Celebrity life on celluloid

Filmmakers are increasingly exploring the possibility of presenting the larger-than-life persona of people who made it big by making their biopics, writes Mythreya Kodakandla

By Author  |  Published: 17th Feb 2019  12:55 amUpdated: 16th Feb 2019  11:16 pm
celluloid

It is 2019 and a modern way to gauge success is biopics. If a biopic is made on you, then, you ought to be successful in life. Now, biopics are everywhere – from freedom fighters to sports personalities to social workers, and film actors to politicians. The trend is in vogue with a good number of biopics already making it to theatres, and dozens of them lined up in the coming days.celluloid

The filmmakers are exploring every possible avenue to churn out biopics on the persons who made it big in their life and present their larger-than-life picture on the silver screen. Films on sports personalities was a trend a few years ago with the success of movies like Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, Paan Singh Tomar, Sachin – A Billion Dreams, Mary Kom, and M.S Dhoni: The Untold Story, to name a few.

The biopic fever is now spread to every walk of life. The latest addition is politicians – the life stories of the leaders who climbed the political ladder and rose in ranks to occupy the top posts have become a hot choice for biopic makers.

Sometimes, as many as two to three movies are being made on one leader. Two biopics on Prime Minister Narendra Modi – one starring Paresh Rawal and other starring Vivek Oberoi – were announced. Also, three movies on Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao were announced with the titles Udyama Simham, Telangana Devudu, and Gulaal.

While many of the movies focus on the total life story of the politicians, there are also movies made using one particular episode of the leader’s journey. The Accidental Prime Minister, made on the tenure of the former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh based on the book of the same name, Yatra which presented the ‘padayatra’ taken up by YS Rajashekara Reddy, former Chief Minister of erstwhile Andhra Pradesh, and the yet-to-be-released  Lakshmi’s NTR focus only on certain events.

These fall under a different category but go out with a name of biopic, “These days, what exactly is a biopic is not understandable,” observed Thammareddy Bharadwaja, a filmmaker and producer. He added that some biopics based on the film stars are just re-creating the scenes from popular movies of the actor.

Prof Sathya Prakash who teaches film studies at the University of Hyderabad, said, “Bollywood copied this trend from Hollywood and the political angle is only an extension of it.”

Also, the political biopics have an issue of ending up as propaganda films as there is a thin line between a biography and a hagiography. “The makers are only using the names of the celebrities and adding cinematic fiction to the story, the amount of fiction added varies from a movie to movie,” says Bharadwaja.

Movies such as Manjhi, Manto, PadMan, Super 30 and Mallesham, though not based on the life of celebrities but on the persons who excelled in their life and made a significant contribution to the society are another set of films under this category.

Prof Sathya Prakash observes, “Individuals who are willing and passionate can come out against all odds is the underlying message of all the biopics and this is a Hollywood tendency to give prominence to individuals.” He adds that though these movies make you feel good, they won’t address systemic issues.

Irrespective of whether the biopic is on a sportsperson or a film actor or a politician, it is always a tough row to hoe because they are perceived as real stories and the makers can’t twist the facts too much for cinematic needs. “No one is showing complete truth but the makers are using the popularity of the celebrities for biopics as there are good chances of guaranteed openings,” says Bharadwaja.

He adds that if the attempt is sincere, biopics are always difficult because it is not easy to recreate old getups, histrionics, etc. While Prof Sathya Prakash says, “Biopics are representation and they always have to refer back to the original referent,” he also adds that the audience constantly compare with ‘reality’ and it is not an easy job.

Keeping aside the timing of political biopics, are the audience getting attracted to real stories rather than fantasies remains a question. “It needs a deeper probe on why there is a sudden trend of biopics,” shares Prof Sathya Prakash.

Some upcoming biopics

Politics

  • PM Narendra Modi – This biopic on Narendra Modi starring Vivek Oberoi is releasing in many Indian languages. First look of the film is out.
  • Udyama Simham, Telangana Devudu, Gulaal – Three films announced on KCR are in various stages of production.
  • Chandrodayam – This is a biopic on Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu.
  • The Iron Lady – Biopic on Tamil Nadu former Chief Minister late Jayalalithaa.
  • Mahanayakudu – It presents the political life of the actor-turned-politician NT Rama Rao, the former Chief Minister of erstwhile Andhra Pradesh.
  • Lakshmi’s NTR – This Ramgopal Varma directorial is a take on NTR’s life after the entry of Lakshmi Parvathi.

Sports

  • ’83 – The film tells the story of India’s world cup winning story in 1983. Ranveer Singh is playing Kapil Dev.
  • Syed Abdul Rahim – A film on Syed Abdul Rahim, India team’s football coach, played by Ajay Devgn.
  • Pullela Gopichand – Sudheer Babu essays the role of Gopichand, India’s badminton star.
  • PV Sindhu – A film on India’s top badminton player PV Sindhu.
  • Saina Nehwal – Shraddha Kapoor plays the role of Saina Nehwal who is another top Indian badminton player.
  • Abhinav Bindra – Harshvardhan Kapoor essays the role of Olympic gold medallist Abhinav Bindra.
  • Sania Mirza – Bollywood filmmaker Ronnie Screwvala to make a film on ace Tennis player Sania Mirza.

Other fields

  • Mallesham – In this biopic, Priyadarshi essays the role of an innovative weaver Chintakindi Mallesham.
  • Super 30 – Hrithik Roshan stars in this biopic on a mathematician named Anand Kumar.
  • Rakesh Sharma – Shahrukh Khan plays Rakesh Sharma, an Indian astronaut.
  • Nambi Narayan – Madhavan essays the role of aerospace engineer and scientist Nambi Narayan.
  • Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy – Chiranjeevi plays Uyyalawada Narasimha Reddy who led a rebellion against the British in 1846.
  • Mogul – A biopic on T-Series founder Gulshan Kumar.
  • Ghantasala – A film on a noted singer Ghantasala Venkateshwara Rao.
  • Tanaji – A biography of Tanaji Malusare, a military leader in the Maratha Empire, starring Ajay Devgn.
  • Kesari – Akshay Kumar is playing the role of Havildar Ishar Singh in this film based on the Battle of Saragrahi.
  • Shakeela – In this biopic, Richa Chadda plays the role of actor Shakeela.
  • Thirunal Marthand Varma – Rana Daggubati stars in this film on the King of Travancore.