The launch of Dangal’s poster in Mumbai on Monday was overshadowed by queries regarding the impending release of Sultan; the controversy over Salman Khan’s not-so-funny analogy over `rape’. Amid that some mediapersons were curious to know more about Mahavir Singh Phogat.
For the uninitiated, Phogat, who hails from Haryana’s Bhiwani village, enjoys the distinction of coaching multiple wrestling gold medalists, including his two daughters. And, Dangal is a biopic based on him. Answering these queries, director of Dangal, Nitesh Tiwary, said that the film has neither made any obvious attempt to “glorify” Phogat nor tried to gloss over the fact that in his pursuit to have a son he ended up having four daughters. At the same event, Aamir Khan — who essays the character based on this senior Olympic coach — said that as the date of releasing Dangal nears, Phogat would be roped in for its promotions.
Does this mean that the boundary between true stories and their cinematic reproduction is beginning to blur?
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- Did Dangal get its facts wrong? A fact check of Aamir Khan’s film
- Phogat sister on Dangal: It feels like a video of our life
- Aamir Khan plays wrestler Mahavir Singh Phogat in Dangal. Find out more about him
- Dangal trailer: Aamir Khan, Dangal doesn’t belong to you, it belongs to your daughters. Watch video
- On screen Geeta Phogat injured on Dangal sets
If that is the case, this is a phenomenon that needs to be greeted with a loud cheer. For one, this ensures that more real-life stories are brought to the mainstream through the medium that has the widest reach in India. It also means that the audience can have more faith in a story’s authenticity.
It is no secret that Bollywood often faces criticism for its content, rather the lack of of it. As a solution, exploring the reservoir of true tales has often been recommended. So far, the industry has not warmed up to the idea. This attitude could be changing. After Aamir Khan’s ambitious Dangal which releases on December 23, Shah Rukh Khan will be seen in Rahul Dholakia’s Raees, expected to release in January. Set in Gujarat, Raees is said to be loosely based on Abdul Latif’s life.
Two decades ago, Shekhar Kapur’s Bandit Queen, with its very gritty and raw treatment made filmmakers and audiences sit up and realise the power of a true story. Anurag Kashyap, who made Black Friday that follows the investigations into the 1993 Bombay blasts, has admitted to being struck by Bandit Queen.
Much time has lapsed between Black Friday and Hansal Mehta’s Aligarh, one of the recent movies to be based on a real incident that explores the loneliness and harassment a homosexual professor encounters. Yet, only a handful of films — such as Mani Ratnam’s Guru, Rajkumar Gupta’s No One Killed Jessica, Shoojit Sarkar’s Madras Cafe, Hansal Mehta’s Shahid, Raja Krishna Menon’s Airlift — have tried to recreate real characters and dramas on the big screen.
A personal favourite in this genre is Meghna Gulzar-directed Talvar, which released last year. This gut-wrenching drama, based on the 2008 double murder of Aarushi Talwar and Hemraj Banjade in Noida, shows how conflicting perspectives around the crime panned out as personal biases and ambitions impacted the investigations. Also, worth mentioning is Dholakia’s Parzania, a film inspired by the story of a 10-year-old boy who goes missing during the Gujarat riots.
While making sports movies, however, filmmakers seem to prefer to borrow from real-life. Cases in point: Chak De! India, Paan Singh Tomar, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, Mary Kom and Azhar. Most of them have also had a successful run at the box-office. Among the upcoming ones, are Burn to Run, based on child marathon-runner Budhia Singh, and MS Dhoni: The Untold Story.
Bollywood took a confident stride in this direction this February with Sonam Kapoor-starrer Neerja. The film in based on the hijacking of Pan Am 73 flight during which head flight attendant Neerja Bhanot showed extraordinary courage and was killed while trying to save passengers.
Kashyap gave real-life a twist in Raman Raghav 2.0, which released last month, reviving memories of a serial killer of the 1960s who spread panic in Bombay. After the setback of Bombay Velvet’s poor box-office collections, Kashyap did not want to risk a big-budget that’s required to create a period drama. Instead, Kashyap offered a contemporary take on the psyche of this killer and the horror he had triggered with Nawazuddin Siddiqui taking up the challenging role.
With some of the Bollywood A-listers raring to essay characters based on real people, it is about time Indian filmmakers explore more true stories and ditch the tried-and-tested formulae.