Be it cinema or theatre, the rush seems to be for the real-life story, more so after the runaway success of Bhag Milkha Bhag (2013) on the city-based sports legend Milkha Singh. Priyanka Chopra in Mary Kom (2014) was the next sporty success. And now, well-known film-makers and wannabes are all rushing to get the rights to film the lives of those who have made a difference.
It is not goody-good all the time, but the life of that person should have been exceptional. Fame or infamy makes for closeness as goes the quotable Bashir Badr couplet: Har cheez hai bazaar mein is haath de us haath le/ Izzat gayi shohrat mili ruswa huye charcha huya (Everything is in the market to be bartered/ Loss of repute brought fame, heartbreak brought mention).
Films on dacoits are always sought after, be it Bandit Queen (1994) or Paan Singh Tomar (2012). The patriot too makes it for an inspiring biopic. Bollywood’s favourite has been the saga of Bhagat Singh with stars such as Shammi Kapoor, Manjoj, Ajay Devgan and Bobby Deol playing the coveted role of the young martyr.
The lives of Sikh gurus or their kin cannot be enacted but a way out was found by the enterprising Harry Baweja by doing an animated film Char Sahibzade (2014), which is doing wonders at the box office and is set to break the Jat and Juliet (2012) record.
Besides the sporty, the dacoits, the martyred or the sleazy starlet, it is also time to recall Silk Smitha, who inspired The Dirty Picture (2011). Singers and poets too seem to be much in demand these days.
While Bollywwod is buzzing with news about a biopic on Kishore Kumar, closer home filmmakers have been on the Chamkila trail. Amar Singh Chamkila was the phenomenal young Punjabi singer who was unfortunately killed in 1988 along with his wife and co-singer Amar Jyot and two other members of his group allegedly by militants.
Young filmmaker Gunjit Chopra has done a feature-length documentary on Chamkila and it is due for release early 2015. It is a work of deep research and passion and traces the turbulent history of Punjab in those times. He has also penned the script for a feature film. Other young filmmakers are also chasing trying to film the life of Dalit iconic singer Bant Singh.
As far as poets go, Bollywood is keen on a pair of them and what better than the romantic story of the platonic yet passionate romance between two kindred souls, Sahir Ludhianvi and Amrita Pritam. However, the Jasmeet Reen and Ashi Dua proposal met with a block when Amrita’s grandchildren sent a notice that the project would hurt their feelings as their grandmother did not want a commercial depiction of her life. But grapevine says that efforts are on to find ways.
Looks like biopics are here to stay (as long as they make good at the box office).
(The writer is a prominent art and culture critic).