India is the happy breeding and hunting ground of world-class ideas and subjects for films. We are not the pioneers of storytelling for nothing. In the past few decades some of the much-celebrated and acclaimed Oscar winning feature films and documentaries were based on Indian subjects. However, Indian filmmakers did not make these international blockbusters. Their association with these projects were mostly peripheral. Is it not a matter of shame that a multiple Oscar winning film on Gandhi was made by a British film director with Indian money? Gandhi is just one example. There are many others. Another multiple Oscar winning film Slumdog Millionaire, based on a book by an Indian author and set in India, was NOT made by an Indian filmmaker.When great Indian subjects are explored by foreigners and presented to the world, it’s often a biased, and distorted perspective seen through the colored lenses of an outsider. They prefer to explore the underbelly of India to discover exotic Indian material that finds ready acceptance among an audience that has very limited understanding of Indian reality.
Unfortunately, some of our Indian filmmakers also begin to look for such exotica. They deliberately distort and twist Indian reality to suit the demands of their overseas and film festival audiences. Festival programmers and foreign funded NGOs, who peddle India’s extreme poverty and pestilence to secure their funding, encourage them to do so.
We have also seen a great interest in making biopics on the lives of well-known personalities who have done remarkable deeds in various walks of life. Some time back when our Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi came to Mumbai to inaugurate a permanent museum on Indian cinema, he spoke to a select circle of filmmakers and advised them to make films on the Padma awardees. During his first term there was a paradigm shift in the selection of Padma awardees. For the first time in the history of these awards we saw grass roots activists, who had done extraordinary and inspiring work, being honored by the President of India on behalf of our nation. Their lives are truly motivating and the world will love to know about them. A biopic calls for painstaking research and careful handling to find global traction. Somehow, Bollywood filmmakers fight shy of research and rely more on anecdotal material to construct their stories and develop their scripts. Such careless attitude kills the idea and subject of such films. It also misrepresents our history and lacks key important elements of this genre of cinema – integrity and truth. It’s not only a grave injustice and insult to the art and craft of filmmaking but to the subject of the biopic as well.The life and times of our beloved Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi is a subject that should not be trifled with unless one is prepared to work hard on researching and developing a solid script that does full justice to his persona and story. The rise of a small town tea seller’s son, whose mother washed utensils in houses of the rich, to the highest executive office of the biggest democracy is undoubtedly a fascinating Oscar winning idea and subject.
We wish the makers of PM Narendra Modi would have understood the importance of their subject and seen the possibilities inherent in it. They obviously didn’t. Whatever is the fate of the film at box office they have pre-empted the subject and queered the pitch for others, which is so unfortunate.We must also congratulate our Prime Minister on his overwhelming victory in the recently concluded Parliamentary elections. We were the first to openly endorse him for his second term with an appeal to the rest of the film industry to do the same.