I am increasingly drawn to biopics now. Ennu Ninte Moideen (Yours truly, Moideen), a 2015 release based on the love legacy of a Muslim boy and a Hindu girl from Kerala in the 1960s featured on television yesterday. It had been both critically acclaimed and commercially successful (a rare combination in today’s world) but I had put off watching it because of the tragic story line. The epic tale of Moideen and Kanchanamala, with plot twists and heartening moments surpassing fantasy, inspires and shatters us in a way Romeo And Juliet never can, having been lived in flesh and blood in all its wretched glory.
I have been lucky enough to grow up, movie wise, under the artful eye of an uncle who frowns severely upon commercial flicks. His disdain for mediocre screenplays and direction borders on condescension, a trait that he has, to a degree, managed to pass on to me. He would cringe at the sight of romantic comedies and action packed thrillers and with the air of a savior tell me, “Let me introduce you to some tasteful films”. And he did indeed. He lent me CDs from his sprawling collection during weekends and summer vacations and under his guidance I thrived, feasting my eyes and mind on the likes of The Sound Of Music (which I watched so many times I ended up learning all the songs and most of the script by heart), Children Of Heaven, Life Is Beautiful, The Bicycle Thief, 12 Angry Men and Pather Panchali among others.
The movies on my hard drive today are a reflection of the same. Numerous times, friends of mine have gone through my collections with chagrin, unable to find anything conventional (read pertaining to traditional tags of romance, action and comedy) in them. My uncle in contrast beamed with pride at finding It’s A Wonderful Life, The Artist and Psycho on my list of favorites.
It pains me to see exemplary films failing to make a mark at the box office while worthless ones that are a disgrace to the art make millions. I accompanied my uncle to watch the debut of acclaimed director Anjali Menon, Manjaadikuru (Lucky Red Seeds) which won multiple awards at film festivals around the world and yet opened to near-empty theaters back home. I remember looking around at the empty seats once the movie ended and wondering how the crowds managed to miss out on such a gem. Masaan is another such movie, the directorial debut of Neeraj Ghaywan that bagged two awards at 2015 Cannes Film Festival and still failed to make an impact here, thanks to the public’s aversion to realistic plot lines.
The one thing that can accentuate the innate splendor of fine movie making is the plot being biographical. This is a realm that is slowly but surely beginning to descend upon Indian cinema. Some truly amazing stories have been brought to light in recent years. Manjhi, the Mountain Man, Neerja, Mary Kom, and the upcoming Dangal, to name some of them, are tributes to some of the greatest heroes out there, who are proof that inspiration need not necessarily stem from fables and that when it comes to certain people, fact can truly prove more astonishing than fiction. Here’s hoping that more of the same come our way in 2017.