Connect with us
mamta k mamta k

Exclusive Premium Content

Bio-pic Boom In Bollywood Is It A Sign Of Creative Aridity?

Published

on

Last year when a movie producer Nikhil Dwivedi announced a bio-pic on the 1990s’ starlet Mamta Kulkarni,  there were titters wafting right down the corridors of tinsel town. Ms. Kulkarni is remembered more for her  cheesecake skin-revealing magazine covers and her marriage to an alleged drug dealer than for her work as an actress.

The announcement came just weeks before the release of a bio-pic on the mathematical genius Shakuntala Devi in which Vidya Balan (no stranger to bio-pics, she had played the controversial Tamil starlet Silk Smitha in  2011 in The Dirty Picture) plays the incredible “human computer”.

Advertisement

Immediate after Shakuntala another bio-pic Gunjan Saxena The Kargil Girl featuring Janhvi Kapoor as the real-life martyred air force pilot, also hit the OTT platform.

These are the latest in the long trail of bio-pics that Bollywood has been churning out with clockwork regularity. During the five-year period from 2015-20 we had biopics on sportspersons (Mary Kom, Dangal, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, M S Dhoni  The Untold Story, Soorma), politicians (The Accidental Prime Minister, PM Narendra  Modi, Thalaivii) terrorists  and gangsters (Omerta, Daddy, Gangubai Kathiawadi) and unsung heroes (Neerja, Manjhi). Earlier this year, a bio-pic Chhapaak on acid-attack survivor Laxmi Agarwal played effectively by Deepika Padukone, came and flopped.

Advertisement

Notoriety sells on celluloid, specially when giftwrapped in apparent truth, though the ‘truth’ according to a filmmaker may not match the truth of the biographical subject. When in 2018 director Raj Kumar Hirani (of Munna bhai fame) directed the blockbuster Sanju, a Sanjay Dutt bio-pic  featuring Ranbir Kapoor as the  notoriously rebellious terror-accused Dutt, the film was filled with embarrassing lies and half-truths (there was  not even a passing reference to Dutt’s first-born daughter just as the Dhoni pic completely ignored the cricketer’s brother just because they didn’t get along). Sanju was a resounding success one of the few bio-pics that have worked at the box-office.

Filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri who has made a successful film The Tashkent Files on the mysterious death of  the former Indian Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri, rues the selection of subjects for bio-pics. “Why Mamta Kulkarni when we should be making a film on the legendary actress Nargis Dutt, and why is there not one  decent biopic on Mrs. Indira Gandhi? Or A P J Kalam? Why have failed to make a film on Osho Rajneesh? Sure there was a bio-pic on M S  Dhoni. But it was no classic. Where is an Indian bio-pic on any great Indian leader like Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi? Why are we making mediocre bio-pics on mediocre subjects?”

Advertisement

Could bio-pics would be the easy way out for the creatively arid Bollywood?

Writer-director Apurva Asrani who has scripted the bio-pics Shahid (based on the former terrorist turned  defence-lawyer for terror accused Shahid Aamir) and Aligarh (about a homosexual professor in Aligarh University) feels bio-pics are not the last resort  of creative scoundrels. “This is the age of reality. The more authentic the story and its telling, the more it is loved. I don’t agree that biopics haven’t done well. Whether it’s our critically acclaimed films like Shahid or Aligarh or blockbusters like Dhoni and Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, biopics are more than just the flavor of the season. Even for an actor or a writer, it’s so exciting to delve into real life research material and give it our interpretation.”

Advertisement

Filmmaker Anubhav Sinha whose stunning Article 15 was based on a real political issue  feels making a bio-pics is not a creative compromise. “Who or what one chooses to  make a film on  are personal choices. I am sure the makers were really inspired by these personalities. Even a biopic writing must be very tough so no I won’t blame it on lack of creative ideas.”

