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Bollywood biopics: Pad Man leads the line-up of common man’s uncommon tales in 2018

Several films are being made by Bollywood on ordinary people who have done something extraordinary. From social reformers to street rappers to education pioneers, these are the new icons.

bollywood Updated: Feb 12, 2018 19:39 IST
Juhi Chakraborty
Juhi Chakraborty
Hindustan Times
Akshay Kumar,Pad Man,Hrithik Roshan
Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar plays the role of social activist Arunachalam Muruganantham in Pad Man.

Move over sportsmen and politicians, there’s a new hero for Bollywood filmmakers — the common man with an extraordinary life story.

Here’s the lineup: Pad Man, starring Akshay Kumar, based on the life of Arunachalam Muruganantham, the social activist; Hrithik Roshan’s untitled film, based on Super 30 mathematician and teacher Anand Kumar; the Ranveer Singh-starrer Gully Boy, a film on real-life street rappers; a biopic on the Kargil martyr, Captain Vikram Batra, played by Sidharth Malhotra; and a film on the life of Verghese Kurien, ‘Father of the White Revolution’ in India (that might also star Akshay).

R Balki, who directed Pad Man, says that such stories have an immediate connect, as they inspire everyone. “I made a film on Arunachalam because what he has achieved is not common at all,” says the filmmaker, of the man who made it his mission to ensure that rural women got the right menstrual hygiene product. “Such people have to break so many barriers in life, they have to go through so many circumstances, and they come out victorious,” adds Balki.

In the recent past, Hindi films have celebrated some apparently ordinary people whose stories left a deep impression — Aligarh (2016), on Aligarh Muslim University professor Ramchandra Siras; Neerja (2016), a biopic on the courageous flight attendant Neerja Bhanot; and Manjhi - The Mountain Man (2015), on Dashrath Manjhi, who cut through a mountain to give his village access to health care.

Akshay Kumar has received great praise for essaying the role of Arunachalam Muruganantham. ( Arunachalam’s photo: Fotocorp )

Super 30 (education programme) co-founder Anand Kumar hopes that more such films make it to the big screen. He says that his biopic was discussed eight years ago, but had no takers. “Now, things have changed. There are so many people who’re doing great deeds. And I’m glad that Bollywood has taken up such topics,” he adds.

Hrithik Roshan plays mathematician Anand Kumar in his biopic, to be directed Vikas Bahl. ( Anand Kumar’s photo: Kamal Singh/PTI )
‘Now things have changed and there are so many people who’re doing great deeds in life. And I’m glad that Bollywood has taken up such topics’ —Anand Kumar, mathematician

Filmmaker Reema Kagti, who has directed Honeymoon Travels Pvt. Ltd. (2007) and Talaash (2012), has penned the screenplay of Gully Boy. She feels that such films are being made now as there’s an interest among viewers in real-life characters. “People doing uncommon things is very inspiring. Audiences want to watch that. There’s a demand for real-life heroes and that’s why filmmaker are doing [common-man biopics],” she adds.

Sidharth Malhotra will be seen as Captain Vikram Batra in the Kargil martyr’s biopic. ( Sidharth’s photo: Sanjeev Verma/HT )

Manjhi director Ketan Mehta says that it’s the relatability factor that’s attracting the audiences to such films and thus filmmakers are also taking on such projects. “These stories are more relatable and inspiring, and they communicate a lot more. There’s an immediacy attached to the subject,” says Mehta.

Trade analyst Komal Nahta says that human stories always work best, and the common man with an uncommon achievement is very attractive for filmmakers. “The audience,” he says, “is elated to see such a story, as it makes them feel that they can also do something like that.”

First Published: Feb 12, 2018 19:35 IST