Despite the fact that history is one of the most hated subjects in school, it is very easy for us to get lost into one of those heroic epic tales of the great warriors in our country. It almost seems like “biopics” are a recent trend in Indian Cinema these days. I still remember back in 2008, watching Jodha Akbar was an eye
opener for me. Biopics have always been present in Indian Cinema even if not popularly. To me, Jodha Akbar seemed like a different movie. It brought to life a man about whom I had studied and dreamed of in history classes. While there have always been biopics in all the languages, be it Tamil or Hindi or any one of the regional languages, for me, Jodha Akbar was the movie that brought it home.
While biopics have been present since movies were introduced, they didn’t really gain momentum in Indian Cinema until the 21st century. With the commercial success of ‘The Dirty Picture’, new life was given to biopics in Bollywood. The films good days at the box office gave courage to other filmmakers that biopics have the capacity to hit the commercial zone and henceforth we saw a slew of biopics that still continues.
Generally, we say that when something happens in Hollywood, Bollywood follows, but Indian Cinema resisted for quite the while when it came to biopics. However, even will all the commercial success and the talk about biopics, 2012 still didn’t see the trend of biopics.
In its 100th year, Indian cinema, ready to experiment, yet again saw talk of a trend of biopics. With movies on ‘Kishore Kumar’, ‘Mary Kom’, ‘Milkha Singh’, ‘M.S.Subbulakshmi’, ‘Dawood Ibrahim’, ‘Manya Surve’, ‘Sampat Pal’ all slated to release in the year of 2016, we saw the beginning of the trend. While most of this movie didn’t come to be, it still irked all the filmmakers to think of biopics in a different light. What had always been thought of as a boring idea that wouldn’t do well at the box office, was given a new light and view in Indian cinema. Like the director of ‘Dirty Picture’, ‘Milan Luthria’ said, it is true that there are no pure biopics. There is always that commercial point of view that needs to be looked at and hence an entertainment factor to be added because, to be honest, when you go for a pure biopic, it gets a little boring. Mostly, it’s curiosity that drives our desire to watch these movies and answer the question, “Well, why did he/she choose to lead their life this way?” and Indian Cinema found its way of bringing in the entertainment factor into the answer. Biopics were the new hit formula for Bollywood.
2015 also saw a range of biopics to its credit with movies like Nyodda, ABCD 2, Main Aur Charles, Bajirao Mastani and many others.Despite the success of biopics in Hindi Cinema, even today, this trend hasn’t caught on in all the other languages. We still don’t see any serious takers for biopics in Tamil even now. After all, we have to remember that we don’t create an audience for the genre and while there are too many people whose life will make a good biopic, these might not always be translated into success at the box office. Tamil audience has stuck to enjoying other language biopics so far.
But this is not the end of the biopic genre! Filmmakers are constantly on a lookout for real life incidents which can be captured on celluloid and many more biopics are still in the scripting stage.