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Controversial characters: A new approach to storytelling in Bollywood

Grey, dark and thrilling stories based on controversial characters from our history seem to be the new recipe to make a blockbuster.

bollywood Updated: Apr 18, 2019 14:44 IST
Anurag Singh Bohra
Anurag Singh Bohra
Hindustan Times
Controversy,Bollywood,Priyanka Chopra
Actor Priyanka Chopra Jonas would be collaborating with Hollywood filmmaker Barry Levinson on a film based on Osho’s trusted aide Ma Anand Sheela.(Left: Priyanka Chopra; Credit: Rodriguez/Getty Images/AFP)

The mysterious and at times, dark lives of controversial figures have always been appealing to film-makers. With the rise of OTT platforms and the trend for biopics being in, millennials seem to appreciate stories filled with controversies and grey shades. For example, there is an upcoming web series on criminal Charles Sobhraj, titled Snake, in the making. Actor Priyanka Chopra Jonas is adapting the Osho documentary, Wild Wild Country into a Hollywood film, which will be directed by Barry Levinson. In the film, Priyanka would be playing Osho’s trusted aide, Ma Anand Sheela. Film-maker Raj Kumar Gupta is directing actor Arjun Kapoor in his next, India’s Most Wanted. Actor Kangana Ranaut would be playing the role of late J Jayalalithaa in a biopic on the former Tamil Nadu chief minister directed by A L Vijay. Ram Gopal Varma, too, has announced his next titled Sasikala, a biopic on Tamil Nadu politician VK Sasikala Natarajan. Indian scriptwriters and film-makers are not shying away from adapting stories of public figures that were talked about, thanks to all the controversy that surrounded their life.

Filmmaker A L Vijay is making a biopic on late Tamil Nadu CM J Jayalalithaa. ( AFP PHOTO/Dibyangshu SARKAR )

Raj Kumar Gupta feels that people are always interested in dark themes, subjects or personalities born out of real life. “Since these characters are from our day-to-day lives, it intrigues people.”

Trade analyst Amul Mohan says, “Be it Sacred Games or a documentary on Osho, these are all fascinating stories. I would love to see a web-series on Charles Sobhraj.”

Screenwriter Kanika Dhillon feels that stories of real characters have always been engaging. She says, “Such stories would always draw a deeper emotional response than fiction.”

A web series on criminal Charles Sobhraj is in the making ( REUTERS/Jean-Christophe Kahn/File Photo )

The millennial audience is more accepting and less judgemental, feel experts. Scriptwriter Mayank Tewari believes that making films or web series on controversial characters is a sign of maturity. He says, “Earlier, people were apprehensive to speak up about themselves or other people. Now people give rights of their lives to film-makers. And the youth is receptive to such stories as these stories are an easy access to historical facts.”

Dhillon agrees as she feels millenials have access to everything, be it fiction or non-fiction. She says, “The youth is open to controversial cinema because their viewing and emotional parameters are not set by the age-old Indian cultural contexts alone.”

Actor Arjun Kapoor is starring in the action thriller India’s Most Wanted ( Photo/Yogen Shah )

Manish Aggarwal, business head, of an OTT platform, feels that the new-age audience loves to experiment with content. He says, “The traditional idea of the hero is redefined in the digital space. This gives creators the advantage of being able to re-visualise the story-telling formats.”

The lack of censorship on OTT platforms is another reason for this trend. According to Aggarwal, by “leveraging the freedom of digital medium, the characters can be kept as real as possible”. Adds Dhillon, “The expression and voice on digital platforms can be bold, free and unadulterated because we know the audience is prepared and wants to be engaged in ways that are not conforming to traditional storytelling. The digital space is a universe that can consume dark, edgy and out of the box content.”

Interact with Anurag Singh Bohra at Twitter/kashinomad

First Published: Apr 18, 2019 14:43 IST