Biopics: Bollywood’s Contemporary Fascination With Underdog Tales

Indian Cinema’s current obsession is Biopics. Bollywood loves to churn out successful ideas until the audience gets bored with them.

Political biopics have become a fad as they end up glorifying the leaders and bolster the audience’s political biases. “Biopic is one way to put forth a particular ideology in a more palatable way,” says Dr Piyush Roy, filmmaker and critic. Keeping with the trend,  PM Narendra Modi’s biopic was one of the movies that were re-released since the cinema halls opened.

With upcoming‘83 (Kapil Dev’s biopic), biopics on Saina Nehwal, Mithali Raj, Abhinav Bindra, Pullela Gopichand, etc, Bollywood has caught the pulse of the audience who prefers the underdog’s story. Films like Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, Mary Kom, Dangal, M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story were highly successful at the box office because they are all stories of ordinary people, struggling against the system, society or personal obstacles, and achieving success.

Bollywood and sports films have had an amicable relationship; films like Lagaan and Iqbal impressed the viewers by mixing drama with their favourite sport, cricket. It was with Chak De! India that hockey got the love and recognition among the common masses; it brought women’s hockey to the mainstream.

Bhaag Milkha Bhaag can be rightfully considered the pioneer of sports biopics in Hindi cinema. The Flying Sikh was a big hit at the box office, thus giving a successful formula to the filmmakers. Dr Vebhuti Duggal, Associate Editor at Bioscope: South Asian Screen Studies, says that sports biopics help in bringing the narratives of the aspirational individual to the fore in a substantial way in terms of desire for recognition. She believes that sports biopics articulate the “weight of the language of a nation, erstwhile limited to war narrative”.

Sports biopics give a sense of justice by presenting the underdog’s story. The narrative is generally of people who have climbed their way to success through hard work. They are like you and me, they try, fail, try and ultimately succeed. Prakhar Mishra, writer and lyricist, says, “Sports is used as an escapist tool by the system. These biopics give you a sense of social justice, defines straight and honest set of rules that do not exist in society.”

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