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Battle of the biopics: B-Town clashing over biographical movies

Of late, Bollywood is willing to go ahead with multiple films based on the life of a celebrated individual

Last year, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag grossed over Rs 100 crore at the box-office in the country. With its unprecedented commercial reach, the Farhan Akhtar-starrer proved that a biopic can be a winner at marquee too.

As a part of his production ventures, Akshay Kumar is working on a film based on the life of Marathi film legend, Dada Kondke (left). Kondke was loved as well as criticised for the excessive double entendre and sexual innuendo in his films
As a part of his production ventures, Akshay Kumar is working on a film based on the life of Marathi film legend, Dada Kondke (left). Kondke was loved as well as criticised for the excessive double entendre and sexual innuendo in his films

After all, for years, biopics seemed to be a risky avenue due to their uncertain outcome. With the progressive change in attitude, there seems to be a rush in a particular direction. No wonder this calendar year, Bollywood has a Mary Kom, featuring Priyanka Chopra in the eponymous role. And that’s not the only name on the roster of biopic genre.

Patriotic fervour: In 2002, three films on Bhagat Singh — (from left to right) The Legend of Bhagat Singh, 23rd March, 1931: Shaheed and Shaheed-e-Azam – released around the same time. All three of them earned critical appreciation but they didn’t translate into box office collection
Patriotic fervour: In 2002, three films on Bhagat Singh — (from left to right) The Legend of Bhagat Singh, 23rd March, 1931: Shaheed and Shaheed-e-Azam – released around the same time. All three of them earned critical appreciation but they didn’t translate into box office collection

In fact, the trend of films based on home-grown achievers — from present and past — is so high that there are some exceptional developments taking place in the Hindi film industry. So much so there are instances where more than one film based on the life of a common personality are currently in the pipeline.

Heavyweight:  Actor-turned-producer John Abraham is keen on producing a film on the legendary wrestler Gama Pehlwan (left)
Heavyweight:  Actor-turned-producer John Abraham is keen on producing a film on the legendary wrestler Gama Pehlwan (left)

Actor-turned-producer Ritiesh Deshmukh and director Mohit Suri will be working together on a biopic on Marathi films comedy king Dada Kondke. Given Ritiesh’s interest in regional cinema and his successful track record in the same, it come across an impressive idea. “Ritiesh discussed the idea during the making of Ek Villain and I really got interested in it and have agreed to direct it and he will playing the main lead in it,” explains Suri.

Sleek move:  Randeep Hooda is playing the notorious Charles Sobhraj in his next film titled Main Aur Charles
Sleek move:  Randeep Hooda is playing the notorious Charles Sobhraj in his next film titled Main Aur Charles

Ritiesh apparently has been researching on the subject and reading books written on Dada Kondke. “We are still working on it the writing is going on nothing is final uptil now,” adds the Lai Bhaari star.

Different mode: The 1982 film Gandhi (left), starring Ben Kingsley in the eponymous role, was directed by the British director Richard Attenborough while the 2007 biopic Gandhi: My Father, starring Darshan Jariwala, was directed by Feroz Abbas Khan
Different mode: The 1982 film Gandhi (left), starring Ben Kingsley in the eponymous role, was directed by the British director Richard Attenborough while the 2007 biopic Gandhi: My Father, starring Darshan Jariwala, was directed by Feroz Abbas Khan

It maybe recalled here that in 2013, there was a media report which is fast gaining ground. Akshay Kumar bought the rights of Anita Padhye’s book on Dada Kondke. Padhye confirmed about co-producer Ashvini Yardi buying the rights of the book but didn’t comment on the status of the upcoming film.

Pathbreaker: Nawazuddin Siddiqui (left) is playing Dashrath Manjhi (above) in Ketan Mehta forthcoming biopic
Pathbreaker: Nawazuddin Siddiqui (left) is playing Dashrath Manjhi (above) in Ketan Mehta forthcoming biopic

On being asked about Akshay’s keenness to make a film on Konde, Suri maintained ignorance. “I don't know about Akshay’s film but Ritiesh came to me with the subject and said that he wants me to direct as the subject needs to be handled sensitively. Moreover, we have plans to make it a bilingual.”

Two’s company
A little while ago, two films were announced on the same subject and that was again a biopic. This time around, the central figure was the celebrated wrestler Gama Pehlwan. In one film, which is being produced by Salman Khan while his brother Sohail Khan is playing the title role. There is another one being produced by John Abraham, where he himself is playing the protagonist. Both the filmmakers directing these films — Puneet Issar and Parmeet Sethi respectively — played ignorant saying they didn't know that another film on the same subject was being made. However, both the film are in writing stage and are yet to go on floor.

First in, first out
Ketan Mehta has a made a biopic on Mountain Man of India, Dashrath Manjhi, starring Nawazuddin Siddiqui in the title role. Interestingly, there is another filmmaker named Dhananjay Kapoor who too has claimed the rights of the subject and will be making the same film. The two filmmakers went to court to clear out the dispute. Ultimately Mehta’s film was cleared by the court of law.

Similarly, there are two films being made on Charles Sobhraj. One is helmed by Praval Raman — starring Randeep Hooda as the notorious criminal — titled Main Aur Charles. The other one is titled Bikini Murders and is based on Farokh Dhondy's book. According to Raman, he doesn’t have a clue about any other production in place.

“I really don’t who else is making a film on Charles. As far as mine is concerned, we are into post production.” He refused to comment on the effect another film might have on his own.

Ram Mirchandani is the producing partner of Bikini Murders claimed that his film is not “exactly” based on Sobhraj. He however added, “If you ask me, if two films were made on the same subject, both can get affected if they are released within a period of six months to one year.”

Fictional truths
Not just real personalities, even literary characters inspire multiple takers. For instance, Vishal Bhardwaj’s forthcoming Haider is an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. To his discomfort, there are three other filmmakers — Onir Ban. Sudhir Mishra and Tigmanshu Dhulia — who are planning their projects on the same topic.
Well, does it really matter if two or more films are made on the same subject?

Onir Ban chooses to disagree. “It does not matter unless they are released around the same time which might affect the business of the films,” adds the I Am director.

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