Actor Ranbir Kapoor in a still from ‘Sanju’.
Actor Ranbir Kapoor in a still from ‘Sanju’.

Bollywood is in love with biopics. But will it last?

Unless it's a period film, a biopic set in contemporary times follows Bollywood's regular trope of monetizationa tight budget with cleverly strategized satellite and digital rights

New Delhi: It’s raining biopics in Bollywood. Director Rajkumar Hirani’s take on actor Sanjay Dutt’s life, Sanju, whose teaser was released on Tuesday and Rajkummar Rao-starrer Omerta, which releases next week, are only two among a long line-up this year.

These include Kangana Ranaut’s Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi, Anupam Kher’s take on the life of former prime minister Manmohan Singh in The Accidental Prime Minister and Nawazuddin Siddiqui as Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray in Thackeray.

The biopic wave has been nothing short of an obsession in Bollywood lately, with more than 40 films churned out in the past decade alone. The trend reached its peak in 2016 with 12 films, including hits such as Dangal, Neerja and M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story, followed by eight movies in 2015 and six in 2017.

“Biopics have always been made in India, Mughal-e-Azam was a biopic too, as was Jodhaa Akbar," pointed out Neerja director Ram Madhvani. “But the thing is we are making more realistic biopics now because audiences are interested in real stories. The fantasy element of Hindi movies is changing." Madhvani added that the things people used to traditionally go to Hindi movies for, the larger-than-life songs, romance, the heroic stuff, have all given way to a depiction of the grey shades of real life.

Omung Kumar, director of biopics such as Sarbjit and Mary Kom, said the biopic is a new storytelling technique that has been in vogue far longer abroad and came to India much later. Its appeal, he says, lies in bringing to life the story of someone who once existed and made a mark.

“A biopic, apart from obvious realism, needs to have a sense of inspiration for audiences while continuing to entertain at its core," agreed Rudrarup Datta, senior vice-president, marketing, Viacom18 Motion Pictures, which has backed biopics like Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, Mary Kom and Manjhi: The Mountain Man.