Home » Subject » Essay » Biographical Films

Biographical Films Made on Popular Personalities Including Victims, Comment

The current generation may not be lucky enough to witness Martin Luther King, Gandhi and Socrates delivering their memorable speeches or to watch the rise of Milkha and Mary Kom as legendary sportsperson, but a biopic based on their life gives us a beautiful glimpse through those times. On the other hand the portrayal of World war victims, Nazi Holocast, Bhopal Gas Tragedy, Aruna Shanbaug case , Nirbhaya case etc depicts the ebb of mankind and gives us an opportunity to ponder over the past and take remedial actions for the future. The paper and pen biographies has given way to digital films which has changed the way we look at history- from mere academic and historical perspective to an entertainment and opinion building process .

Apart from entertainment value, there comes an educative value associated with these films. They serve as reminder of history, the socio-economic conditions responsible for some events and the plight of victims (example: victims of terrorism, accident or crime). It breaks the monotony of fiction and enriches the Digital information space. The trend is picking up with living persons watching their own biopic (Milkha Singh, Mary Kom e.t.c.). Sachin Tendulkar is even poised to act in his own biopic. These films often act as cultural ambassadors of a country in foreign lands by depicting the local arts, crafts, architecture and traditions. Movies based on entrepreneurship (ex social network), academic pursuits (ex. A beautiful mind) have inspired millions of youth across the globe and will certainly help in a social and economic revolution. A very important application of such productions can be in spurring education via Digital India.

Portrayal of victim in movies help in creating awareness among the pubic and educating the masses about myths/stereotypes and prejudices associated with the victim. Case in point is the stereotype against women wherein they are considered weak and unfit for sports especially after entering motherhood. Films based on the lives of PT Usha and Mary com have surely helped erasing this preconceived notion about women. Similarly a powerful campaign accompanied by the digital films against women related crimes have changed the perception of many. The transition in the image of women and the roles she play have undergone a change today - a credit which films surely deserve. The erroneous perception created by movies in 90's that "rape" can be absolved when the victim marries the rapist has been completely negated by today's forward looking filmmakers and the changed view has percolated well in the society ! Similar developments are accomplished when films trigger introspection in the society.

As it happen sometime, a film may be mired in controversies on various grounds like- hurting the religious sentiments of a community, privacy concerns, popularizing the view of the convict, biased views etc. Such things are bound to happen in a multicultural society which has not internalized the essence of freedom of speech (Article 19 of Indian Constitution), the right to privacy (Article 21, Article 12 of Universal Declaration on Human Rights and Art.17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 1966) etc. Similarly, the depiction of criminal mindset/philosophy of a criminal should not be viewed as propagating the convict's philosophy; rather it is a valuable insight into the socio-economic conditions which breed such criminals. Same way, a criticism of a religious practice may be taken positively as a step towards religious reforms which is a continuous process. Critical social questions example - need for euthanasia, ban on capital punishment etc may be brought to the forefront by depicting the real life cases wherein the emotions/dilemmas/ ethical and moral questions may be aptly featured to trigger a debate on the desirability of change. Lastly a culture of respect for privacy of individuals and respect for mankind should develop amongst the filmmakers.

The trend of depicting real lives on reel is nothing short of an intellectual revolution and should be seen as an important step in pragmatic film making, societal transformation and an overall pursuit of knowledge.

Amit Adhikari