It’s an ongoing trend in Hollywood to make biographical films. A Beautiful Mind, Alexander, The Aviator, The Queen, Frost/ Nixon, The King’s Speech, 127 Hours, Moneyball, J. Edgar and The Iron Lady are some recent examples. Bollywood hasn’t replicated this fad. Yet.
Interestingly, India’s first feature film Raja Harishchandra was a biopic. But the Hindi film industry continues to shy away from this genre for commercial reasons. Audience’s lack of zest for history is also to be blamed. Asoka, Rang De Basanti, Mangal Pandey — The Rising, Jodhaa Akbar, Guru, Bose: The Forgotten Hero and No One Killed Jessica were a handful of brave aberrations.
There is certainly no dearth of characters from our history to inspire film writers.
Here are some personalities who could inspire an interesting watch and the actors who might do justice to their role.
Sardar Patel (Aamir Khan): For a man who drew our map as we know it today, we barely know anything about him. After all, he was not called the Iron Man for nothing.
Dara Shikoh (Ranbir Kapoor): He was the rightful heir to Shah Jahan’s throne and a cheerful hedonist but a political fool. A Sufi liberal whose advocacy of Hindu- Muslim unity proved to be his undoing.
Sanjay Gandhi (Saif Ali Khan): Not only a Nehru scion and an apparent heir to the political dynasty, he was also someone who was a rebel and was drawn towards commotion. His magnetic demeanour mixed with hyperactivity and an eventual premature death makes his life quite cinematic.
The Emergency (Multiple Cast): A proper mainstream film on the 21- month long blemish on the face of Indian democracy is prone to drama… and dramatic characters.
Premchand (Irrfan Khan): The discoverer of the soul in rural India — the unsung Tolstoy of India. He influenced both Hindi as well as Urdu prose. Fortunately, we are aware of his beautiful stories. Unfortunately, we aren’t aware of his story.
Jyotirao-Savitribai Phule (Pavan Malhotra-Shahana Goswami) This Maharashtrian couple with their modern mindset faced huge opposition from the society but made long strides in the field of education and the upliftment of women and untouchables. Jyotirao was labelled the Mahatma long before Gandhiji and Savitribai set up India’s first female school.
Dhyan Chand (Shah Rukh Khan): The very symbol of Indian sportsmanship and the undisputed wizard of our national sport. His successful legacy stays surprisingly humble. He is party to awe- inspiring anecdotes that involve Bradman as well as Hitler.
Swami Vivekanand (R Madhavan): He died young, leaving behind a legacy of spirituality and the idea of a global Indian. The monk who made the West buy the eternal philosophy of Upanishads ought to make a wonderful script.
Bahadur Shah Zafar (Victor Banerjee): The last emperor of India and his melancholic final days in the country before being deported to Burma merits attention — not to mention his mental vagaries and poetic indulgences.
Budhia Singh (Irfan Khan of Chillar Party): The world’s youngest marathon runner who made the media wonder whether he was a victim of torture. They’ve already made a documentary on him. A movie would be going a mile further.
PT Usha (Poorna Jagannathan): Her journey towards becoming the fastest Indian woman wasn’t an easy one. Coming from a humble village, her life story has what it takes to make an enthralling sports flick.
JRD Tata (Naseeruddin Shah): A humane capitalist who provided a better meaning to the word enterprise in free India. Though we are familiar with the brand Tata, we don’t have much clue about his life.
Birbal (Kay Kay Menon): Arguably the wittiest person from the Mughal era. Apart from his brainy exploits in Akbar’s court, very little is known of him. This allows the writers to complement fiction with legends.
(NB: This over-imaginative article appeared on MiD DAY's Hitlist today.)