Bollywood filmmakers on history tour, revisit the bygone era

  • Prashant Singh, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Apr 24, 2014 14:59 IST

Last year, Vikramaditya Motwane transported Ranveer Singh and Sonakshi Sinha to the early ’50s for his critically-acclaimed film, Lootera. And he isn’t the only film-maker to take a trip to the past. Several films set in the bygone eras or using older references in modern-day cinema are set to hit the theatres in the coming months.

Why time travel?

To start with, Hrithik Roshan is set to star in Ashutosh Gowariker’s period epic, Mohenjo-Daro, while Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone will be seen playing lovers in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s historical, Bajirao Mastani. Similarly, Anurag Kashyap’s Bombay Velvet starring Ranbir Kapoor is set against the backdrop of Mumbai in the ’50s and ’60s. So what is making film-makers take the history route?

Read:Ram-leela couple is back: Deepika Padukone, Ranveer Singh in Bajirao Mastani

"If a film-maker’s story is set in a particular era, then there is no choice. As for the connect, viewers might love the setting, clothes and styling of a particular time period for the first 10 minutes, but after that the story has to take over," says film-maker Sanjay Gupta, whose next crime-thriller, Mumbai Saga is set in the 80s and 90s. "But it’s great fun to create a world that no longer exists and make today’s audiences experience a different setting," he adds.

Read:Lootera: a slow pace romantic saga worth watching, say critics

Past perfect?

"Irrespective of whether a film is a period drama or not, if the story holds the audience’s attention, it will do well. If the story is engaging and entertaining, then the genre, zone and time period are secondary," says exhibitor-distributor Akshaye Rathi.

Ayushmann Khurrana will be seen playing scientist Shivkar Bapuji Talpade, who is believed to have constructed and flown India’s first unmanned airplane in 1895. Sushant Singh Rajput will play popular detective Byomkesh Bakshi in Dibakar Banerjee’s film set in the Kolkata of 1940s. And just like Akshay Kumar’s Once Upon Ay Time In Mumbai Dobaara, which was set in the ’80s, Shah Rukh Khan’s upcoming period crime drama, Raees will also be set in the same era. Abhishek Kapoor, too, is set to direct a live-action version of the Mahabharata, which will be written by author Ashok Banker.

Read:Ayushmann Khuranna to do a biopic on scientist, also, are going all out to fit into the past. For instance, Sushant spent close to a month in Kolkata last September to get into the skin of Byomkesh. Ayushmann — who couldn’t get much information on Talpade online — had to build the character from scratch. So while shooting in Gondal in Gujarat, he would take bucket baths just to get a feel of the era.

Makers, however, are keen to make such films for contemporary audiences. "Despite having a dated look, my Byomkesh will be targeted at the contemporary Indian audience and Generation Next," says Dibakar. In the past, films like Jodhaa Akbar (2008) have connected well with the audience, so will all such ‘past’ experiments be successful too?

"Setting your film in the past doesn’t make any sense unless it is relevant to the story. Plus, it has to be made very well. Today’s audience want to see feel-good and light-hearted films. You can’t bore them just because you want to make a historical film," says trade analyst Vinod Mirani.

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