A real hero who strives to excel and create drama from real instances of his life – right in contrast to the film hero , who manages to do impossible things and create a space in your life. Hindi cinema no wonder has sporadically ventured into that space. Biopics celebrate real heroes and our reel heroes have only added to their repertoire by playing them. What is it about real life heroes that touches a chord in us? Now that we know that the life of the late legend Kishore Kumar will be in a film directed by Anurag Basu and the late Guru Dutt will also be enshrined in a film on his life. Till then, Hindi cinema has quite a few lined up and some already filmed and lauded.
Bhaag Milka Bhaag
Directed by: Rakeysh Om Prakash Mehra
Starring: Farhan Akhtar and Sonam
Based on the true life story of the Flying Sikh, the legendary sprinter Milkha Singh who was the first Indian to represent the country in the 1960 Olympics in Rome.
Farhan Akhtar with the help of his trainer Samir Jaura, who has been training Farhan since Rock On!! has trained him for his role of the sportsperson. Farhan’s dedication to the look has now made him a near replica of the legendary athlete, Milkha Singh. As Prasoon Joshi states Milkha’s moment of glory came at the Rome Olympics, where he came fourth and lost the bronze medal by a photo finish. And in Pakistan, he was named the Flying Sikh, by the then President General Ayub Khan. Joshi in an interview to Filmfare has stated that “Not much has been documented about him. So his memory has to be tapped frequently. Then, there might be things he would be sensitive about, which he might want deleted. You have to move around those issues and delicately sort them out.”
It was not easy for Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra to convince the 76-year-old athlete to give his consent for the film that dealt with the intricate aspects of his life. Narrates Rakeysh, “Prasoon Joshi (lyricist) and I made rounds of his house in Chandigarh for 16 months. Finally, his son Jeev Milkha Singh proved instrumental in persuading his father to give his consent. Reportedly, Milkha Singh had earlier received offers worth crores for a film based on his life. He was even offered a partnership. But as our talks progressed, he promised full co-operation and said he’d do the film just for a rupee.” Rakeysh, who has spent four years on the project, is impressed with the sportsman. “We have extensive recordings of a thousand hours with him. These are precious and far more informative than reading books on him. Ours is not an art film; it’s a commercial art project.”
Paan Singh Tomar
Directed by: Tigmanshu Dhulia
Starring: Irrfan Khan, Mahi Gill and Nawazuddin Siddiqui
Based on a true life story of India’s premiere steeplechase athlete Paan Singh Tomar was an army man who took to sports because sportsmen are fed better. Later, he became a dacoit because he belonged to the Chambal belt and resolving issues through guns is considered a mark of manhood.
According to Tigmanshu Dhulia, the film worked because people were tired of watching super cool people who live abroad, wear designer clothes and do not have real existential problems with life and this was quitessentially an Indian story. You can’t be bigger than James Cameron when it comes to commercial films. He started Avatar when he finally got the technology to tell that story… after more than 15 years of research. The film is the biggest grosser of all time and has revolutionised the way we tell stories. Our filmmakers sadly don’t have that faith in their products. They just want to have a quick fix solution to make money. Tigmanshu is currently fascinated by the life of Begum Samru and finds Rani suitable for the role. “She was a nautch girl who became the ruler of Sardhana, a principality near Meerut. She was a master of intrigue and like Rani of Jhansi led her army from the front. She won every battle and attained near mythical status. I’m researching her life and working on the script right now.”
As for Paan Singh Tomar, Sanjay Chouhan, the writer of the film
(who was once a journalist) had to conduct grass root research to build up his character who was killed in a police encounter in 1981. “ We traced his family. His son Sauram Singh is still alive. We also met thepolicemen who were involved in the encounter. Through them, we met other dacoits.” Sanjay continues, “In Chambal, there still are dynastic animosities. When we went to meet the dacoits, they thought we were from the rival groups. It took us a while to win their trust. We roamed around in the sensitive areas of Gwalior, Bhind and Morena as though it was Andheri in Mumbai.”
These days most films are written with foreign locales as the backdrop, while Sanjay’s stories are set in the villages of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. “The backdrop is dependent on the story itself. My stories generally involve the people residing in villages, who face severe problems in their daily lives.” He adds, “My next story, Hari Bhai Oscarwale (director Lovely Singh) is a story that needs to be shot in Los Angeles. It’s the story of a 55-year-old Gujarati involved in theatre. When Hari bhai was 15, he had done a bit part in the Oscar winning Gandhi. Now he wants to receive an Oscar as an actor. What happens when he reaches LA forms the story.”
