Reeling off reality

True story

As real life ventures into celluloid space, a new genre of cinema can be culled out — one that allows the audience to deconstruct and relive a few moments from their own time, writes Vatsal Verma.

Inspiration : Of late, movies in Bollywood are based on real life  incidents or characters.

Not very long ago, watching a Hindi film would predominantly mean watching a three-hour-long melodrama unfold. Every other movie was being woven around stereotypical themes of romance amidst resentful parents and love triangles or family sagas with a generous amount of martyrs and long-lost siblings in play.

A film, somehow, seemed to be fractional without a hero, a heroine and not to forget, a much-needed crafty villain. However, everyone seemed to appreciate them as they allowed one to dwell on simple entertainment and leisurely relish the experience of watching a movie. In fact, even today we fondly remember those movies as well as our ‘heroes’, ‘heroines’ and ‘villains’.

There has been a marked shift in Hindi cinema since then. From cinematography to choreography, acting to animation, production to promotion, each section
involved in filmmaking has undergone a tremendous melioration. Another emerging pillar which has captured the attention of many avid cinema-goers and readers is the blossoming trend among our movie makers, who seem to be making films based on ‘real life’ stories or incidents. From rape, murders and mayhem to trigger-happy dons and from power-hungry politicians to controversial characters and criminals, all have sauntered into the celluloid with equal ease and surprisingly left the cash register clinking.

Be it a political thriller on the atrocious murder of Delhi-based model Jessica Lall and her sister’s inexorable struggle to get justice for her slain sister or a biopic on sensuous South Indian actress ‘Silk Smitha’, the big screen offers it all. From Anurag Kashyap’s Black Friday centered on 1993 serial bomb blasts in Mumbai and Jag Mundhra’s Shoot on Sight, which was based upon Operation Kratos, the police’s ‘shoot-to-kill’ policy applied to suspected suicide-bombers after the 2005 London bombings, to Apoorva Lakhia’s Shootout at Lokhandwala, which was based upon the 1991 Lokhandwala Complex shootout, a real life gun battle between gangsters and Mumbai Police, one can safely presume that terrorist attacks seem to be the ‘blue-eyed boys’ of Bollywood directors.

Even the underworld hasn’t been relinquished with movies like Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai echoing the lives of the real gangsters Haji Mastan and Dawood Ibrahim. The film skillfully depicts the evolution of the Mumbai underworld, from felony and smuggling in its early stages to its connection with international terrorism in recent times. We’ve also had Not A Love Story, inspired by the grisly murder of Neeraj Grover, and Dibakar Banerjee’s Oye Lucky Lucky Oye, based on the real life tomfoolery of infamous Bunty chor.

But the question that is most often asked is whether the trend is desirable or deplorable?  In this cinematic age, where the focus is rapidly shifting from the work of pure fiction to visual adaptations of contended happenings and characters, it will not be incorrect to say that filmmaking, as an art of unleashing creativity, has lost its allure. Artists drawing inspiration from real people and events is scarcely a new phenomenon, but when the entire film is made as a replica, somehow, originality loses its justification because down the line, true art strives for more.

Making ‘reel’ stories

Movie makers jumping on the realistic cinema bandwagon must realise that the audience at large, due to the lack of cinematic knowledge, tags more importance to the story than style. This rhetorical way of fact-based storytelling is just like a secondhand story well told. In a way, the concept also seems to blend more with the role of media than filmmaking because what has already been staged by news channels several times is dramatised on the big screen again. Besides, it also vigorously influences people to form the same sort of opinions as that of the director and sometimes, that might create a general notion, good or bad, about the subject for sure.

Sometimes, it is also expedient for the director to make such movies because it seems to gather a prominent amount of publicity by landing in controversies, with some relative of the ‘real-life protagonist’ claiming to be offended. Pawan Kripalani’s Ragini MMS, reportedly, based on a 22-year-old Delhi girl Deepika’s story about what happened to her one night when she went out with her boyfriend made quite a lot of fuss, even before releasing, with the girl claiming to be upset over the movie.

One of the prime reasons that such movies do well at the box office could be due to the audience’s curiosity to know ‘the whole truth’. People expect to find something more or perhaps to find a fresh new perspective to a case. For those who were oblivious to the details of the proceedings, it might work as an exciting possibility to join the ‘well-informed’ club, ready to enter any debate with phenomenal command over the subject. All in all, it works as a good formula to employ commercially.

These reality-based films have often helped the audience to connect better with the message conveyed through the films. This kind of cinema breaks the cocoon of what old Hindi films had made the world to be — a happy place with a happy ending.
“Personally, I quite like this trend of making stories on real people and real incidents.

Gone are the days when we would like to watch something that rarely existed around us. The audience has matured and we want to see more of things we can connect with in the true sense,” says Sonal Agarwal, an avid Bollywood fan.

Leaving aside the black and white side of the subject, what seems to be the substantial, rather, thoughtful question, is whether filmmaking as a means to entertain is changing its definition and whether our storytellers really need to learn the art of balancing fact and fiction.

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