Padmavati effect: Bollywood speaks about balancing facts with fiction in films

Recently, filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali and his team were attacked by the Rajput Karni Sena while shooting for his film, Padmavati, leading to outrage on social media. Bhansali has been accused of distorting historical facts.

bollywood Updated: Feb 03, 2017 07:24 IST
Monika Rawal Kukreja
Monika Rawal Kukreja
Hindustan Times
Padmavati,Sanjay Leela Bhansali,Deepika Padukone
Filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s controversial period drama, Padmavati, features actors Deepika Padukone, Ranveer Singh and Shahid Kapoor in lead roles.(Parveen Kumar/HT Photo)

Be it a period drama, a biopic or a film based on real-life incidents, writers and directors often face public ire for ‘distorting facts in the name of creative liberty’. Not like teams don’t research well, but fictional elements are added for entertainment value. Still, films such as Jodha Akbar (2008), Mohenjo Daro and Airlift (2016) faced flak for having tweaked facts.

Actors Nimrat Kaur and Akshay Kumar in a still from Airlift (2016).

Recently, filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali and his team were attacked by the Rajput Karni Sena while shooting for his film, Padmavati, leading to outrage on social media. “If Bhansali wanted to have a dream sequence, what’s the problem? There’s even a huge debate now about what he’s presenting as history, is it really history or was it always fiction? Is it inspired from someone, then one can do what one want in terms of adding fiction but not misinterpreting. Or if it’s a representational of historical facts, then facts can’t be tampered with. But there’s nothing in being critical to our historical figures also,” says filmmaker Onir, who has helmed films such as My Brother Nikhil (2005) and Bas Ek Pal (2006).

So how do industry names go about with balancing fact and fiction in a period film? Filmmaker Anurag Basu says, “If I were to make a historical film, I’ll get a historian on board, as history has several aspects and it can’t be called a work of fiction. While recreating a particular episode from history, I’ll make sure that it is as accurate as it can be, but yes, there are some changes and creative freedom that we as filmmakers take to entertain people, however, most of the things shown are historically correct facts.”

Actor Aamir Khan in a still from Dangal (2016), based on wrestler Mahavir Singh Phogat’s life.

There’s another debate. Isn’t a disclaimer stating the inclusion of fictional elements enough? “When we are using real names and making references to historical characters, it’s important to have disclaimer. But that also, I feel, is more for legal reasons,” says Basu.

“Anyway, nobody goes to watch a film thinking that it is going to educate them,” adds trade analyst Komal Nahta. “Everybody (even without reading the disclaimer) understands that it’s cinema and cinematic liberties would have been taken, some changes have been made.if you want to learn history, you should go read a history book. Why would you go to watch a film in a theatre? I don’t think such a hue and cry is even required. It’s just some people yearning for two minutes of fame and nothing else.”

Actor-filmmaker Piyush Mishra — who wrote the screenplay for the 2007 film 1971, based on Indo-Pak war — has an entirely viewpoint. Stating that he did in-depth research while writing its script, he admits that it’s unfair to take liberty in the name of creative freedom. “Even Amitabh Bachchan’s Deewar (2004) was based on Prisoners of War in Pakistan and the film showed that they reach their homes, but then it’s a slap on the faces of real families of those prisoners because in reality nobody ever reached back. And if nothing of that sort happened in reality, we can’t take such huge liberty for the sake of making a film commercially viable.”

Hrithik Roshan in a still from period drama Mohenjo Daro (2016).

Mishra adds that some films depict historical characters whose existence is questionable. “There are some who say Anarkali never existed, but we have an entire film based on her life. I feel at times, people only don’t want to see what happened in reality. They go, watch a film in quest of finding their dream world. If they get it, they are happy and rest, they don’t really bother,” he says.

Follow @htshowbiz for more

First Published: Feb 02, 2017 19:35 IST