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Are Indian filmmakers making genuine biopics or propaganda films?


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India is the world’s largest democracy and Indians love to talk and discuss about politics, sports and Entertainment. Bollywood has come a long way over the last two decades and it has become very diligent and professional. The filmmakers make films by doing extensive research and every move is scrutinized and analysed.

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Now, a new trend has emerged in Bollywood i.e. of making biopics on sportspersons, politicians, film stars and prominent personalities. We have seen ‘Bhaag Milkha Bhaag’, ‘Mary Kom, ‘MS Dhoni: The Untold Story’, ‘Sanju’, ‘Paan Singh Tomar’, ‘Dangal’ and many more. And now, we have biopics being made on Shiv Sena founder and supremo late Bal Thackeray and current PM Narendra Modi. Recently, we even saw the film ‘The Accidental Prime Minister’ being made on Manmohan Singh’s tenure as the Prime Minister of India.

But, truth to be told, are Hindi filmmakers making genuine and truthful biopics? Many biopics glorify and only show the positive side of the individual on whose life the film is based. Like in Rajkumar Hirani’s ‘Sanju’, the filmmaker totally whitewashed the history and sort of gave a clean chit to Sanjay Dutt. Because, according to Hirani, Sanjay Dutt didn’t commit any crime and all the mistakes were committed by him because he was a victim of circumstances.

The flimsiest and the lamest excuse given is that of creative liberty i.e. cinematic liberty. Behind this, the filmmakers take undue advantage and totally change the tone. The biopic which is coming on the life of Bal Thackeray is being produced by Shiv Sena Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut. Rest assured, no negative aspects of the late leader’s life will be shown.

We have another extreme in ‘The Accidental Prime Minister’, as we have Anupam Kher (staunch BJP supporter and right-wing activist) playing former PM Manmohan Singh. In the film, it is being shown that he was not his own man and the film is totally bashing Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. Even the trailer of the film was tweeted by the official account of Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) media cell. Anupam Kher‘s wife Kirron Kher is BJP’s Lok Sabha MP.

Would ‘Thackeray’ biopic deal with the subject of Bal Thackeray reportedly making provocative and inflammatory statements against the Muslim community?

Nawazuddin Siddiqui is portraying the role of Hindu Hridaysamrat Balasaheb Thackeray in the biopic ‘Thackeray’.

The great irony is that it has a Muslim actor in Nawazuddin Siddiqui playing the role of Balasaheb Thackeray. And amrita rao, a South Indian playing Thackeray’s wife Meena Tai. In the Marathi trailer of ‘Thackeray’, there is a dialogue ‘Uthao Lungi, Bajao Pungi’, which is clearly racist and targeting people from the South Indian community.

Making a biopic is no simple task and it requires years of research and investigation. And at least an attempt should be made to show all aspects of the individual’s life. Even sports biopics on the lives of Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Sachin Tendulkar (more of a docu-drama), Mohammad Azharuddin were nothing but propaganda films that glorified the subject.

Another hurdle for the filmmakers is that while making most biopics, they have to take consent from the individual and they are also promoting the film. It is a double edged sword and sometimes the filmmaker’s hands are tied.

India is the world’s fastest-growing economy and 65% of our population is under the age of 35. If India wants to compete at the world stage, then Indian directors have to be more daring and truthful while making films. There should not be a situation like in ‘Dangal’, where the protagonist (Aamir Khan) gets locked in the basement by the coach while the match is going on. It shows the coach in a very bad light. Such things cannot be used in the name of creative liberty.

The biopic is a terrific genre and it offers something new to the audience. Bollywood has to pull up its socks big time if it wants to do justice to this genre. Otherwise, the questions will keep on arising about the authenticity and intention behind making such films.

Also Read: ‘The Accidental Prime Minister’ Movie Review: Like a boring Civics lesson delivered by a half-asleep professor

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