Apart from the biographies of the iconic figures and official films made on real-life events, there is a related genre in cinema that rarely gets discussed or quoted by film enthusiasts. This is the genre in which writers-directors get ideas while reading the headlines/articles in a newspaper or magazine and then conceive an entire film on the same, without disclosing the actual event and names. At times, they honestly reveal the source in their interviews, or the film’s credits, in an indicative manner. But most of the time, it later gets known, post the film’s success, getting more attention.
Stating a few key films in this genre, in 1957, writer-director V Shantaram based his Do Ankhen Barah Haath on a real ‘free-prison’ experiment conducted by a visionary person in a remote region of British India. The director mentioned his source of inspiration in the credits, but without quoting the names of any person or region.
In the late 50s, the news of a bank official’s murder by two men in a moving car shocked Madras (now Chennai). It was a planned conspiracy as the manager was carrying huge cash heading towards his branch. The case was reported in the local newspapers, and that’s from where producer A. Bhimsingh took the idea for his Tamil film Sadhu Mirandal (1966). He later directed the same in Hindi as Sadhu Aur Shaitaan in 1968, featuring Mehmood, Pran, and Om Prakash in the lead roles.
One of the most famous cult films of Hindi cinema, Amar Akbar Anthony (1977), was also derived from a news report. Manmohan Desai read the news of an alcoholic man leaving his three kids in a park in a state of frustration and used it as a seed for his script. Taking the thought forward along with Prayag Raj as a team, they further wrote the three kids being taken away/adopted by the representatives of three different religions. The concept of deriving script ideas from news clips or articles continued even in the new millennium.
In 2004, writer-director Tigmanshu Dhulia based his film Charas on the concept of the illegal drug trade and foreigners hiding in the mountain regions after reading a surprising article about the lesser-known facts in a magazine. Around the same time, a young model was reported to be living on the streets begging for food after her short but happening career in the world of fashion.
Director Madhur Bhandarkar used the same as one of the major sub-plots of his film Fashion released in 2008. Around 2001, the Chandni Chowk region of Delhi became quite tense with the reported attacks of a Monkey Man aka Kala Bandar. It created big chaos and remains a mystery to date. Director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra based the script of his Delhi-6 on this mysterious incident released in 2009.
In the late 80s, a group of men posing as CBI officers made a fake Income Tax raid on the showroom of a famous jeweller. Writer-director Neeraj Pandey wrote his film Special 26 inspired by the same case. Interestingly, Rakesh Roshan’s Khel revolving around conmen also began with a similar sequence of a fake raid on a jewellery showroom, released in 1992.
In the last decade, a still discussed case of Talwars in Noida shook the nation, leading to a big debate. While the film Talwar was officially based on the case, another film, Rahasya, derived its script, taking clear inspiration from the murder, presenting it as a solved case. Both the films got released in 2015 with their share of controversies.
A few years back, the concerning MeToo movement brought forward several cases widely reported in the news. Section 375 (2019) was a film made after a thorough study of such cases, receiving wide appreciation. Anubhav Sinha also conceived his film Article 15 (2019) on the real-life incidents of caste discrimination, still regular in the news even in the present new age.
Coming to the most recent addition to the genre, you must have heard about or seen the currency notes with ‘Sonam Gupta Bewafa Hai’ scribbled on them by some random person. The case of such notes got viral when their pics were shared on the social network, also becoming the subject of several hilarious memes. Looking at its popularity, they have made an entire film on the theme as a social-comedy, with the title Kya Meri Sonam Gupta Bewafa Hai? (2021). Directed by Ssaurabh Tyagi, it has been released on a leading OTT portal, featuring Surbhi Jyoti, Jassie Gill, and Brijendra Kala in the lead.
On a concluding note, the genre of films derived from news clippings and articles might not be the most frequently discussed or quoted genre of cinema. But it has always been there and is here to stay, as cinema remains the mirror of our society, and it largely gets derived from the life around it.
(The writer is a critic-columnist, an explorer of cinema and author of ‘Did You Know’ series on Hindi films also active at bobbytalkscinema.com)
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