Getting real in Bollywood

May 8, 2008

I am a bit wary when filmmakers announce Bollywood projects based on real life people. After all, the word Bollywood evokes images of glitzy song-and-dance routines in exotic locales. And that’s largely true even though the Mumbai film industry is showing signs of opening up to bolder, more realistic themes.

Bollywood postersTake “Rave Party” for example. The story of Scarlett Keeling, the British teenager murdered at a Goan beach, is being made into a film.

But it remains to be seen if director Prabhakar Shukla’s project can stick to the truth. A lawyer for Keeling’s family has said they might object if it didn’t.

Actor Sanjay Dutt is to portray Charles Sobhraj in a new film about the infamous killer and master of disguise. And “Jannat,” releasing in cinemas this month, depicts a cricket coach found dead under mysterious circumstances during a tournament — mirroring the death of Bob Woolmer at the cricket World Cup in 2007.

It’s as if the Bollywood well for ideas has dried up and filmmakers have to turn to real life for inspiration. I am not sure if such films actually strike a chord with audiences. Documentaries sans dance sequences may be too boring but a film that has too many may not seem realistic enough. Getting the dosage right would be tough.

But I guess a ‘real life’ inspiration is one way of ensuring the film stays in the limelight. And that’s true not just in Bollywood. A U.S.-based Bangladeshi news agency reported that actor Amitabh Bachchan is to play Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in a film about the founding leader of Bangladesh.

The film’s producer told the agency that Bachchan’s son Abhishek and daughter-in-law Aishwarya will also act in “The Poet of Politics”.

Amitabh BachchanAs expected, the 65-year-old superstar was badgered by Indian media eager to know if he was doing the film.

“It’s the first time that I hear all this and obviously negate it, but they are persistent. The person producing it has confirmed your participation, Mr Bachchan! Well Mr Bachchan has not heard of it yet, thank you,” the actor wrote on his blog.

Of course, whether Bachchan plays Rahman or not, the film has already got its share of publicity. Which means real life inspirations and Bollywood can work quite well together.

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