Bollywood actors who can portray scientists in biopics

With the Ayushmann Khurrana-starrer Hawaizaada based on 19th century aviator Shivkar Bapuji Talpade ready for release, we take a look at scientists whose lives would make for great biopics and actors who can portray them

The 102nd Indian Science Congress (ISC) is making headlines with its ‘claims’ on aviation and technology in ancient India.

Ayushmann Khurrana in Hawaizaada
Ayushmann Khurrana in 'Hawaizaada'

According to a paper titled Aviation in Ancient India, Shivkar Bapuji Talpade flew an aeroplane over Chowpatty in 1895, eight years before the Wright Brothers, Orville and Wilbur, piloted the first powered airplane in North Carolina. While some expressed surprise at the statement, others have pooh-poohed it.

Interestingly, amid the debate of Indian scientists being overlooked for their contributions in the field of science and technology, Ayushmann Khurrana-starrer Hawaizaada, based on the life and achievements of Shivkar Bapuji Talpade, is due to release later in the month. hitlist looks at some scientists whose lives could make for interesting biopics and actors who can play the boffin...

Homi Jehangir Bhabha
(October 30, 1909 – January 24, 1966)

Ranbir Kapoor, Homi Jehangir Bhabha and Arjun Rampal
Ranbir Kapoor, Homi Jehangir Bhabha and Arjun Rampal

Claim to fame: The father of Indian nuclear programme
Lowdown: Hailing from a wealthy Parsi family, Bhabha went to the Royal Institute of Science, London to study mechanical engineering. However, he developed an interest in mathematics and physics and later founded India’s nuclear power. Bhabha’s death in 1966 in Switzerland was termed as a conspiracy by many to halt India’s nuclear programme. An amateur botanist and lover of classical music, Bhabha’s life was devoted to science.
Role call: If we look at Dr Bhabha’s straight nose and prominent chin, Ranbir Kapoor or Arjun Rampal would probably fit the bill.

Salim Moizuddin Abdul Ali aka Salim Ali
(November 12, 1896 – June 20, 1987)

Salim Ali and Shah Rukh Khan
Salim Ali and Shah Rukh Khan

Claim to fame: Known as the ‘birdman of India’, he was the pioneer of ornithology (scientific study of birds) in the country
Lowdown: Born in Mumbai, Ali began studying birds at an early age. Though he scraped through matriculation, Ali completed a course in zoology from St Xavier’s College, Mumbai. Known to be a motorcycle enthusiast, he created quite a stir when he arrived at the International Ornithological Congress held at Uppsala in 1950 on a motorbike. Years later, the conservationist Ali was criticised for supporting the use of bird specimens for study — to which he responded by saying that he was against senseless killing of animals and protecting wildlife is a practical affair and shouldn’t be mixed with religion and ideals of ahimsa. Atheist, motorbike lover, scholar and a crusader for wildlife, Ali’s life was truly unique.
Role call: With his long face, sparkling eyes and energetic disposition, we recommend Shah Rukh Khan to play Salim Ali.

Jagadish Chandra Bose
(November 30, 1858 – November 23, 1937)

Jagadish Chandra Bose and Kamal Hassan
Jagadish Chandra Bose and Kamal Hassan

Claim to fame: Worked in the field of wireless signalling and plant biology.
Lowdown: In 1977, Nobel Laureate Sir Nevill Mott said that JC Bose was at least 60 years ahead of his time. A true visionary, he opposed racial discrimination and preferred to work without salary than accept the paltry R100 given to ‘Indian’ professors. He also proved that plants were living organisms that could feel pain and affection. Bose wrote Nirruddesher Kahini, one of the first works of science fiction in India.
Role call: Considering physical resemblance, Kamal Hassan is best suited for the role.

CV Raman
(November 7, 1888 – November 21, 1970)

CV Raman and Manoj Bajpai
CV Raman and Manoj Bajpai

Claim to fame: The Raman effect that talks about scattering of light.
Lowdown: Born into a family of scholars, CV Raman was self-taught. A trip to Europe inspired him to study the scattering of light. A self-confessed agnostic, he was the first Asian to win the Nobel Prize in the field of science in 1930. He also received the Bharat Ratna in 1954 but later destroyed it to protest against the then government which did not favour science or scientists.
Role call: With his taut face, high cheekbones and piercing eyes, Manoj Bajpai is our pick for the role.

APJ Abdul KalamAPJ Abdul Kalam and Nawazuddin Siddique

APJ Abdul Kalam and Nawazuddin Siddique

Claim to fame: Missile man of India
Lowdown: Scientist, poet, administrator and a philanthropist, very few individuals in modern India have earned the kind of love and respect that Kalam has. A Bharat Ratna awardee, Kalam worked hard to secure a sound education. He has worked under Vikram Sarabhai, father of India’s space programme and credits him for being a true visionary. Hope, ambition, success, controversy and determination, Kalam’s life has all this and more, and makes for a brilliant biopic.
Role call: With his acting skills, Nawazuddin Siddique could do justice to APJ’s role.

Meghnad Saha
(October 6, 1893 – February 16, 1956)

Meghnad Saha and Sidharth Malhotra
Meghnad Saha and Sidharth Malhotra

Claim to fame: The Saha equation, which explains the spectral classification of stars
Lowdown: Coming from a poor background, Saha struggled to secure higher education. He was influenced by Dr JC Bose and Prafulla Chandra Ray. His Saha equation is one of the methods to interpret the spectra of stars in astrophysics. He set up scientific institutions and societies across the country, prepared the plan for Damodar Valley Project to create power stations in West Bengal and entered politics to serve the country. Meghnad, who was very attached to his wife, Radharani, claimed that she was one of the few people who could influence him.
Role call: The facial similarities and intensity of expressions make Sidharth Malhotra fit for the role.

Industry Speak

Sanjay Gupta, director

Sanjay Gupta, director

The main reason why filmmakers stay away from such subjects is because of commercial considerations. It takes a huge budget to make such a film — you have to create a different kind of universe altogether. It takes a lot of research as well

Ravi Jadhav, filmmaker

Ravi Jadhav, filmmaker

I feel it’s a great idea to make films on scientists and intellectuals because the Indian youth knows very little about them. However, I feel the scenario is changing. The budget is a constraint but I feel even that will change soon

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