Best Biopics Made on Bollywood Screen

Most recently I watched Manjhi – The Mountain Man on You Tube – A biopic based on the life of Dashrath Manjhi, a poor labourer belonging to a rural village of Bihar who did an almost impossible task of carving a path of 11 meters long, binding two villages taking 22 long years. The title role was done by the talented Nawazuddin Siddiqui, mostly known for playing powerful character roles on screen, no doubt Manjhi – The Mountain Man is one among his best performances up-to-date. The movie was directed by Ketan Mehta, and definitely makes a position in my list. Through this article, I would like to add a few more best biopics and movies based on real life incidences.

Years back, during the infamous Emergency period of 1975, when Aandhi was released, the movie was withdrawn from theatres after a few months. The movie was rumoured to be influenced by the real and political life of the then Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi. The ban was lifted and movie got released on Doordarshan two years later, after the defeat of Indira Gandhi in general elections. The ban was one of the much talked topics of 1970s. Actually the movie was inspired from the life of one more female politician, Tarkeshwari Sinha. After that Bollywood has rarely witnessed the making of films based on real life stories or incidents. 
Since 2000s, a few movies have been made based on Indian Freedom struggle movement. Apart from Bhagat Singh (four movies made in the year 2002), Chiitagong incident (Chittagong, Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Se) remained the most trending topic. Movies based on historic events like Bajirao Mastani have also been made on reel.  Now it’s a trend in Bollywood to make movies based on real-life incidences adding commercial elements, and most of those attempts have given positive results at box office also. Since 2012 several biopics have been made on Bollywood screen, and most of them have been commercially and critically successful.They have well caught media attention also.
Vidya Balan received National award for best actress for the biopic of South Indian item girl Silk Smitha, and the movie was titled Dirty Picture. It seems a trend has started after that. Irrfan Khan received National award for best actor for the biopic – Paan Tomar Singh (2013), and the following year the same prestigious award was won by Rajkumar Rao for the movie, Shahid where he portrayed the role of Shahid Azmi, a lawyer and human rights activist. Earlier too, many actors have received the same award for doing the lead role of several biopics like Seema Biswas for Bandit Queen, Smitha Patel for Bhumika, Ajay Devgan for The Legend Of Bhagat Singh, Mammooty for Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar (originally an English film) etc.
Since the trend has started in early 2010s, several critically acclaimed and commercially successful directors have come forward to make biopics – based on present day generation as well as characters from historic stories like Bajirao Mastani by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, which drew inspirations from the real life love story of Peshwa Bajirao and Princess Mastani. Bhaag Milkha Bhaag by Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra based on the life of Milkha Singh and Mary Kom by Omung Kumar based on the life of Indian boxer Mary Kom are best among the biographical sports films ever made in Bollywood. 

Only a few biopics have been made on Indian painters. Rang Rasiya had a delayed release on Indian screen, and it was based on the life of the celebrated Indian painter Raja Ravi Varma. Though the movie was not commercially success, it met with critical acclaim. However its nude scenes also invited a lot of controversies.

Among Indian freedom fighters, perhaps most number of biopics might have been made of Bhagat Singh. Shahid in 1965 was a commercial hit. Among other biopics of this iconic freedom fighter, The Legend Of Bhagat Singh starring Ajay Devgan and 23 March 1931: Shaheed need special mention. Mangal Pandey: The Rising, Bose- The Forgotten Hero, Gandhi (Originally an English film) are best among the biopics. 

Year 2016 is best known for several biopics, and most of them are sports based. Among the releases of 2016, Neerja and Sarbjit received positive response from critics and audience. In fact, Neerja turned to be the best movie of Sonam Kapoor’s career. However biopic of former Indian cricketer Mohammed Azharuddin – Azar starring Emraan Hashmi couldn’t meet with expectations. Now, biopics of Sachin Tendulkar and M. S. Dhoni are in pipeline.

A few more interesting films which derived its script from real life incidents include – Not a love story, ABCD-2, Sardar, Aligarh, Gandhi – My father, Guru, Shakti – The Power, Zubeidaa, Hawaizaada, Traffic, Main Aur Charles, Lakshmi, Bhumika etc. Not a love story and No One Killed Jessica are crime thrillers based on real-life incidents.

No One Killed Jessica starring Rani Mukerji and Vidya Balan is a rare phenomenon when a Bollywood movie ride on success without the support of any hero. Akshay Kumar’s 2016 release Airlift based on evacuation of Indians based in Kuwait during Gulf war in 1991 was a huge hit at box office. Now the real twist is Akshay Kumar’s recent released crime thriller – Rustom is also based on a real-life incident of Naval Officer K.M. Nanavati. The movie also turned to be a blockbuster hit.

Read about National Award Winning Performances for Biopics

Read a few more miscellaneous posts on Bollywood stars and movies of today. Here is the page link. Click on the images to read. 

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A freelance writer and blogger by profession since October 2011, interested in writing over a wide range of topics. Hope you enjoy my writings. I belong to one of the beautiful places of the world, Kerala, nicknamed as 'God's own country'.

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