Nila Madhab Pandya whose National award winning I Am Kalam was based on the ideas of former Indian  president A P J Kalam feels the audience wants to see real-life heroes. “I won’t say it’s lack of creative idea. It’s certainly fun to see real-life characters in cinema. Also somewhere I feel we we don’t have too many real-life heroes. So we feel the real life heroes of different time has so much of conflict and drama. And of course biopics have worked like Dhoni, Sanjay Dutt, etc.”

Advertisement

Telugu star Adivi Sesh who plays a real-life war hero Sandeep Unnikrishnan in his forthcoming film Major feels bio-pics are much more than a creative compromise. “Biopics like ALL stories IF done well, WILL work. The reason for their popularity is the success of a Dirty Picture  or a Sanju, rather than the lack of creativity. As someone starring in a film inspired by the life of Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan, I find the task of telling a story inspired by real life, to be even more challenging. You have lesser flexibility to tailor the story to your desire. Your responsibility to honor that persons life is greater. At the end of it all, you hope to make a worthy tribute to that life or event. I find it a beautiful trend and it enables previously forgotten or misunderstood life stories to be brought into the open.”

Ananth Mahadevan who has directed a number of bio-pics including Gour Hari Dastaan, Mee Sindhutai Sapkal and Dr. Rakhmabai feels biopics have a perennial shelf-life. “Biopics aren’t a new trend. There were more honest depictions in films like Dr Kotnis Ki Amar Kahani, Sardar, Gandhi and K G George’s Lekha’s Death An Untold Story on the underbelly of stardom.”

Advertisement

However Ananth feels the trend of bio-pics needs to be bridled. “Of late sportsmen, sanitary-pad innovators and even practicing actors have become topics of films subjected to the over-the-top Bollywood formula. There is a clever manipulation of sentiment in these films with either a curious or a gullible audience becoming suckers.”

Ananth feels making bio-pics is a moral and creative responsibility. “When I made biopics of so-called non-entities yet significant unsung heroes like Sindhutai Sapkal and Gour Hari Das, both living, and the legendary  but little-known Doctor Rakhmabai my biggest responsibility was to make sure that I was as authentic as possible and not merely glorify my subject but present them with their frailties . Biopics call for integrity of approach even as one dramatizes the events . But biopics today have become a fashion. A kind of toeing the mediocre line even as you make a pretentious plea for serious cinema.”

Advertisement

Amole Gupte who is  directed a  bio-pic on the life of badminton player Saina Nehwal feels bio-pics are the  order of the day. “Inspirational stories are required by society to wean it off greed. They serve as an antidote to  the I-me-myself syndrome. When I speak in favour of  bio-pics I mean bio-pics like Super 30 on mathematician Anand Kumar, Salute on astronaut Rakesh Sharma, Mary Kom, Soorma on hockey player Sandeep Singh and  my own  film on Saina Nehwal.”

Rakeysh Mehra who wants to make a bio-pic on Mother Teresa says the process of  making  celluloid versions of famous lives as a prevalent practice, would take time in this country. “Evolution of new ideas has its own curve. When a film like Milkha gets made and it gets acceptance on such a level, filmmakers and producers are bound think about a new genre being opened up.I think  the audience is very unfairly projected by the numbers game. It is insulting to presume audiences don’t want to think while watching a film. They’ve always accepted change, innovative ideas and experiment in cinema.”

Advertisement

Isn’t there a risk of sporty bio-pics turning into a saleable formula?

Rakeysh Mehra refuses to see the advancement in the evolution of bio-pics as a manipulative motion into money-making. “There is nothing like formula. There are just good and  bad films. How wonderful to have films on other sports heroes. The human angle must be explored. Somewhere Milkhaji’s story and its theme of suffering during the Partition connected with the entire global community. That’s why Carl Lewis reached out to Milkhaji after seeing  Bhaag  Milkha Bhaag. There are persecuted  minorities and ethnic communities all over the world.”

