Updated: January 3, 2022 8:19:07 pm
Arts and culture shape the way we think, imagine and create. So their coverage in the media becomes important to amplify the world of ideas and dialogue amid the swamp of popular entertainment.
Uday Bhatia of the Mint, the winner of the 2019 Ramnath Goenka Award in the Arts, Culture & Entertainment Category, did just that, questioning the depiction of historical figures in films and the need for mythologising them.
In his report, How Bollywood is rewriting history, Bhatia explores how the return of the historical epic to Hindi cinema had brought with it questions about accuracy and intent. At a time when Padmavaat, Kesari and Mannikarnika were courting controversies, and with Panipat and Tanaji set for release, Bhatia’s reportage looked at the ways in which history had been reimagined in films.
While watching Hindi historical films of the past five to six years, Bhatia observed a pattern of falsification and selective reading of history. “The ‘outsiders vs patriots’ narrative and this combustible mix of warmongering and religious iconography through historical events have been mirrored in Hindi films,” he says.
Getting the historical arguments right was one of the main challenges that Bhatia faced while writing his report. “I was trying to make arguments about the historical accuracy and the reading of real history while only having a layman’s knowledge on the subject. It was helpful to have experts like Rana Safvi, Katherine Schofield, Mannu Pillai and Rajesh Devraj weigh in,” he adds.
Bhatia hopes that his piece has created a certain level of awareness about the kind of stories that Hindi cinema is now telling and whose interest they serve. “Why are they telling the stories in a particular way? Who is being cast? Whose stories are being excluded? What communities are being featured and which people are being vilified? Though there hasn’t been a change in the kind of movies made, there are more questions being asked about films now as compared to a few years ago. I hope that after this article, and others like this, makers of these films are put through some sort of scrutiny,” he says.
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