Suruchi Gupta

Facts From Real To Reel Journey… Biopics 7/7

by on Apr.27, 2011, under Experiences, Miscellaneous

The post below is a fuller version of the story published on HT City, Hindustan Times, Kolkata, page 1, on April 27, 2011. Big-big thanks to a lot of people who made it possible- including: our editor Ms. Y. Chakraborty (whose exceptional editing skills I wish to learn), my senior Mr. Ritujay Ghosh (who informed me a lot about background of some great yesteryear and present actors to make me differentiate between facts and fiction; Onir – for sharing so much so openly, Mr. Harish Iyer, Mr. Omprakash Mehra, Mr. Milkha Singh, Mrs Madhur Bhushan, Ms Sabrina Lall, Mr. Vivek Anand, Mr. Naga Vara Prasad, Mr. Srinivas from Hyderabad. My seniors from Mumbai also helped me trace some more contacts, which I could not make use of for want of space 🙁 apologies! The story is an attempt to see the other side of the film screen, where real people live, with real memories, without, or at times, with inhibitions.  Read on…

Copyright@ HT Media LTD.

I Am – a film inspired from four real life stories –released last week, joining the league of films like No One Killed Jessica (NOKJ- based on Jessica Lall murder case), Rakhtacharitra (on politician Paritala Ravi), the in-making The Dirty Picture (on Silk Smitha), Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai (allegedly based on lives of Haji Mastan and Dawood Ibrahim), Paan Singh Tomar (based on runner of a same name). While some of those immortalised on silver screen revel in the filmmaking, some feel let down, cheated, giving the legends in-making a cautious tread.

“How can someone make a movie on my sister without even once us asking or coming to the place where she was born and brought up?” asks Naga Vara Prasad, Silk Smitha’s brother, surprising us, when we ask him his thoughts on the film being made. No wonder he tells HT City about considering an appeal against the filmmakers in High Court.

Prasad says, “The impression from the news channels means that they are making a ‘dirty’ vulgar movie on my sister. How can do such a thing?”

Prasad, living 7km off Elluru, Hyderabad, was informed of the film being made by the medium of television news channels! (PS: Vidya was announced to be visiting Silk Smitha’s family in December 2010).

Prasad is unaware that filmmakers can pass off such ‘biopics’ as fictitious with a disclaimer in place.

“I have not seen Once Upon… but how can someone portray a slice of a celeb’s life on celluloid, and then, by giving a disclaimer only, get rid of the responsibility associated with it?” questions Madhur Bhushan, Madhubala’s sister. Kangana Ranaut’s character in OUTM was partly based on Madhubala’s life, depicting the fascination Haji Mastan had for the late legend.

Apart from the fact that Madhubala and Haji Mastan (played by Ajay Devgn in the movie) never even met in their lifetime, Madhur strongly feels that none of today’s actresses – despite their talented profile – can portray someone like Madhubala on the screen.

Against these relatives of late legends are those who have opened their lives for filming in their lifetime.

“Ganesh Nallari, one of the inspiration’s behind I Am Abhimanyu, messaged me one morning saying ‘I think I want to change my name to Ganesh Abhimanyu Nallari,’” shares Onir, making clear how Nallari felt about the project.

Similarly, Harish Iyer – the second inspiration for I Am Abhimanyu – feels “flattered that a film speaks of my life.” Harish’s life has been through the lens of camera before too, perhaps helps him being more comfortable about the idea.

But the gigolo (let’s call him Sunny) who inspired I Am Omar does not wish to come out in open like Harish and Ganesh.

Vivek Anand of Humsafar Trust, Mumbai, who provided Onir with Sunny’s story for I Am Omar, says, “Omar’s story (revolving on how gigolos blackmail their homosexual clients) is from the point of view of Omar (played by Rahul Bose – the one who gets cheated), not Jay (the gigolo who actually inspired the film).”

Anand informs, Sunny is not a gay, but bisexual, and, “wished even his perspective was shown in the film… why he did what he did… It is true that he (Sunny) had come to Mumbai (about six years back), wanted to become an actor, had been falling short on money, and not once, but many a times seduced upper class men and walked away with their laptop, money, etc. But later on, he quit the profession of sex work. He runs an ice-cream parlour now… Today he is married, and has a child.” The latter parts of the Sunny’s life are not part of I Am.

Against the trend, for the next biopic in queue, on athlete Milha Singh, 82, the ball lies in the court of the subject, since he refused several offers, equalling a crore rupee or more, to make a biopic on him. Singh has an agreement to take Re. 1 for permitting Rakeysh Mehra to make the film, given “15-20% of profit of the movie goes to Milkha Singh Trust,” among other things.

He shares “I have not seen a single movie since 1960,” adding, “If this film does not inspire kids, then there is no point in making it.”

“First part of the movie — the journey one goes through in the case is very true to reality. Because that is what really happened to 99.9%… The second half is more to do with Rani, which is not so akin to reality,” says Sabrina Lall on NOKJ.

But is satisfaction of the real life counterpart important for makers? Sabrina is very satisfied with the movie on Jessica’s killing. She matter-of-factly adds, “Even if I had said no about making a movie on Jessica, although I had given my consent, am sure they would have gone ahead and made it anyway.” Indeed. Period.

For detailed (and in my opinion interesting) interviews with each of these people, pls refer to following links…
Silk Smitha’s Bro:
Vivek Anand:
Milkha Singh:
Harish Iyer:
Sabrina Lall :
Have not yet written Madhur Bhushan’s interview out… hope to do soon… Hope you enjoyed reading… Do leave your criticism/appreciation if possible in the comment section below… thanks!


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3 comments for this entry:
  1. Sanjit Narwekar

    One small factual correction to what Mr Prasad says. OUTM was not based on the Haji Mastan-Madhubala relationship but the Haji Mastan-Sona relationship and actress Sona also spoke out against the film on a TV channel (see the interview on You Tube: Sona was a look-alike of Madhubala (and was even advertised as such in her earlier films) and it is said that Haji Mastan fell for her because of her resemblance to his favourite actress.

  2. Ankit

    Hi Suruchi, was searching for Madhur Bhushan when I stumbled on to your blog. And though it will sound so weird and vague, coming from a stranger, could I please ask you for a favor? Would you have any contact details for Madhur Bhushan? I am a small time docu filmmaker and was making a small piece on Madhubala for my final submission at college. I have been trying to speak with someone with her family, but couldnt find anyone. Would it be possible for you help me out? Please? Ankit

  3. Suruchi Gupta

    Certainly. Mr. Bhushan (not Prasad) did not mean to say the movie is based on her life. We are aware of the fact you mention. The point is, the movie portrays a fictitious rumour (considered true by many). Sona, whom Haji married, was never an actress. Thus, Kanana’s character in the movie is based on Madhubala, not Sona. It was Madhubala, not Sona who died of a hole in the heart. We know Sona was a lookalike. But the movie has imposed Haji Mastan’s fascination for Madhubala as a reality. Which, is, the, objectionable point!

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