In the last few years, the Hindi entertainment industry is flourished biopics or films based on real-life incidents. They are not a new subject to be experimented upon, but recently, unsung heroes and sports personalities have found space on the big screen amid loud cheers and applause. Vicky Kaushal's National award-winning film, "Uri: The Surgical Strike", instilled a 'josh' among filmmakers which led to the celebration of personalities from all walks of life. It appears that lately, directors have been working to simulate reality through varying types of movies.
A few years back, what began as a mainstream experiment with films, like "Bhaag Milkha Bhaag", "Padman" or "Neerja", is finding increasing favour of filmmakers with more and more releases in the genre in 2021. This year we saw the life of an Indian spy unfolding on the screen with "Bell Bottom", we also became a part of J Jayalalithaa's journey in "Thalaivi" and likewise, we were there to see the ace badminton player Saina Nehwal being cheered in houses as Parineeti Chopra stepped into her shoes. However, the biopic that made the most noise this year was Sidharth Malhotra's "Shershaah". Released digitally, the OTT platform announced that the film that also stars Kiara Advani emerged as the most-watched film on Amazon Prime Video. For "Shershaah", the filmmakers fell back to old war clippings to discover an engaging slice of commoners' valour.
The common factor about these films is they are all stories seeped in everyday flavour, narrating inspiring stories of an ordinary man who triumph in extraordinary situations.
With the influx of more and more such films, it has become a trend to weave narratives about unusual events concerning regular people. Film historian SMM Ausaja considers it a "positive sign" for Bollywood. "Cinema and art should always reflect the society. It's a positive sign that more and more filmmakers are coming up with films based on reality. With the medium, like films and shows, new generation will get to know about the important events of the past," he told IANS.
These films are not just a celebration for the personalities that have been hiding in plain sight but lucrative and instant subjects to relate to for the audience and a moneybag for the filmmakers, at least that's what recent releases have shown us. Akshay Kumar's "Bell Bottom, which is said to be based on a true story minted Rs 50.58 crore at the box office at a time when occupancy in cinema halls was less than 50%.
When filmmaker Vikram Bhatt was asked about Bollywood and the trend, he said it is a result of mob behaviour. When a few biopics will fail to show results at the box office, the trend will die down.
"If a biopic works, people start making biopics. If comedy films work, then people start making comedy films and then if action films start working, they make action films. So it's a phase and we have to see till how long this phase lasts. If 3, 4 films will fail, then this phase will come to an end," Vikram told the media in 2019.
Bollywood's inclination for such real stories will be on display as we close this year. Ranveer Singh's much-anticipated film '83' will hit screens on December 24. Given the buzz around the sports biopic, it sure seems to join the leagues of films like "Bhaag Milkha Bhaag", "MS Dhoni The Untold Story" and "Mary Kom".
Well, the propensity will continue next year too. 2022 will see many films drawing inspiration from personalities who stood up to the possibility to do something that stands out, in a real-life situation.
Over the next months, Bollywood has several such stories lined up. There's "Sam Manekshaw", which will have actor Vicky Kaushal essaying the role of Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw in the biopic directed by Meghna Gulzar. We also have "Shabaash Mitthu" with Taapsee Pannu playing the lead role. She will be making the audience familiar with the life of Indian women cricket team skipper Mithali Raj. Sanjay Leela Bhansali will also be joining the list with "Gangubai Kathiawadi". With Alia Bhatt playing the titular character, the movie narrates the controversial life of an infamous brothel owner and matriarch who resided in Mumbai’s Kamathipura.
Ajay Devgn's "Maidaan," is another upcoming film in the genre. "Maidaan" chronicles the journey of the legendary footballer Syed Abdul Rahim, who was also the coach and manager of the Indian national football team from 1950 until his death in 1963.
Given the projects lined up, it appears while there is the right amalgam of history and drama, the lure for such tales will become much more substantial.