Gaur Hari Dastan
Directed by: Ananth Mahadevan
Starring: Vinay Pathak and Konkona Sen Sharma in the lead
Gour Hari Dastaan is based on the life of a freedom fighter from Orissa now living in Maharashtra. The film narrates the story of a freedom fighter’s uphill struggle to seek his legitimate right to be recognised as a freedom fighter. The film starts in the ’70s and goes on to the year 2008 before flashbacking to the days of the struggle for India’ Independence. It is not a retro film; it is a today-film. Gaur.. is a metaphor and the film talks about this metaphor in today’s world
After winning the National Award two years ago year for the Marathi biopic Mee Sindhutai Sapkal, Ananth Mahadevan made Staying Alive, based on the late screen-writer Sujit Sen (of Saaransh, Arth fame)interaction with a gangster. Currently filming Gour Hari Dastaan he is attracted to biopics because they are a rarely visited space in Indian cinema. Besides, filmmakers take too many liberties to pander to popular tastes. “When I made Mee Sindhutai Sapkal, I was aware that a biopic on a living person was a challenging task. You can’t afford to distort facts or compromise. It certainly helped to make the film free of formula trappings. Gour Hari Dastaan, the Freedom File posed a similar challenge. After fighting for 4 years for the country’s freedom, he spent 30 years fighting for a freedom fighter’s certificate. It’s a metaphor for the crash of the system in India. More importantly, biopics offer situations more intriguing than fiction, because it all happened in real space and time. These are amazing lives and their stories need to be told.” He also tells us about Staying Alive based on the late Sujit Sen who gave us some of Indian cinema’s best known films – Saaransh and Arth. He was a heart patient and when he was admitted to hospital, he was in a bed next to a gangster and since they shared adjacent beds, they had long conversations. The film is based their conversations that eventually reformed the gangster.
Shootout at Wadala
Directed by: Sanjay Gupta
Starring : John Abraham, Anil Kapoor, Manoj Bajpayee and Kangna Ranaut
The film is a face-off between gangsters Dawood Ibrahim (Sonu Sood) and his brother Sabir Ibrahim (Manoj Bajpayee) and gangster Manya Surve (John Abraham) and Inspector Isaaque (Anil Kapoor). The film is based on a real incident of the 80s and chronicles the first ever encounter in Mumbai and
will bring back the edgy ’80s back
to the theatres.
“I was speaking to ACP Isaque Bhagwan who was recounting the last moments of Manya Surve when he was shot dead. He was shot at a distance of 10-12 minutes from the hospital and with all the bullets in his body he didn’t waste time abusing the cops, cursing the system and got really upset while speaking about the love of his life. It was a very emotional moment for me and Sanjay Gupta has captured the scene really well,” says John Abraham. A fact seconded by Anil Kapoor who played Isaque in the film and met the man himself. As for actor Manoj Bajpayee, he states that after GOW, Shootout At Wadala was his big film where I play Sabir, the elder brother of Dawood Ibrahim. “ I have adopted some characteristics from the original character but it has been written differently. My performance was not be all real because the character is a bit larger than life,”
Some more films based on true stories
No One Killed Jessica (2011)
Directed by: Rajkumar Gupta
Starring: Rani Mukerji and Vidya Balan
No One Killed Jessica was a film that hit the theatres right around the time when the controversial Jessica Lal murder case was making its rounds in Inida. The film is really about the media coverage in relation to the controversial murder of Jessica Lal. Starring Vidya Balan as Sabrina Lal (Jessica’s sister), and Rani Mukherji as a news reporter, the film tells more about the legal twists of the case rather than the incident of the murder.
Gandhi, My Father (2007)
Directed by: Feroz Abbas Khan
Starring: Akshaye Khanna and
Gandhi, My Father was Anil Kapoor’s third film as a producer and gives an account of the strained relationship between Mahatma Gandhi played by Darshan Jariwala, and his son Harilal Gandhi played by Akshaye Khanna. The film focused more on Harilal’s personal life and his continuous failure to achieve his dreams. The 2007 biopic is a winner of several National Film Award.
Chak De! India (2007)
Directed by: Shimit Amin
Starring: Sharhrukh Khan and a host of other actors
Chak De! India is a biographical film about hockey in India and is loosely based on Maharaj Krishan Kaushik’s stint with the Women’s hockey team of India that won the Commonwealth games trophy besides other championships. Tasting success at domestic Box Office as well as international market, Shahrukh Khan starrer Chak De! India is a touching film with its screenplay being carved out through interviews involving the current women’s field hockey team and coaches.
Directed by: Ashutosh Gowariker
Starring: Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan
Jodha Akbar went on to become one of 2008’s biggest successes. The epic film revolves around the marriage between Mughal emperor Akbar and Jodha the Rajput princess during the sixteenth century. Extensive research was undertaken to ensure that events in the film are accurately portrayed.