New rage on celluloid
Making a biopic is the newest thing happening in Indian cinema. Almost every other Bollywood filmmaker appears to have embraced this fad. This is irrespective of whether the earlier ones have been box-office successes or not. What matters to their happening status is a biopic on a prominent personality. However, although this genre is somewhat new in the Indian context, making biopics has been in
Making a biopic is the newest thing happening in Indian cinema. Almost every other Bollywood filmmaker appears to have embraced this fad. This is irrespective of whether the earlier ones have been box-office successes or not. What matters to their happening status is a biopic on a prominent personality. However, although this genre is somewhat new in the Indian context, making biopics has been in vogue in Hollywood for long.
Of course, there is a major difference between the two. Bollywood has churned out movies that have invariably revolved around sports icons, barring Neerja. This is in contrast to scores of biographical movies dished out by Hollywood moguls, which are seemingly better portrayed and more classic than those produced in India.
Over there, films have been made on real-life happenings and celebrities of the extraordinary calibre of Stephen Hawking, Margaret Thatcher, Steve Jobs, Abraham Lincoln, Oskar Schindler and General Patton, each of which had a touch of class and was an unparalleled cinematic excellence.
In India, it was Bhaag Milkha Bhaag that retraced the life and times of the iconic Flying Sikh, which set the biopic ball rolling. Perhaps, the novelty factor and Farhan Akhtar’s portrayal brought in the crowds more than Milkha Singh’s achievements given that the young athletic lot would have known more about Usain Bolt than anything about the Indian athlete who came closest to winning an individual Olympic medal.
Unlike autobiographies that are directly from the horse’s mouth, cinematic presentations are laced with a feel of ethereal. The melodrama-inspired Indian producers and directors have actually destroyed the very fabric of a biopic, which calls for a no-holds-barred realistic take on the antagonist’s struggles and controversies.
Azhar became a topic of discussion because people were hopeful that they would get an inside view of Mohd Azharuddin and the match-fixing scandal that ended his career. The film, if anything, was a damp-squib. It was ditto with Mary Kom. Priyanka Chopra gave her best shot but was kayoed at the box-office. Even Dangal was not as big a hit as was expected from an Aamir Khan-starrer. It was perhaps, the biopic on Dhoni that was the best of the lot. A lot of expectation is presently revolving around Saina Nehwal.
There is no denying that one of the finest films made on sports personalities was Ali (2001) in which Will Smith lived the role of the charismatic and outspoken athlete of the century. Unlike Indian makers, the picture vividly captures the trauma that ‘The Greatest’ underwent after refusing to join the Vietnam War.
Perhaps, the finest in the genre was the 1980 blockbuster Raging Bull that dealt with the turbulence faced by champion boxer Jake LaMotta. Robert De Niro as the main character was a runaway favourite at that year’s Academy awards. One wonders why no Indian filmmaker is planning biopics on Lata Mangeshkar, Dilip Kumar or Amitabh Bachchan. Don’t be surprised if some street-smart maker thinks of a film on Narendra Modi, and one in which there would be no mention of the Godhra riots.