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Sunday, December 08, 2019

Bollywood and biopics: A bond that needs some severing

In 2019, we have been flooded with biopics, almost to the point of boredom. Manikarnika, The Accidental Prime Minister, Thackeray, PM Narendra Modi - the list is endless. And this is when we are only six months into the new year.

Written by Anvita Singh | New Delhi | Published: July 9, 2019 8:40:23 am
hrithik roshan Hrithik Roshan in a still from the upcoming biopic Super 30, which is based on mathematician Anand Kumar’s success story.

The entertainment industry is obsessed with biopics. In Bollywood alone, every year we have multiple films which are based on or inspired by a real-life personality. In 2019, we have been flooded with biopics, almost to the point of boredom. Manikarnika, The Accidental Prime Minister, Thackeray, PM Narendra Modi – the list is endless. And this is when we are only six months into the new year. Hrithik Roshan starrer Super 30, which is based on Patna-based mathematician Anand Kumar’s success story, is slated for a release on July 12.

Recently, the versatile Vicky Kaushal jumped onto the fast-moving train of biopics with Meghna Gulzar’s Sam Manekshaw biopic and the Shoojit Sircar film on revolutionary freedom fighter Sardar Udham Singh. Oh, and there are a couple of sports biopics in the pipeline (the Abhinav Bindra and Saina Nehwal biopics).

While some of these biopics are well-made and inspirational; more than half of these films are mediocre. The performances, the writing and the editing — all done with half a heart. You just have to look at the trailers of a couple of them to know what I mean. Both the movies made on the prime ministers of our country were outrageously bad. While PM Modi couldn’t find a moment of silence in the Vivek Oberoi starrer, Anupam Kher as Dr Manmohan Singh had no agency at all. Those were not movies. They were spoofs of the men.

So, when will the season of biopics end? One of the first biopics that was made in Bollywood was Raja Harishchandra. The 1913 film was directed and produced by the legendary Dadasaheb Phalke and was based on the tales of Raja Harishchandra recounted in the Hindu epics of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. So maybe, it didn’t fit entirely into the strict definition of biopics as we now know. As the years passed, we borrowed stories from the lives of those living around us and added a healthy dose of ‘cinematic liberty’ to the mix until it looked like a regular preachy but full-on masala movie. A bad, bad model. And a bad, bad practice which has worsened with time.

ranbir kapoor and dia mirza Ranbir Kapoor and Dia Mirza in the Sanjay Dutt biopic Sanju.

It looks like our makers can’t think of original ideas anymore. Every second film comes with a disclaimer of ‘Based on the life of..’. And it’s not like all of them do astounding business at the box office like a Sanju or Padmaavat. We have had a few flops in the form of PM Narendra Modi and The Accidental Prime Minister as well.

However, we need to take a hard look. Whether it’s just the makers who are to blame or the moviegoers? For instance, no one as much as blinks when a well-made and well-shot film like Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota or a Hamid comes and goes unannounced from the theaters. We cannot and should not just look at a few isolated cases of Andhadhun and Badhaai Ho and breathe a sigh of relief thinking ‘Oh, thank god, things are changing.’

I am no expert trade analyst or someone who can predict the future, but the only way forward is to balance. Balance the mediocre with the superlative. Balance the great influx of biopics with a ton of original, innovative ideas. Yes, it’s a film industry and we have to make money. But at what cost?

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