History Retold








There are a handful of films drawing from the history books lined up for release. Is this a new winning formula?

Content-driven films have become the darling of our industry in recent times. With the Hindi film audience becoming increasingly discerning and choosy, there’s considerable pressure on filmmakers to come up with fresh stories that are saleable.

Well, Bollywood appears to have found a fount of ideas that are appealing to movie-goers – and that also work at the box office. In the next few months, we will see a number of films that revisit our history books and bring to the big screen a perfect marriage of fact and fiction.

For instance, Madhur Bhandarkar’s Indu Sarkar featuring Kirti Kulhari, Neil Nitin Mukesh, Anupam Kher and Tota Roy Chowdhury, which is set against the backdrop of the Emergency imposed on the country from 1975 to 1977.

Tigmanshu Dhulia’s Raag Desh starring Kunal Kapoor, Amit Sadh and Mohit Marwah is a period drama based on the Indian National Army set up by Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and the war to liberate India that was fought on the shores of the Irrawaddy River in Burma.

Then there’s Indo-British film Partition 1947 directed by Gurinder Chadha featuring Huma Qureshi along with a number of Hollywood stars. The film is based on the last Viceroy in India, Lord Mountbatten, and the transition of British India to Independence.

There’s also the much-anticipated film from Milan Luthria, Baadshaho, starring Ajay Devgn, Emraan Hashmi, Ileana D’Cruz, Esha Gupta, Vidyut Jammwal and Sanjay Mishra, also set during the 1975 Emergency in India.

John Abraham’s ParmanuThe Story Of Pokhran will present another interesting chapter from our history as the film is based  on the successful nuclear tests conducted in Pokhran, Rajasthan in 1998.

And lastly we have Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s historical drama Padmavati featuring Deepika Padukone, Shahid Kapoor, Ranveer Singh, Jim Sarbh and Aditi Rao Hydari, a film that accounts the life of Rani Padmini, a legendary queen. Also scheduled to release next year is Akshay Kumar’s Gold, directed by Reema Katgi, the film is set in 1948, and is the historic story of India’s first Olympic medal post-independence.

This week, we ask industry insiders for their opinion on which of these films is likely to hit the bull’s eye, and if a history lesson is a new and winning formula for our filmmakers. Here’s what they had to say.


PrernaaPrernaa Arora, KriARj Entertainment

History lessons are the most difficult to be depicted on screen and if they are well made, they work big time at the box office.  Right from Mughal-e-Azam to Border to Jodha Akbar to Devdas, and the recently Goliyon Ki Rasleela Ramleela, they were all mounted well, and were great stories told, and they all worked. Similarly, I feel Indu Sarkar, Baadshaho and Gold are all big films and made by well-established makers. All these films are bound to do well at the box office. The audience is very eager to watch these films and excitement levels are high.


RemoRemo D’Souza, Director

I think Padmavati and Gold have real potential and the hype is really working in favour of these movies. But you can’t expect to come up with a winner simply because you are following this history-based formula. A Baahubali is made only once and you can’t expect all the films to run like Baahubali did. It’s all bout a good script, not about history or following a trend. It doesn’t matter whether the story is set in the past or present or based on reality or history. Success depends on the quality of the script.


Abhinay_DeoAbhinay Deo, Director

First, I don’t believe cinema follows any formulas. So, for instance, Rang De Basanti did very well and many films were later made on Bhagat Singh but they didn’t perform well at the box office. But, along with fiction, it’s great to also explore some interesting chapters in history.  Unfortunately, most people misunderstand the historical event. We should try to do justice to our history. Still, I like the idea of a historical backdrop with a fictional story. I think the story of Gold and whom it’s based on is very interesting. Also, Reema Kagti is a very capable director and Excel has added quality to Gold as well.


Abbas - MustanAbbas-Mustan, Directors

This is not a new trend because there have been many films made on historical subjects that have emerged winners at the box office. At the end of the day, it all depends on how you handle the subject and its transition from storyboard to screen. Among the upcoming films, Baadshaho will be a success, not only due to its story but also due to its star cast. Parmanu – The Story of Pokhran too looks interesting. Ever since John Abraham delivered a film like Madras Café, the audience has been expecting a lot from this one as well. Padmavati will undoubtedly be a winner due to the trio  Deepika Padukone-Ranveer Singh-Sanjay Leela Bhansali. I think we just need to pick the right stories to tell, whether from history or fiction.


murli-chhatwaniMurli Chhatwani, Managing Director, Muviwale Entertainment

It is very important for us, as an industry, to break the clutter and support scripts that are unique while keeping the commercial elements intact. Indu Sarkar, Baadshaho and Padmavati along with Parmanu – The Story of Pokhran are on top of my list and should add decent weightage to box office numbers. Baadshaho looks like a good, homogenous mixture of historical events and commercial value, which makes it my pick of the lot. It will hit the bull’s eye.

History lessons have been a winning formula for our filmmakers for years, and we have produced movies like Mughal-E-Azam to Heer Ranjha to Bhagat Singh and Jodhaa Akbar. However, we shy away from making it a regular practice for many reasons, including commercial reasons and social constraints. I personally feel India has a rich history and mythology; it’s just that we need visionary filmmakers like SS Rajamouli, Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Neeraj Pandey to take them to the silver screen for us.

Rohini Nag and Komal Sharma
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