|Image Courtesy Here|
“Look Ma, Milkha Singh,” a little boy nudged his mother. It didn’t hit me until I saw Farhan Akhtar emerge from the arrival terminal. Funny, how cinematic portrayal impacts impressionable minds. Remember how Nitish Bharadwaj became an embodiment of Lord Krishna after Mahabharata? Women would close their eyes and see Nitish’s smiling visage. Such is the power of cinema.
While biographical and historical movies open dusted chapters, they also stir controversies. It all began with the first blockbuster Mughal-e-Azam. Historians argued that Anarkali was, perhaps, one of Akbar’s wives and the mother of Salim’s half brother, Prince Daniyal. And Salim, they say, was a heavy consumer of alcohol and opium, very different from the gentle hero.The Sheesh Mahal, according to historians, was a royal bath and not a dancing hall as depicted in the movie.
Much like Bajirao Mastani, Airlift raised many questions. Shekhar Gupta, a journalist who covered the Gulf War writes, “Airlift has completely changed history. It steals a real event to build a Sunny Deol-style hyper patriotic yarn. We know that no soldier fights in real life as Sunny Deol, Stallone or Tom Cruise, so drama is fine. But did Airlift have to mythologize as much as it has done, particularly as it re-writes history with zero concern for facts? These are days when vigilantism is popular. The state and the system can do nothing, so a super Indian has to rise and fill in, the tricolor is unfurled to notes of Vande Mataram and we all have tears in our eyes.”
At one level, to judge a historical on the basis of authenticity rather than the effectiveness of storytelling is to defeat the commercial purpose. Commercial success, after all, is the only moral of a market place. So will Neerja, in the upcoming biopic sing songs on the flight? Yes. I mean, no, I doubt it. But of course, Sonam as Neerja can sing songs prior to the actual hijacking sequence. The rest can be easily attributed to ‘cinematic liberty’. Like Sanjay Bhansali’s disclaimer professing that the ‘film does not claim to be historically accurate’. God knows, in a country like ours where sensibilities get hurt at the drop of a hat, such disclaimers are a boon. Courtesy disclaimers, the reel Kashi Bai swayed to Pinga even if the real Kashi Bai could never imagine a merry dance-off with Mastani. Who knows if she had arthritis? Or vertigo? Just as reel Sunny Deol engaged in a hand-to-hand combat even if the real Major Chandpuri did not indulge in jingoistic ground combat during 1971, Longewala war.
Coming back to the way cinema impacts our psyche, it is interesting to note how we begin to see real characters from the prism of cinematic reel. After Jodha Akbar, the Akbar ingrained in our memories as a slightly rotund aging character has been airbrushed as a young Hrithik Roshan. Likewise, the present generation goes by the way Ben Kingsley played Mahatma in Gandhi. Thankfully, it was pretty close to the original, given that Gandhi was with us not so long ago. Also, given that the director stayed away from Bollywood song and dance routine. Part of the magic, perhaps depends on who enacts the character and how popular the film is. Because one has to jog memory to recall Pooja Batra as Noor Jahan or Manisha Koirala as Jahan Ara in the movie, Taj Mahal- An Eternal Love Story. Remember?
At one level, diving in the pool of nostalgia and fishing out old gems is a welcome thought. For one, Bollywood is not the only industry that exploits real life drama to recreate a fictional drama. Hollywood does it too. And ends up nurturing myths to create popular cinema. The Academy award winning movie Argo was said to sideline Canada’s role in the evacuation plan while giving all credit to the CIA. Likewise, Clint Eastwood’s movie American Sniper earned accolades, but critics slammed it for several distortions in the story. Two, because had it not been for Bajirao Mastani, many of us wouldn’t know about the great Maratha warrior.
Of course, it is too simplistic to assume that that Bajirao Peshwa sang Malhari the way Ranveer Singh did, or that he made passionate love to Kashi Bai after pouring water on her head. But it is undeniable that cinema etches history with such a vivid brush that it leaves an indelible mark. While it perpetrates a myth that Farhan Akhtar singing ‘Havan Karenge’ is actually sprinter Milkha Singh, it also brings alive a legend hitherto buried in history.
This blog post is inspired by the blogging marathon hosted on IndiBlogger for the launch of the #Fantastico Zica from Tata Motors. You can apply for a test drive of the hatchback Zica today.