Advertisement

The amazingly talented Nawazuddin Siddiqui who played a peasant from Bihar who cut a road  through the mountains with his hands in Ketan Mehta’s Manjhi Mountain Man and the controversial Urdu litterateur Sadat Hassan Manto in Nandita Das’s Manto says, “To play a real-life character like Dashrath Manjhi or Manto is not easy. Unlike Milkha or Mary Kom whose triumphs are well documented in print and in pictures, an unsung hero like Manjhi has not left any documented legacy behind. I have to use all my powers as an actor get it right. At least for me bio-pics are not an easy route to success.”

Hansal Mehta says biopics are important relevant and indispensable. “It is heartening that many of them are being made in India. With the dwindling supply of modern Hindi literature, stories coming from true events or biographies is much better than drawing inspiration from DVDs. As a viewer I have always loved biopics as very often they deal with events and/or characters that are far more relatable and provide an auteur’s insight into lesser known details of the character/event. The danger of success in our industry is the ‘formulization’ of  genres and I hope this does not happen to biopics.”

Advertisement

Tigmanshu Dhulia director of acclaimed bio-pic Paan Singh Tomar feels it makes artistic and box-office sense to make a bio-pic. “You are artistically challenged because you have to be true to the character and to the period to which he belongs and cannot lean on fiction and fantasy. Box-office-wise, you already have a captive audience which wants to know about the life chosen for filming.”

Film Critic  Raja Sen feels  biopics have their utility for Bollywood. “Biopics allow an actor a vehicle in which to mimic a known personality. The makers attempt to cash in on instant credibility with audiences for telling a story of true achievement. Also,  producers may feel a good or popular life is writer-proof and doesn’t need a plot.”

Advertisement
Continue Reading
Advertisement
Comments

Exclusive Premium Content

Jamuna Had A Love-Hate Relationship With  Bollywood

Published

on

Jamuna

Veteran  Telugu  actress  Jamuna who passed away on Friday, shared an uneasy relationship with  the Hindi film industry.She did eleven Hindi films including the iconic Milan in  1967 where Jamuna  agreed to play the  second lead, or the  supporting role if you will, to Nutan.

 Jamuna as Gauri was the Other Woman who craved for the hero Sunil Dutt’s attention whereas  he had  eyes and devotion  only for Nutan. In later  years  Aruna Irani played a similar  role in  Caravan.

Advertisement

 In Milan Jamuna  was not keen to  do a supporting role. Producer L V Prasad tempted her with three chartbusting songs. Besides, Jamuna had played the same role in Mooga Manasulu, the  Telugu original  of  Milan. But it  was the songs composed by Laxmikant-Pyarelal  which convinced  Jamuna to  take up the second lead in Milan.

 While  Nutan had no solo songs  in Milan, she did have the chartbuster duet  Sawan  ka mahina . Jamuna on the  other hand,  had two  splendid Lata Mangeshkar solos: Tohey saawariya naahin khabariya  and   the magnificent Ghazal Aaj dil pe koi  zor chalta nahin.Not only  these, Jamuna  also had a  hit duet  with Mukesh  based on her character  Gauri:  Bol Gauri  bol tera kaun piya.

Advertisement

But  then, fate  intervened. After the film released  one of Jamuna’s solos, the poignant and memorable  Aaj dil pe koi zor chalta nahin was  snipped  out of the film.

Here is what  happened:  the  Ghazal , one of Lataji’s all-time greats, was very much a part of Milan when  it released on 17 March 1967. But then  it was seen to hamper the  flow of the  film and  edited  out. The  beautiful song occurred right after intermission. Producer  Prasad, a shrewd  filmmaker, got to know that audiences prolonged their  loo breaks as there was  a song after the break. Hence the sacrifice  of  a seriously  sonorous melody.

Advertisement

Jamuna hardly did  Hindi films after Milan. Her last  Bollywood appearance  was in  Raj Kumar  Kohli’s Raj Tilak  where she  was lost in a multistarrer as  the royal  queen.

