Bollywood has surprised and entertained its audiences with a wide variety of genres and themes. While we have romance, action, comedy, thrillers and the new found love for off-beat cinema driving directors and producers, biographies have always had a special place in our industry. Since decades, we have seen many real-life events and characters come to life on the big screen. It not only makes for strong and powerful story-lines, but always creates an extra pinch of curiosity among the viewers.
Controversies or no-controversies, these movies made it to the cinema halls and recreated many lost incidents of the past. Here is a list of 15 must watch Bollywood movies that have impacted the Indian cinema and its audiences over the years.
No One Killed Jessica
The movie was centered on a Delhi based model and restaurant worker, Jessica Lal. Rani Mukherjee (as news reporter) and Vidya Balan (as the sister) played the lead roles, and the movie garnered a lot of critical acclaim. Raj Kumar Gupta, the director of the movie, did a fine job with portrayal of delicate details and the outrage the event had caused.
Bhaag Milkha Bhaag
Milkha Singh, popularly known as the ‘Flying Sikh’, won various medals and made India proud at the Commonwealth Games, Asian Games, and the Olympics. His autobiography, The Race of My Life, inspired Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra to portray the real life hero on the big screen. Farhan Akhtar, as Milkha Singh, did a tremendous job and the movie won accolades in India, and around the globe.
The movie, released in 2007, was based on the life of the business tycoon Dhirubhai Ambani. Guru was premiered at The Cannes Film Festival and received extremely positive reviews. Mani Ratnam owned the audiences with his stunning direction in the movie. While Abhishek Bachchan was widely praised for his outstanding performance, A.R. Rahman’s music spelled its magic yet again.
Gangs of Wasseypur
Released in 2012, Gangs of Wasseypur is a crime film co-written, directed and produced by Anurag Kashyap. The movie is centered on the coal mafia of Dhanbad, Jharkhand, and the underlying power struggles, politics and vengeance between three crime families. It had exceptional performances by actors such as Manoj Bajpai, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Richa Chadda among others. Anurag Kashyap proved his excellence and remarkable understanding of the modern cinema one more time. It can be described as a cult benchmark for new age Bollywood.
It was a 1994 Shekhar Kapur movie based on the autobiography of Phoolan Devi, who stood up for herself after being a victim of child marriage, sexual/physical abuse, and many such disturbing crimes. The movie created quite a stir back in the day, and has since been praised as a fine piece of cinematic art, bringing harsh truths of reality to the silver screen. The raw and rustic portrayal of Phoolan Devi by Seema Biswas brought her well-deserved appreciation from all.
Once Upon a Time in Mumbai
The movie is set up against the backdrop of Mumbai Underworld and believed to be based on the lives of real life gangsters, Haji Mastan and Dawood Ibrahim. The movie, directed by Milan Luthria, starred Ajay Devgan, Emraan Hashmi, Kangana Ranaut in lead roles, and was well received by the critics and audiences alike. The highlight of the movie was the music that got the entire nation humming its popular numbers.
It is a 1997 Bollywood war drama movie, directed by J.P. Dutta, depicting real life events from the Indo-Pakistan 1971 War. The film was a critical and commercial hit and went on to become the highest grossing movie for the year. The movie also won multiple awards in various Bollywood award functions, with Sunny Deol, Sunil Shetty, and Jackie Shroff among others in the leading roles.
Paan Singh Tomar
The movie released in 2012, depicting the life of an Indian soldier and a successful athlete. Paan Singh Tomar won multiple medals at the Indian National Games, and went on to represent India in the Asian Games. However, he is forced to become a bandit after the untimely end of his career. Irrfan Khan plays the lead in the movie and his stupendous performance immediately connects you with the story. The movie hit a jackpot at the box office, and won a lot of admiration throughout.
Not a Love Story
It’s a crime thriller that released in 2011, starring Mahie Gill and Deepak Dobrial. The movie is inspired by the Neerja Grover murder case, as quoted by the director, Ram Gopal Verma. The movie received mixed reviews from critics and the shooting wrapped up in a mere 20 days.
Special 26 (Special Chabbis)
This Neeraj Pandey comedy thriller, starring Akshay Kumar, Manoj Bajpayee, Anupam Kher and others was one of the biggest hits of 2013. The storyline is inspired by the 1987 Opera House Heist where a group of people posing as CBI Officers executed an income raid at a jeweler’s place in Mumbai. It received widespread critical acclaim, and the audiences loved the movie.
This Anurag Kashyap movie was based on the true incident of 1993 Bombay bombings, inspired from the book The Black Friday by Hussain Zaidi. The movie was highly sensitive in its desire to recreate the events that actually happened, and won the Grand Jury Prize at the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles. The film was highly controversial, and that lead to a delay in its release by 3 years. It finally hit the Indian screens in 2007.
The 2013 Shoojit Sircar political espionage thriller, starring John Abraham, Nargis Fakri, is set in the late 80’s and 90’s. The movie is set up at the time of Indian intervention in Sri Lankan civil war, and the assassination of the then Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi. The film managed to impress the critics, and also did above average business at the box office.
The members of the Gulaab Gang are activists in the the Bundelkhand Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh areas. They wear pink color to symbolize woman power, and take up feminist issues such as dowry, physical abuse, and education among many others. Although the lead role was played by Madhuri Dixit who returned to the silver screen after a long sabbatical, but it was Juhi Chawla who was highly commended for her remarkable performance. The movie garnered mixed reviews from the critics, yet didn’t perform well at the box office.
The recent 2016 release, Airlift, starring Akshay Kumar and Nimrat Kaur, is set up against the backdrop of Iraq-Kuwait war. The lead role is based on Ranjit Katyal, a businessman in Kuwait who carried out the biggest civil operation of evacuation of Indians settled in Kuwait. The movie received some slack from the Indian Government officials, as they felt that the diplomats and bureaucrats haven’t been correctly depicted in the movie. Also, the movie has been banned in Kuwait for unknown reasons, though it went on to become the highest opening film in the Emirates.
The latest movie to join the bandwagon of biographies in Bollywood is Neerja, played by Sonam Kapoor. The movie focuses on the character of Neerja Bhanot, a flight attendant, who successfully thwarted the hijack attempt of Pan Am Flight 73 in Karachi, Pakistan in 1986. She was a real hero who prevented the flight from taking off, and hence saving lives of over 360 hostages. The movie has been receiving rave reviews from all sides, being touted as Sonam’s best performance till date.
With a string of biographies lined up for release in 2016-17, including the likes of Aamir Khan’s Dangal, Bollywood fans surely have a lot to look forward to.