Silver screen’s rendezvous with period dramas
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Silver screen’s rendezvous with period dramas

The success of films like Baajirao Mastani and Padmaavat has opened doors for more such period dramas.

bollywood Updated: Jan 09, 2019 14:54 IST
Anurag Singh Bohra
Anurag Singh Bohra
Hindustan Times
Bollywood,Period Dramas,Hindi Film Industry
Karan Johar’s upcoming period drama Kesari starring Akshay Kumar as Havildar Ishar Singh is based on the battle of Saragarhi(Photo: Twitter/karanjohar )

The list of period dramas being made in Bollywood seems to be a long one. With some set to release, some being shot and some just announced, 2019-20 will see a host of period dramas adorning the big screen.

Besides Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi, audiences will also get to witness more of India’s historical events with films such as Paanipat, Kesari, Kalank, Taanaji: The Unsung Hero and Takht. The success of Baajirao Mastani (2015) and Padmaavat (2018) could make film-makers optimistic about helming historical dramas, but the fate of epics has always been unpredictable.

FiImmaker Shyam Benegal is hopeful that the makers of Manikarnika have mounted the production and got excellent performances.

People like romantic dramas

There have been instances where despite a stellar cast, movies failed to impress the audience. Rangoon (2017), Begum Jaan (2017) and Raag Desh (2017) tanked at the box office and it seems films depicting historical events and characters didn’t go down quite well with millennials. Trade analyst Komal Nahta says, “Romantic dramas set in the period of history like Bajirao Mastani do well. But films like Rangoon that are based entirely on historical events are not generally appreciated.”

Mediocre content doesn’t work

Period-fiction dramas like the Baahubali franchise or Lagaan (2001) worked for the mainstream audience but with Thugs of Hindostan (2018) failing miserably, it posed many questions. Trade analyst Atul Mohan says, “If you do justice in mounting such films in terms of their presentation, people will like it. But you can’t get away with a mediocre product. The content, visuals and presentation counts when making a historical drama.” Citing Mughal-E-Azam (1960), as an example, Mohan adds, “During that time big film-makers were involved and a lot of time was spent on making those films.”

Taanaji starring Ajay Devgn in the main lead is based on the life of Tanaji Malusare, a 17th-century military leader in the Maratha Empire (Photo: Twitter/omraut)

The audience has evolved now

Ketan Mehta’s Mangal Pandey — The Rising (2004) could not become a hit despite Aamir Khan playing the central character. Mohan reasons, “Those were the days of masala entertainers. Now, the audience expects something unusual.” He goes on to add that technology has made it easier to recreate that era. “Technology served as the backbone of Bajirao Mastaani and Padmaavat. Most people watch movies on their smartphones, tablets or television nowadays. However, such films can only be enjoyed on the big screen,” he adds.

Not everyone likes history

In today’s time where most film-makers are experimenting with out-of-the-box genres, film-maker Shyam Benegal is of the opinion that film-making itself is a financial risk that gets bigger when one tries to make a period film. “Firstly, period films require creating sets, costumes and spending a fair amount of money. Also, not everybody is interested in history and so, the number of people watching those become less,” says Benegal.

So what can a film-maker do to be able to pull crowds to theatres? “Creating a good spectacle ensures a wider audience base. In case of Manikarnika, the film is based on Rani Laxmibai set around 1857, which is historically interesting. I hope the makers of Manikarnika have mounted the production and got excellent performances. If this film succeeds then it would create cinematic history,” adds the National Award-winning film-maker.

Interact with Anurag Singh Bohra at Twitter/KashiNomad

First Published: Jan 09, 2019 14:53 IST