Umesh Kulkarni on a Marathi mission

Debut director follows 'Valu, the Bull' with 'Vihir'

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DUBAI -- Building a global audience for films shot in Marathi, the language of India's Maharashtra State, is a personal mission for debut director Umesh Kulkarni, whose "Valu, the Bull" had its Middle East premiere Monday at the Dubai International Film Festival.

No songs, no dancing and no Hindi, the satire starring Atul Kulkarni (no relation), made on loans of $200,000, tells of villagers threatened by a wild bull who grow more interested in a film being made about the animal's capture than in the capture itself.

"Everybody wants to shut down a free spirit," the 32-year-old Umesh Kulkarni, who, three weeks after Maharashtra capital Mumbai was attacked by terrorists, is back at work on his next picture.

Produced for $250,000 in Marathi by producer Amitabh Bachchan's Bollywood giant, AB Corp, "Vihir" is 75% finished.  

Centered on two adolescent boys, the film is about the small topics of "freedom, the Indian philosophy of oneness and life and death," Umesh Kulkarni said with a smile. It's important to make movies about children and innocence, especially now, he said.

"Our basic instinct in India is to trust people, but the attacks have affected even that," Umesh Kulkarni said.

India produces about 85 Marathi films each year compared with the hundreds of Bollywood films made each year in Hindi.