Advertisement
Continue Reading

Exclusive Premium Content

Karan Johar Moves Alia Song From Switzerland To Kashmir

Published

on

Rocky Aur Rani  Ki Prem Kahaani

The  romantic duet in  Karan Johar’s Rocky Aur Rani  Ki Prem Kahaani  which was to be  shot in Switzerland and which was  delayed  due to the film’s leading lady Alia Bhatt’s motherhood, is now being relocated to  Kashmir.

Purely out of  the  love for  new mom Alia.

Advertisement

Says a source in the know, “Karan loves Alia  like his own daughter. He would do anything for her. He postponed  the  release of Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahani as the love duet could not be shot before Alia’s maternity leave. Karan had decided to shoot the song in Switzerland  after Alia’s maternity love. But now he has relocated the song to Kashmir  as Alia doesn’t want to leave her  baby girl behind for  long stretches.”

And as Karan Johar argued, snow is  snow. How does it matter whether it is  Switzerland or Kashmir?

Advertisement

This  song would be Karan Johar’s tribute to  his  idol Yash Chopra. Alia would be dressed in chiffon sarees while  Ranveer, for  a change, would be seen in  formals.

Advertisement
Continue Reading

Exclusive Premium Content

Bobby Deol’s Switchover To Villainous Roles

Published

on

Bobby Deol

After  Prakash Jha’s webseries Ashram where Bobby  played a sleazy  godman, and Love Hostel  where  he was a ruthless assassin,   he is playing the villain to Ranbir Kapoor in  Sandeep Vanga’s  Animal.

Bobby says it is not conscious career decision to play negative characters  but a conscious  decision to play interesting characters. “ I don’t look at  characters as positive or negative.When I watch  films there is always  one character  that stays  with you. I want to play that  character.”

Advertisement

Prakash Jha’s Ashram proved a gamechanger for Bobby.  He admits finding  challenging roles is tough.  “I am trying. I  am doing Sandeep Vanga’s Animal with Ranbir  Kapoor , Parineeti Chopra. Then I am doing the family film Apne  2 which I am  very excited  about.”

 In an  earlier  interview with  this writer Bobby spoke  about his   long absence  from screen  before Prakash Jha’s Ashram.  “My fans   would ask why I wasn’t being seen on the screen.And I couldn’t tell them it was  because  I wasn’t getting good roles. But my fans  stood by me. They gave me  the strength  to  keep looking for the right roles. Thankfully I found the roles I liked. My new  films have given  me  some new fans. I am  thankful  I am still here. Yeah , I am in a good space right now.”

Advertisement
Continue Reading

Exclusive Premium Content

Pathaan Collects 55 crore nett in India On Day 1

Published

on

Pathaan

YRF’s Pathaan has apparently wiped out all previous records as it collected 55 crore nett in India and recorded the biggest ever Day 1 for a Hindi film. The total collections of Pathaan on Day One is 57 crore nett (Hindi – 55 crore and dubbed versions 2 crore).

It is the widest Hindi release of  all  time in India and also the highest grossing 1st Day for a   Hindi film.It is  also the  highest grosser  on the  first first for a  non-holiday release. Pathhan is  also the highest  opener for Shah Rukh Khan.

Advertisement

Akshaye Widhani, CEO of Yash Raj Films, says, “It is a historic day for Indian cinema and we are humbled to see the love and appreciation that is flowing for Pathaan globally. For Pathaan to shatter records in this fashion on a non holiday, just proves that the theatrical business is here to stay, provided we make films that entice people to come to the cinemas to witness a never seen before experience that entertains them thoroughly.“

He adds, “We, at YRF, are thrilled with the start that the film has got across India and we are hopeful that Pathaan brings joy to cine-goers globally in the days to come! Pathaan is the fourth film of our YRF Spy Universe and we are thrilled that we have been able to elevate the cinematic experience of audiences with each film from this franchise. We humbly share this moment with all the stake-holders of the film who have given their blood, sweat and tears to give people a movie-going experience like never before.”

Advertisement
Continue Reading

Most Popular