval Lamghare.

Shirish Paranjape is an Indian Newslink Correspondent based in Christchurch.

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