If Ben Kingsley as Mahatma Gandhi won critical acclaim, Daniel Day-Lewis was lauded for his portrayal of the American President, Abraham Lincoln. Meryl Streep as British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Ashton Kutcher as Apple CEO Steve Jobs, Morgan Freeman as South African President Nelson Mandela – the list is endless. But while Hollywood has seen a spate of biopics over the course of its history, the same cannot be said of Bollywood, with relatively fewer biopics strewn over its century-old existence. Or can it?
However, the past decade has seen a huge spurt in the number of biopics being released in the Indian film industry. With the genre proving to be a crowd puller, filmmakers are leaving no stone unturned in bringing famous (and infamous) personalities to the silver screen. From Farhan Akhtar’s Milkha Singh to Irrfan Khan’s Paan Singh Tomar, the list goes on.
But have our desi actors managed to pull off the required look and personality? The charm (or the apparent lack of it), the demeanour? We’ll let you be the judge!
Seema Biswas in Bandit Queen (1994)
One of the most well-crafted and controversial biopics to be made in Bollywood, this Shekhar Kapur film saw Seema Biswas starring as Phoolan Devi – a woman torn by the patriarchal society just to become a bandit, and then a politician.
Irrfan Khan in Paan Singh Tomar (2010)
Irrfan Khan’s portrayal of Paan Singh Tomar in the 2010 film of the same name won him the National Award for best actor. His performance in this true story about an Indian Olympian turned dacoit was a critical and commercial success, launching the actor to superstardom.
Rajkummar Rao in Shahid (2012)
Hansal Mehta’s eponymous Shahid does justice to a complex yet humane character. Played by Rajkummar Rao, it tells the gutsy story of a person who believed in the power of truth and justice, yet knew that the path he had taken was strewn with risks, indifference and ignominy.
Farhan Akhtar in Bhaag Milkha Bhaag (2013)
Award-winning filmmaker Rakyesh Omprakash Mehra’s Bhaag Milkha Bhaag told the true story of the “Flying Sikh” – world champion runner and Olympian Milkha Singh. Diligently played by Farhan Akhtar, the film was praised for its story-telling, with Farhan receiving widespread appreciation for portraying the hardships Milkha endured on his way to becoming one of India’s most iconic athletes.
Priyanka Chopra in Mary Kom (2014)
While some called the Priyanka Chopra starrer a disservice to the Indian boxer, others called the biopic that traces the journey of five times world boxing champion and Olympic medalist Mary Kom a worthy attempt. Piggy Chops may not resemble Mary Kom in any way, but she sure did give her heart and soul to the movie!
Sonam Kapoor in Neerja (2016)
Neerja needs no introduction. Yet for those living under a rock, the Sonam Kapoor starrer is a biographical thriller, shown from the point of view of the flight’s head purser Neerja Bhanot who thwarted a hijack attempt by Libya-backed Abu Nidal Organization – saving the lives of 359 of the 379 other passengers and crew on board and giving her life in the process.
The film went on to be a critical and financial success, with many calling it Sonam Kapoor’s best performance till date.
Emraan Hashmi in Azhar (2016)
A biographical sports drama based on the life of Indian cricketer and former national team captain Mohammad Azharuddin was always going to be a tricky one. And so it was, with controversy raging prior to its release over a storyline that absolves the protagonist from charges of fixing matches in return of money.
While the film received mixed reviews, many saw Emraan Hashmi as the saving grace of an otherwise mediocre film.
What do you think of the above actors? Were they able to sell their respective roles to you? Let us know in the comments below!