Millennium Post

When larger-than-life characters inspired B’town

They say films are a true reflection of society. A look back at this year’s Bollywood line-up would reveal over a dozen big budget biopics, as film-makers took to the reconstruction of national narratives with real life heroes.

Neerja being one of them is the story of a 23-year old flight purser Neerja Bhanot who ended up giving her life to save 359 of 379 passengers and crew members on-board a Pan-Am flight at Karachi airport from a group of armed terrorists. Neerja’s valour, which won her the Ashok Chakra award posthumously, would have been lost among other bravery tales if not for the film. The fact that the film was well made and the character of Neerja was portrayed by Sonam Kapoor, trending hashtags on social media ensured Neerja as a hero of the current generation too. 

We also celebrated the return of Budhia Singh, a child marathon runner who, a decade ago, gave India hope of winning an Olympic gold in distance running someday, and the lives of Mohammad Azharuddin and MS Dhoni, cricketers whose rags to riches stories inspired many teenagers in small towns across the country.

In Rustom, based on the story of a naval officer KM Nanavati, Akshay Kumar played the role of Rustom Pavri, who killed his wife’s paramour way back in 1950s. In the film, the court finds Pavri ‘Not Guilty’ as the nation celebrated. Another take-off from a real-life story was Sarbjit—the story of an Indian man who was sentenced to death by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in 1991 and who consequently spent 22 years in prison for alleged terrorism and spying. While Randeep Hooda portrayed the character of Sarabjit Singh, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan played the role of his sister.

Three other films that were based on real life individuals were Ram Gopal Verma’s Veerappan (about the bandit and the sandalwood smuggler who wreaked havoc in the jungles of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu), the Rebellious Flower based on the initial years of Osho Rajneesh and Anna based on the life of Indian social activist Anna Hazare, who made a generation rise against corrupt politicians, changing the political landscape of the country, but soon moved into the shadow of his protégé who moved on to join the same political slugfest they once loathed. 

While many of these personalities were not the mass heroes, their stories were awe inspiring, for their valour. For instance, in Aligarh, Manoj Bajpayee played professor Shrinivas Ramchandra Siras, who was humiliated and sacked from his university for his sexual orientation. Siras was an award winning professor who taught Marathi at Aligarh Muslim University. The film captured his alienation after a sting operation - showing him make love to a young rickshaw-wallah - is made public.

Before the year ends, Aamir Khan’s Dangal, inspired by the story of Haryanvi wrestler Mahavir Phogat and his determination to make his daughters win Olympic medals, will hit the screens. And next year, brace up for Raees, which will see Shahrukh Khan playing the character of an Ahmedabad based underworld don Abdul Latif.
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