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Coming Soon: Real people

Bollywood bites into biopics with a slew of reality films for 2016

Mayur Lookhar

There’s never been any set formula for success in Bollywood. Since 2010, for instance, mindless entertainers have made a killing, thanks to Salman Khan. 2015 had its share of bhai blockbusters too, but the films that stole hearts were Tanu Weds Manu Returns, Talvar, Piku, Manjhi and Dum Lagake Haisha.


A few years ago, the biopic Bhaag Milkha Bhaag won a Filmfare Award, paving the way for other filmmakers to explore the genre. Talvar, based on the mysterious Noida double murders, was praised by one and all. Sanjay Leela Bhansali is reaping rewards for his period drama Bajirao Mastani that released in 2015, and these successes have possibly triggered a wave of biopics.


Here are some of the most anticipated true stories coming up this year:


1. Airlift – India’s own Argo?



It would be unfair to call it India’s Argo, as the two tales of evacuation are vastly different in nature. One does wonder, however, if director Raja Krishna Menon conjured up the idea after watching the 2012 Academy Award-winning film.


Airlift’ is the true account of a successful evacuation of Indians during the Gulf war. The operation conducted by the Indian government, with the help of national carriers Air India and Indian Airlines, helped evacuate a record 170,000 people from Kuwait. Both Air India and Indian Airlines together operated nearly 500 flights for the mission.


It stars action hero Akshay Kumar, paired with Lunchbox actress Nimrat Kaur for the first time.  Expect plenty of action and some high-flying stunts on January 22.



2. The martyrdom of ‘Neerja’



Staying airborne, February will see a biopic on the late Neerja Bhanot, an Ashok Chakra-winner not many young people may be familiar with.


23-year-old Bhanot was a brave flight attendant who helped in the successful evacuation of the ill-fated Pan Am Flight 73 on September 5, 1986.  Unfortunately, she was killed by hijackers, but not before helping to free several passengers including three children whom she shielded from bullets.


The surprise lead here is Sonam Kapoor. The film is helmed by rookie director Ram Madhvani and set for a February 19 release.


3. The fight for Aligarh



The next biopic in line for release is Hansal Mehta’s ‘Aligarh’, a film that is bound to face some opposition. Based on the life of author and Professor Shrinivas Ramchandra Siras, it depicts the late professor’s fight against Aligarh Muslim University after being expelled for his sexual orientation. Manoj Bajpai has been roped in as the lead actor, and the film will hit theatres on February 26.


4. Azhar: Hashmi dumps the pillow for the willow



He was once looked at as an actor who could give the Khans a run for their money but, sadly for Emraan Hashmi, destiny wasn't that kind. This time, the serial kisser has opted to wield the willow to push himself up the ‘batting’ order.


Hashmi has been cast to play the lead in a biopic on former India cricket captain Mohammad Azharuddin, who was banned for life for alleged match-fixing. Produced by Ekta Kapoor and directed by Tony D’Souza, ‘Azhar’ also stars Nargis Fakhri, Prachi Desai, Huma Qureshi and Lara Dutta. It opens on May 13.


5. Sarabjit: The poor farmer



The tragedy of any conflict between nations is how ordinary civilians often get caught in the crossfire. Porous Indo-Pak borders have led to Pakistani jails being filled with Indian POWs, farmers and fisherman.


In early 2000, India woke up to the plight of Sarabjit Singh, a poor farmer from Punjab who accidently slipped into enemy territory in inebriated state decades ago. He was convicted for espionage, jailed and fatally wounded by a fellow inmate. Singh’s tragic tale hurt the nation, triggering anger from even celebrities like Salman Khan.


Ironically, Hansal Mehta was first supposed to direct this film with Kangana Ranaut touted to play Sarabjit’s sister. Unfortunately, Mehta was replaced by Mary Kom director Omung Kumar, who managed to rope in Aishwarya Rai Bachchan. Surprisingly, Kumar picked Randeep Hooda to play the lead. The film will be released on May 20.


6. Dhoni: The untold story



It’s rare for biopics to be made when a sportsman is still playing. Then again, looking at his poor form, one never knows what Mahendra Singh Dhoni will be up to come September 2, when his biopic is released.


With a title like this, fans have been curious to know what the untold story about Captain Cool really is. Some say it will focus on Dhoni’s former love interest, who passed away at a young age.

Sushant Singh Rajput plays the lead in the film, along with Fawad Khan as Virat Kohli, Ram Charan as Suresh Raina and John Abraham as Yuvraj Singh.


7. Rumble in the ‘Dangal’



Bollywood will wind up the year with the much anticipated ‘Dangal’ that hits screens during Christmas week.


With his short hair and grey stubble, Aamir Khan isn’t afraid to play his age in this sports biopic. He plays Mahavir Singh Phogat, father and mentor to his daughters Babita Kumari and Geeta Phogat.


Set in Haryana, ‘Dangal’ speaks about the trials and tribulations of Phogat and his daughters in achieving their dreams as wrestlers. Directed by Nitesh Tiwari, it has TV star Sakshi Tanvar playing Aamir's wife while rookie actors Fatima Sana Shaikh and Sanya Malhotra play their children.