Ask director Prawaal Raman about the spate of Bollywood films that revolve around real-life criminals, and he says, "Good doesn’t sell as much as evil does." His Randeep Hooda-starrer, Main Aur Charles, is a biopic on the life of serial killer Charles Sobhraj.
Almost a dozen other films in the same genre are in various stages of production. Manish Gupta’s Rahasya, starring Kay Kay Menon and Tisca Chopra, is believed to be inspired by the infamous Aarushi Talwar murder case. But Gupta says his story is "fictional, which I have treated more like a thriller".
Apparently, Meghna Gulzar’s Nyodda is also a fictional dramatisation of the same high-profile case, which is yet to be fully resolved. Starring Irrfan Khan, Tabu and Konkona Sen Sharma, it is written and co-produced by Vishal Bhardwaj. "I wrote it especially for Meghna. Although I haven’t been on the sets, [I know] she has done a great job," he told HT Café last October, while adding, "We just saw the first cut a few days back, and the material she has come up with is gripping. Irrfan (Khan; actor) is going crazy over her work."
Meanwhile, Mallika Sherawat’s Dirty Politics has been making news for its alleged inspiration — Bhanwari Devi. However, director KC Bokadia has denied any similarity between his story and the mysterious 2011 killing of Bhanwari Devi, the nurse and midwife in Rajasthan.
There’s also Kabir Khan’s Phantom, with Saif Ali Khan, which is set in the aftermath of the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai and global terrorism, and Dibakar Banerjee’s Detective Byomkesh Bakshy, set against the backdrop of Japanese bombers attacking Kolkata in 1942.
Varun Dhawan-Nawazuddin Siddiqui-starrer Badlapur is apparently based on a real-life incident from nearly 25 years ago, which had a devastating effect on a family.
Raman cites the use of real-life criminals to promote a film as a marketing ploy. "If I say that my story is about two police officers on the trail of Sobhraj, it won’t ring as many bells as saying it’s a Charles Sobhraj film. So, more than a creative call, it’s a gimmick to attract attention."
Reportedly, Soni Razdan is set to return to direction with Love Affair, supposedly inspired by the Nanavati murder case of 1959. The film is likely to star Arjun Rampal.
The actor will also be seen as gangster-turned-politician Arun Gawli in a film, titled Daddy. Meanwhile, John Abraham is reportedly set to portray a gangster, who operated in Mumbai in the ’80s-’90s, in Sanjay Gupta’s Mumbai Saga, and Nikhil Dwivedi will play gangster Abu Salem in a biopic directed by Navdeep Singh.
In addition, Shah Rukh Khan’s character in Rahul Dholakia’s Raees is reportedly modelled on real-life don Abdul Latif from Gujarat, in the ’80s. Also, Meeruthiya Gangsters, written and directed by Zeishan Quadri is apparently based on real-life incidents. There’s also Sanjay Chhel’s Kill The Rapist? (the trailer of which was released on December 16, 2013 to coincide with the anniversary of the brutal 2012 Delhi gang- rape), which is apparently about a young woman facing sexual harassment from a man who is obsessed with her.
"Right from the ’40s, crime and mystery have intrigued film-makers as well as audiences world-over. As for real-life inspirations, it’s happening frequently because today’s directors and writers are more aware of such criminals and their high-profile cases. Having said that, I strong feel that the storyline should be well- balanced," says film-maker Raj Kumar Gupta, who helmed No One Killed Jessica (2011), starring Rani Mukerji and Vidya Balan, revolving around the Jessica Lal murder case.
Trade analyst Amod Mehra offers a completely different perspective, pointing out the drawbacks of these films. He says, "Look closely and you will find that almost all such films have been desperate attempts by film-makers to make a film with readymade publicity and marketing. You don’t have to publicise such movies.” - Prashant Singh
In the past
No One Killed Jessica (2011)
Based on the Jessica Lal murder case
Shootout At Wadala (2013)
The rise and fall of gangster Manya Surve
Once Upon A Time In Mumbai (2009)
Loosely based on the lives of dons Haji Mastan and Daud Ibrahim
Gangs Of Wasseypur (2012)
Based on the violent clashes within the coal mafia in Jharkhand