In the first quarter of 2019, we have already seen some major biopics hitting the box office – Uri: The Surgical Strike, Kesari, Manikarnika: The Queen Of Jhansi and Thackeray. If we were to look back at the previous years, we see bigger numbers. It is said that more than 40 biopics have been released over the past decade. The numbers peaked in 2016 with 12 films in the genre. It is also the year where the genre saw its biggest success with Dangal becoming the highest grossing Indian movie at that time.
One reason behind the genre getting such strong backing from the industry is surely the box office success. Films like Dangal and Uri: The Surgical Strike are listed among the highest-grossing Indian films of all-time.
However, Bollywood has been dabbling in the genre for decades. There’s the classic blockbuster Mughal-E-Azam (1960) and Shaheed (1965) which tasted incredible success at the box office. Still, the industry mostly stuck to individuals and stories that are a part of the popular culture. But with the arrival of the new millennium, a change in the trend had begun. From historical figures, filmmakers began focussing on extraordinary stories of people in the contemporary era. Hence, we began getting films like Shahid, Aligarh and Mary Kom. People like to watch movies where they could relate to the characters and in addition to that, many prefer to watch the story of a real-life hero over a fictional one.
While the shift in approach was gradual, one answer to this shift can be found in the following quote. “With real-life stories, the magic is that famous Mark Twain saying, ‘Truth is stranger in fiction.’ When you look at these ordinary people you realise what extraordinary circumstances this person has been through to achieve what he or she has achieved. If you have a heroic journey, then it’s a story worth telling.” said Saiwyn Quadras, writer of Mary Kom.
At the same time, biopics in the current era helped give a glimpse into some of the biggest personalities and events that shaped in new-gen India. For example, let’s take the biopics released in 2019 till now. Uri: The Surgical Strike, one of the biggest blockbusters of all-time, struck a nerve with the inner patriot in us and helped us understand the tough circumstances of our army personnel. On the other hand, we have a biopic based off of the real life of the founder of Shiv Sena, Bal Thackeray. Many believe that Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s performance added an extra dose of drama to the movie. The real-life references and the grounded approach to both the stories lend a sense of believability and resonance that other movies in the fiction space couldn’t.
And going by the current buzz, Bollywood’s fascination with biopics does not seem to slow down anytime soon. There are multiple biopics in the pipeline which include Ajay Devgn’s Taanaji: The Unsung Warrior, Ashutosh Gowariker’s Panipat and the Ranveer Singh starrer 83’. So, history buffs and cinephiles brace yourselves for a good dose of history from Bollywood.