Biopics: Bollywood’s Latest Flavour This Season


MUMBAI: This season, the latest flavour in Bollywood seems to be the biopic, which has become as ubiquitous as the love stories of yore. Among the slew of films up for release this year and the next, there are quite a few biographies of celebrated personalities.


Up for release this week is the biopic of the ‘Flying Sikh’ aka Milkha Singh, in which Farhan Akhtar essays the role of the legendary sprinter. Farhan has reportedly undergone rigorous physical training to look the part of the super-fit runner, and has punished his body endlessly to achieve such results.

Priyanka Chopra has also stepped into the world of biography films, and is also reportedly undergoing gruelling sessions with trainers, to achieve the body and mindset of a boxer; for she will be portraying Olympic medallist Mary Kom’s life on celluloid in a biopic. Not just her physique, but even her facial features will reportedly be digitally and prosthetically altered to resemble the medal-holding Manipuri Mary Kom, to add authenticity.

In the same vein, yet another sporting personality is all set to be immortalised on screen. A Punjabi film about the life and times of wrestler-cum-Bollywood actor Dara Singh is on the cards, which will be followed by a Hindi version. A biography of veteran singer Kishore Kumar too has been on the cards, which will be directed by Anurag Basu and which will reportedly star Ranbir Kapoor in the lead.

In the recent past too, biopics have found favour in Bollywood, with films based on the lives of famous personalities being an irresistible draw for filmmakers. Everyone knows that ‘The Dirty Picture’ was a biopic on the life of South sensation Silk Smitha, while ‘Paan Singh Tomar’ was a sports film based on a real-life Indian soldier and athlete of the same name.

Not just a Bollywood phenomenon:

Bollywood’s foreign counterpart Hollywood too has been no stranger to the biographical film. In recent years itself, there have been numerous biopics, based on subjects ranging from King George VI (‘The King’s Speech’), to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg (‘The Social Network’). In 2012 alone, Hollywood churned out several biographical films, the most noteworthy among them being ‘Lincoln’ (based on Abraham Lincoln) and ‘The Iron Lady’, revolving around the life of Margaret Thatcher.

Upcoming eagerly awaited Hollywood biopics include a film about Apple founder and CEO Steve Jobs, titled ‘Jobs’, which sees Ashton Kutcher essaying the role of the tech moghul, and ‘Diana’, in which Naomi Watts plays the role of Britain’s Lady Diana.

What seems to be the lure of such films, especially those centered around the lives of sportspersons?

For one, these characters have led very interesting lives. Their courage, grit, determination and perseverance is something we ordinary folk can aspire to reach. Most have overcome seemingly insurmountable odds, to achieve the kind of success that they have, which in itself is a beautiful cinematic theme.

Secondly, these are filmable tales. Having already captured the imagination of millions of admirers the world over, such personalities’ lives translate well into screen, and touch a chord with audiences. Their stories resonate with us, and we are constantly intrigued and curious to know more about them; and film is the best medium to discover hidden aspects of our favourite celebrities’ lives.

An interesting anecdote about Milkha Singh has been portrayed on celluloid in ‘Bhaag Milkha Bhaag’ for instance. How many people would have known that Milkha Singh ran his first ever race for a glass of milk? Or that Mary Kom wept and cried outside the home of the Godfather of Boxers, Ibomcha Singh, because he rejected her for being too small and fragile? He eventually did take her on, because he was impressed by her perseverance. These and other facets are interesting tidbits about legendary heroes, which will become common knowledge once the films release, and which will serve to humanise these legends to us.

What will be most interesting to see, however, will be whether the filmmakers in question have been able to encapsulate the extraordinary lives of these colossal celebrities, and whether they have been able to compress their larger-than-life tales into a neat two-three hour film.