Unveiling the Glorious Saga of Bollywood Biopics

Delving into the past, we discover that biopics have been enchanting audiences in Bollywood since the 1940s. These films have transported viewers into the lives of extraordinary individuals, bringing history and remarkable stories to life on the big screen. From portraying historical figures to depicting the lives of dacoits and modern-day icons, Bollywood's biopics have evolved over the years, captivating audiences with their diverse and captivating narratives.

V.Shantaram’s Dr. Kotnis Ki Amar Kahani” marked the birth of biopics in Bollywood. Delving into the past, we discover that biopics have been enchanting audiences since the 1940s. In 1946, actor-filmmaker V.Shantaram touched hearts with the emotional and romantic tale of Dr. Dwarkanath Kotnis, an Indian doctor who selflessly served the wounded in China during World War II’s Japanese invasion. Dr. Kotnis even found love and married a Chinese girl before sacrificing his life in the line of duty.

V. Shantaram
Dr. Kotnis Ki Amar Kahani

Sohrab Modi, another versatile filmmaker, and actor, further fueled the biopic trend by bringing historical personalities to life on the silver screen. He mesmerized audiences with films like “Sikandar” (1941), portraying the heroic tale of Alexander the Great, known as Sikander in India, and his epic clash with King Porus. Prithviraj Kapoor portrayed Alexander flawlessly, while Sohrab Modi portrayed King Porus equally. The success of this film opened the floodgates for more historical biopics.

Sohrab Modi continued his exploration of historical figures with films such as “Prithvi Vallabh” (1943), “Jhansi Ki Rani” (1953), “Nausherwan-E-Adil” (1957), and the highly acclaimed “Mirza Ghalib” (1954) which received a National Award for Best Film.

Sohrab Modi
Mirza Ghalib

During the golden era of Bollywood, several films depicted the lives of Mughal emperors. Movies like “Humayan” (1945) and “Babar” (1960) recounted the stories of these historical figures. The love story of Anarkali and Prince Salim, later known as Emperor Jahangir, inspired two films simultaneously: “Anarkali” (1953) and the iconic “Mughal-E-Azam” (1960). Additionally, films were made on the lives of King Akbar, Emperor Shahjahan, his daughter Jahan Ara, and the wife of Emperor Jahangir, Noorjahan.

The golden era also witnessed biopics on ruthless foreign invaders who plundered India, but courageous Indians fought back with courage. Films like “Sikander-E-Azam” (1965) portrayed the cruelty of Alexander the Great, with Dara Singh delivering a powerful performance. The malicious Chinese invader Halaku was impeccably portrayed by the brilliant actor Pran in “Halaku” (1956). Furthermore, action hero Sheikh Mukhtar portrayed the formidable Mongol ruler Changez Khan with great finesse. In recent times, Ranveer Singh astounded audiences with his superb portrayal of the ruthless king Sultan Alauddin Khilji in “Padmaavat” (2018), who attacked India in pursuit of the beautiful Rani Padmavati.

These captivating biopics have transported viewers into the lives of extraordinary individuals, bringing history and remarkable stories to life on the big screen.

Ranveer Singh
Noor Jehan

Shekhar Kapur‘s “Bandit Queen” is hailed as the ultimate biopic on dacoits in Bollywood. The 1994 film, directed by Kapur and starring Seema Biswas, captivated audiences with its powerful and hard-hitting portrayal of Phoolan Devi, the terror queen of the Chambal valley.

Going back in time, in 1966, filmmaker Chand made the first-ever biopic on the infamous dacoit of the ’50s, Daku Mangal Singh. The film starred action hero Dara Singh and depicted Mangal Singh’s journey from witnessing the horrific treatment of his mother to seeking revenge and ultimately becoming one of India’s most notorious dacoits. Another notable dacoit biopic came in 1971, with Dara Singh appearing as Daku Man Singh, a renowned dacoit of the ’60s.

The iconic character Gabbar Singh in the film “Sholay” (1975) was based on a real-life dacoit from the ravines of Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh. Inspired by chilling tales of Gabbar Singh from his childhood in Gwalior, writer Javed Akhtar named the villain in “Sholay” after this real-life dacoit.

Daku Mangal Singh
Bandit Queen

In 1972, B.K. Adarsh, the father of film critic Taran Adarsh, directed “Putlibai,” a biopic on India’s First Lady Dacoit. Director Tigmanshu Dhulia ‘s 2012 film “Paan Singh Tomar,” starring Irrfan Khan, touched hearts with its emotional portrayal of a soldier and Gold Medal winner in the Indian National Games, who turns to a life of crime as a dacoit due to unfortunate circumstances. director  Abhishek Chaubey‘s film ” Sonchiriya” (2019), starring Manoj Bajpayee and Sushant Singh Rajput, also delves into the life of Daku Man Singh. Actress  Shabana Azmi delivered a remarkable performance in the film “Godmother” (1999), portraying the brutal village landlady. The film was a biographical account of Santokben Jadeja, a real-life lady Mafia.

These biopics on dacoits have not only entertained audiences but also shed light on the intriguing lives of these notorious figures, leaving a lasting impact on Bollywood cinema.

Paan Singh Tomar

From historical figures to athletes and freedom fighters, Bollywood has been delivering a series of inspiring biopics in recent times. Kangana Ranaut‘s powerful portrayal in “Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi” (2019) captured the spirit of the brave warrior queen. “Uri” (2019) showcased the indomitable courage of Indian soldiers, while “Sanju” (2018) delved into the captivating life of Bollywood star Sanjay Dutt. “Gully Boy” (2019) shed light on the struggles of aspiring artists, and “The Accidental Prime Minister” (2019) brought a political leader’s story to the forefront through  Anupam Kher‘s stellar performance.

The biopic on Prime Minister Narendra Modi is titled ‘PM Narendra Modi‘ starring Vivek Oberoi. “Shershaah” portrays the life of Captain Vikram Batra, with Sidharth Malhotra and Kiara Advani in the lead roles. “Maidaan” draws inspiration from the life of Indian football coach Syed Abdul Rahim, starring Ajay Devgn. Taapsee Pannu takes on the role of Indian women’s cricket team captain Mithali Raj in “Shabaash Mithu,” and Akshay Kumar dons the persona of Prithviraj Chauhan in the historical biopic “Prithviraj.”

Further, Vicky Kaushal portrays the revolutionary freedom fighter Udham Singh in a film dedicated to his life. “Major” pays tribute to the heroism of Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan, a martyr of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, with Adivi Sesh in the lead. Taapsee Pannu shines in “Rashmi Rocket,” a film inspired by the life of Indian athlete Prachi Singh.

PM Narendra Modi
Uri: The Surgical Strike
Shabaash Mithu

Bollywood’s recent biopics have taken a consistent and captivating approach, bringing remarkable stories to the screen with brevity and flair.


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