It’s raining biopics in Bollywood

But not all are successful. Film critics explain why some biopics click and some fail

April sees the release of two — Diljit Dosanjh reprising the life and times of Punjab’s legendary singer Amar Singh Chamkila in Imtiaz Ali’s Chamkila, and Ajay Devgn‘s biographical sports drama Maidaan, that retells the inspiring story of football coach Syed Abdul Rahim.

Filmmaker Imtiaz Ali is candid when he reveals, that he has portrayed the dramatic life of Amar Singh Chamkila, who was assassinated at age 27 in 1988, for what it is. “This has been constructed from facts and as a filmmaker, I promised myself that I will not manipulate things and come up with my scenes”.
Biopics have been a popular genre, giving the audience the ability to travel to a different space and time, and an opportunity to experience the life and times of famous and infamous personalities. Political figures, gangsters, movie stars, freedom fighters as well as citizens and activists, have been cinematically inspired and retold. There are critically acclaimed films such as Pan Singh Tomar, Sardar, Sardar Udham, and Neerja. The blockbusters were Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, Super 30, and Sanju.
There are also box office duds, the recent ones being the release of Pankaj Tripathi’s Main Atal Hoon, as well as Randeep Hooda’s Swatantra Veer Sawarkar. Both the films failed to draw in the audience, with actor Randeep Hooda even confessing to having sold his property to fund the film. These two join the long list of the subgenre of political biopics which failed to make a mark including Kangana Ranaut’s Thalavi on late Chief Minister JR Jayalalitha or Vivek Oberoi’s PM Narendra Modi.
An industry specialist remarks, “Unlike Hollywood which has had films such as JFK, Vice, Charlie Wilson’s War and the recent Oppenheimer, which portray the individuals with all their flaws, in Bollywood, we tend to anoint them with demi-god-like status. There is an inherent tendency to whitewash the truth. You want to humanise them, show them as perfect beings. Also, very often there is interference of the family and being slammed by legal suits and restraining orders, that make you play safe”.
A film critic remarks neither do these films make room for analysis, the representation of the leader is uncritical in the minds of the public at large. There is no room for debate, everyone treads a safe path”.
But, trade analyst Sumit Kadel, says there are also other factors at play. “The subject matters, as in the case of late PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee led a very simple life and was a non-controversial man. We all know his contributions and have seen him up close as well. As a political figure, his was not a flamboyant enough life to draw people to theatres. The story needs a hook to draw people in.”
Swatantra Veer Savarkar has grossed Rs 15 crore and it is estimated that its lifetime business will be Rs 25 crore. However, Sumit Kadel further adds apart from the subject, in a business driven by numbers, star power, marketing, production and promotions matter a lot. “A political biopic will only work if it’s headlined by a big star and backed by a prolific production house. Pankaj Tripathi is a brilliant actor but not mainstream enough and likewise Randeep Hooda. Also, what’s the content of the film, and its marketing is very crucial for it to translate as ticket sales.”

( Source : Deccan Chronicle )
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