Mughal-E-Azam continues to be the iconic period film ever produced in India. There have been numerous attempts to recreate the magic of the golden past, they did not quite make the cut till the recent magnum opus from Sanjay Lela Bhansali stuck the Indian chord. Oh yes! Baajirao Mastani not only did great business, it has turned out to be a historical document in its own right.
The Timely Reinforcements
Be it M.Sadiq’s Taj Mahal that was a landmark in Indian cinema for its musical boldness or Kamal Hassan’s semi-fictional period drama Hey Ram, there has never been the tadka or the crunch that audience wanted to see since Mughal-E-Azam.
The kind of entertainment that the Indian audience is looking for in period films has been reinforced by what Baajirao Mastani delivered.
Picking from The Beginning of Indian Cinema
Indian cinema owes its existence to the legend of Raja Harishchandra, the 1913 epic drama, directed and produced by Dadasaheb Phalke. And since, the script writers have always lusted about the idea of creating magic on screen by relying on History books, archives and folklores. Be it Heer Ranjha or Kamasutra, there is something how Indian period films are portrayed.
The tryst with Art movies
No wonder, Indian audiences have always craved for movies made in style, much like the way the Oriental and the Western movies. Heavily inspired by novels and epics, we had the privilege to witness the artful masterpiece of Satyajit Ray’s Satranj Ke Khiladi based in the princely state of Awadh. The plot, the costumes and the cast- the perfect combo! But then, commercials drive the directors to commit what critics call “hara-kiri”.
And that’s where movies like Kamasutra, Utsav, Legend of Bhagat Singh and Bombay Velvet go so very wrong! They seem fake and unimaginable cluttered.
War and Partition: The Touching Tales
Border in 1997 finally bought an end to the long history of period films failing to impress the audience. The movie made with the motive to reduce wars gave a deep insight on the trauma faced by the families of the soldiers. The movie and its songs showed scarifies made by the soldiers making us respect them more.
In 2001, Gadar: Ek Prem Katha and Lagaan came with the perfect combination of entertainment and substance. While Lagaan got the patriotic blood boiling; be it a truck driver who now flirted singing Mein Nikla Gaddi Leke or a crazily in love aashiq, Gadar was the kind of movie each of them could relate to. Lagaan also became the first Indian period film to have gained success in International Box-office. The two movies were just enough for the film makers to know what went wrong during their failed attempts for so long.
Mega Stars Bandwagon
Amir’s Mangal Pandey could not quite pull the strings right. SRK too failed to make an impact with his off the block Asoka. In between, there were movies like 1947 Earth, Umrao Jaan and Taj Mahal: An Eternal Love Story, that could not live the hype.
But then, the likes of Bhansali and Gowarikar took a flight of creativity using authenticity as the medium to touch hearts. Jodha Akbar in 2008 and now BaajiraoMastani, these two movies reflect the massive budget and number of people involved. A rightful evolution, these movies have turned the genre into a truly Indianized affair.
Be it the jest with which movies like Once upon a time in Mumbaai and its sequel Once Upon a time in Mumbai Dobara are made or the somber Lootera, the taste of audience has shifted from something for pure entertainment to something contemporary.
Heading to Glory
After Baajirao Mastani, there is a new bloodline of creative movie makers willing to experiment with never-seen, never-told stories. And with Hrithik Roshan- Gowarikar teaming up for Mohenjo-daro, the period film genre is in safe hands.