The encouraging opening AZHAR received and then for the next two days and the gradual dampening of the interest shown by audiences to the biopic has left many in a state of confusion when it comes to the making of biopics. Is the audience willing to accept films made on the lives of legends and icons, especially in the field of sports, or is it just a passing fad? Will the biopics that have been planned for the future be made with the same kind of enthusiasm when they were begun or will the way AZHAR has been treated at the box-office make filmmakers change their attitude towards making biopics which only two years ago was considered to be a safe proposition? This is one question which AZHAR has raised seriously and how and where the trend of making biopics will lead will be an interesting phenomenon to watch and to study.
The interest in making biopics started with films like THE DIRTY PICTURE, BHAAG MILKHA BHAAG, MARY KOM and NEERJA. For reasons which are still to be fathomed by film experts, learned film analysts and historians these films aroused the interest of the audience and led to the success of the films.
All these films based on real life characters like Silk Smitha, the sexy siren of south Indian films made in the eighties and nineties, the athlete Milkha Singh who missed the Olympic gold medal, Mary Kom, the ace female pugilist and Neerja Pandey, the airhostess from Mumbai who gave up her life to save victims of a major kidnap. They were well researched and well directed films with true to life performances by actors like Vidya Balan, Farhan Akhtar, Priyanka Chopra and Sonam Kapoor. The films were not like dry, drab and dreary stories told in an haphazard manner or like documentaries but made in a way that made the audience believe that they were seeing legends living all over again and that was the reason why the films were appreciated, awarded and surprisingly for all of them to do well at the box-office.
The success of these biopics led to a trend like it happens with all successful films and there were any number of biopics that were announced and some are still being made. Among the biopics are M S DHONI: THE UNTOLD STORY, the biopics on SANJAY DUTT, KISHORE KUMAR and MEENA KUMARI, DANGAL based on the real life of a wrestler from Punjab, Mahabir Singh Phogat being played by Aamir Khan, and a biopic based on the controversial female writer Kamla Suraiya Das who was the trend-setter among women writing in English and Malayalam in the eighties and nineties.
There are other makers who are still in a state of inspiration when it comes to making attempts to follow those who have made biopics and succeeded. There are writers and filmmakers who are trying to find characters from history, from the fields of science and Mathematics (A.K.Ramanujan), literature (Sahir Ludhianvi and Amrita Pritam) and well-known war lords of a distant times like the film Sanjay Leela Bhansali is planning to make.
The biopics that have already been released have had their days and have become a part of history, but what about the biopics that are being made or planned now? It is what has been happening after the release of AZHAR that gives rise to this question.
There have been strong mixed reactions to the story of Mohammad Azharuddin as told in the biopic. There have been some of his contemporaries like Ravi Shastri, Manoj Prabhakar and some others who have taken objections to the way the realities have been presented. They are especially angry about the way their real life characters have been depicted in the biopic and some have even threatened to go to court on various charges, including defamation.
Dealing with living legends is a very dicey problem as can be seen from the different reactions by different people involved in the story and the many controversies Mohammad Azharuddin was involved with and his relationships with men and women. It is very difficult to try and tell the truth and the whole truth about some of the legendary figures and one can take these risks only if they have the background to support the films they make and the scenes they depict when dealing with characters that are living, especially. Like in the case of the biopics being planned on the life and times of Kishore Kumar and Meena Kumari, it is said that their families are entirely against the ideas of the lives of their loved ones being made public.
When this trend of making biopics was started, it seemed all so easy, but now with the changing times and laws, it will be a little difficult to make biopics with the freedom true biopics should be made. Will the obstructions come in the way of makers attempting biopics, one wonders, even worries about how long this trend to make biopics will continue.