If you admired Nawazuddin Siddiqui as the iconic leader Balasaheb in Thackeray and Anupam Kher as PM Manmohan Singh in The Accidental Prime Minister you will not be surprised to know that Vivek Oberoi is playing the role of PM Narendra Modi in a biopic directed by Omung Kumar and more biopics on Atal Bihari Vajpayee and other leaders are being planned. What makes such biopics a draw? We sought opinions on this trend from some of the stalwarts of the industry.
Speaking about the value of biopics on national leaders, Sachin Khedekar, who played the lead in Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose: The Forgotten Hero, says, “I feel that the lives of these great leaders like Bose, Thackeray and others should be brought on celluloid to enlighten the youth and other audiences about the lives and times of great national leaders and the sacrifices they have made for the country. Even recently the biopic on Thackeray made waves all over. Biopics on great leaders need a lot of research, detailing and hard work and this trend should continue in the future.”
Discussing his biopic Veer Savarkar, Ved Rahi, veteran writer-director, maintains, “My biopic did very well. I feel such biopics should be a mixture of fiction and reality as total reality might not interest the audiences. The film should have a viewpoint, hold the audiences’ interest and convey something as Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi which was a great amalgam of art and commerce. I feel this trend should be here to stay as we are seeing biopics of Manmohan Singh and more to come on PM Narendra Modi and Atal Bihari Vajpayee,” even as he adds that it is now beyond him to make a film because of health and age reasons.
Ananth Mahadevan, actor and director, does not believe that the trend is a recent one. He points out, “This trend has always been here since the era of V Shantaram who made a film on Dr Kotnis named ‘Dr Kotnis Ki Amar Kahani’. However, nowadays filmmakers are cashing in on the popularity of great national leaders and I don’t think it’s a good trend. I believe in making biopics on social leaders who have done a lot for society. The recent success of Thackeray is amazing but I would have made a film, based on such a complex personality who rose from being a cartoonist to a great leader, differently.
Biopics on social workers like Sindhutai Sakpal and the first practising doctor in India Dr Rakhmabai, I feel, are more relevant than biopics on national leaders, though I feel directors like Jabbar Patel have done justice to Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar, just like Shyam Benegal has to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose: The Forgotten Hero and Ketan Mehta has to Sardar, on the life of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel starring Paresh Rawal in the lead role.”
Rajesh Khera, who played Morarji Desai in Thackeray believes this is a trend that is here to stay. “That’s because the audiences is always eager to know about the lives of the national leaders and see the other side of the coin as there is always a twisted tale in the lives of national leaders. When I essayed Morarji Desai I had no great material to work on but I saw a few interviews on YouTube and read some books on him. In the future I would like to play the character of Nehru in a biopic.”
Akshaye Khanna, actor, The Accidental Prime Minister, a biopic on Manmohan Singh reveals that he had asked for a rewrite initially.
“The director Vijay Gutte came to me with this idea about adapting the book The Accidental Prime Minister written by Sanjay Baru who was one of the closest bureaucrats to former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Baru has written whatever happened in Singh’s era in the book but frankly I was not happy with the first draft and narration. I asked Gutte to flesh out my character and he did that and I said yes to the film.” Speaking about his prep, he shares, “I was strictly prohibited from googling about Baru or any other material other than the book on which this film is made. I am totally a director’s actor and I do exactly what my director wants. I don’t have any preconceived notions about the character I am playing. I just go on the sets and act on my instinct and my director’s inputs.”
Eventually, a job is apparently just a job, even if it is playing a renowned leader…