Biopic on Gopichand: Any takers?

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Biopic on Gopichand: Any takers? The dearth of good original stories to turn into successful screenplays and the intrinsic strength in the story of a real life personality being portrayed on the big screen as a ‘biopic’ (biographical film) is a trend in Bollywood.

The craze of biopics catching up in tinsel town

The dearth of good original stories to turn into successful screenplays and the intrinsic strength in the story of a real life personality being portrayed on the big screen as a ‘biopic’ (biographical film) is a trend in Bollywood. Even Tollywood seems to swerve in the same direction. Filmmaker Praveen Sattaru is working on a biopic of Indian badminton champion Pullela Gopichand. But are there any takers for biopics? It remains an unanswered question.

Recently, renowned film-maker Mahesh Bhatt announced that he would love to make a Bollywood biopic on the ace shuttler Saina Nehwal’s stellar rise as the Hyderabadi shuttler who went on to clinch India's first individual Olympic medal in badminton — a bronze at the London Games in 2012. An excited Saina said that she would love to see Deepika Padukone enact her role as she can do justice to her onscreen image.

While this is already a phenomenon in Bollywood, Tollywood too wants to cash in on the craze for biopics.

After the release of his recent directorial venture Chandamama Kathalu, film-maker Praveen Sattaru is now busy with his next Telugu movie, which is based on the life of Indian badminton champion Pullela Gopichand.

The director, who has roped in Sudheer Babu for the lead role in the movie, says that theyoung actor is a professional badminton player and he will be a perfect match for the role of Gopichand. Praveen is currently working on the script of this untitled movie and he is hoping to start its production soon. However, the reaction of the cinebuffs were, Why a movie on Pullela Gopichand, when he is still alive and sound? Director Praveen Sattaru has, however, a different perspective on the issue. Interacting with Hyderabad Hans, he says, “There is much about Pullela Gopichand that people are oblivious to. The movie talks about all of these things. Gopichand is a living legend and his struggle and efforts must not go unnoticed. The movie talks about every part of his life and would serve as an inspirational message to many.”

Commenting on why a biopic of a person who is so young and alive, he says, “This has been the sorry state of Indian audience or any audience for that matter. We do not consider the worth of a human being when he is alive and after he dies he is hailed above Gods. This must not happen.”

He continues, “I'm busy with the film's script and as soon as I complete it, we plan to go on floors. I chose Sudheer because he's a professional badminton player, who trained under Gopi for four years. I thought it would be apt to cast him because he can do justice to the character.”

The success of biographical films, such as ‘Bhaag Milkha Bhaag’, ‘Paan Singh Tomar’ and ‘The Dirty Picture’, has enthused film-makers to opt to tell more such stories, hopeful that viewers will lap them up with the same level of excitement. Production houses and film trade analysts are also backing that prospect, claiming viewers are now responding well to biopics.

Hindustan Times had earlier reported that stories of legendary characters, historical or contemporary, recreated in a gritty, were emerging as the new formula for commercial success in Bollywood.

According to Trans Asia News, there is a huge wave of such films in the offing. Under production at the moment are biopics like ‘NaMo’, which is biopic on the Prime Minister.

Also coming up, reportedly, are biopics on Sarabjit Singh (played by Anurag Sinha); Mohammad Azharuddin (Emraan Hashmi); Kishore Kumar (Ranbir Kapoor); Dara Singh (Akshay Kumar); MS Subbhulakshmi (Vidya Balan); Dhyan Chand (Shah Rukh Khan) and a biopic on magician PC Sorcar.

UTV Disney is working on a biopic of two Indian female athletes who did India proud at the Commonwealth Games. Percept Pictures has one coming up on two politicians. Manjunath, a biopic on young IIM-Lucknow graduate Manjunath Shanmugham, who fought the fuel mafia in Uttar Pradesh and was killed in 2005, was released last month by Viacom 18 Motion Pictures, which is also gearing up to release Mary Kom (played by Priyanka Chopra) soon.

But is there really room for so many biopics? Not all biographical films have actually done well. Shaheed, (Bobby Deol; 2002) on Bhagat Singh; Bose: The Forgotten Hero (2004) on Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose; and Gandhi My Father (2007), on Mahatma Gandhi’s oldest son, Harilal, fared poorly at the box office.

However, production houses and trade analysts are giving these films the thumbs up. Amar Butala, creative director, studios, Disney India, which produces films under the UTV banner said, “Both ‘Paan Singh Tomar’ and ‘No One Killed Jessica’ saw dream runs at the box office. If there is an awe inspiring story and if we can take it, remain true to it, and yet keep the film entertaining, there is an audience for it. We are also working on a Kishore Kumar biopic,” he said.

“With the quality of narration going up, the chances of success are big with biopics,” said a film trade analyst.

Ad-film maker Prahlad Kakkar had said, although Bollywood has made biopics earlier, new age story-telling has infused strength into the format. He said, “Richard Attenborough’s ‘Gandhi’ and Manoj Kumar’s ‘Bhagat Singh’ were successful. ‘Phoolan Devi’ was critically acclaimed. However, new age story telling, colours and production houses have infused strength into the format, making it more commercially viable.”

The shortage of good scripts is also contributing to growing the genre.

According to Jehil Thakkar, head, media and entertainment, KPMG, “Biopic is a safer format as it is relatable and has a definite structure. Although legal implications, scripts and research need care, biopics provide readymade stories,” he said.

Who knows, pretty soon, there might be a trend of auto-biopics too.

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