Retelling a life story

Sushmitha K
NSoJ Bureau
Neerja Bhanot, a name that became more familiar to the Indian audience after the release of ‘Neerja’, the movie in which
actress Sonam Kapoor plays the character of a young air hostess. She  sacrificed her life on-duty when the Panam flight
she was on, was hijacked by terrorists in Karachi, killing and injuring more than 200 people in 1986.
Neerja, the movie made more than 125 crores at the box-office and won several awards including the National Award for
Sonam Kapoor earlier this year. While the team of the movie ‘Neerja’ is celebrating the audience appreciation, it’s a
different story for the family of Neerja Bhanot, the air hostess whose life the movie is based on.
It was reported that the promised share of profits of the movie which were to be given to the family have not yet been
given and that the family is ready to take legal action against the makers of the film regarding the same. Neerja
Bhanot’s brothers actively participated in the promotion of the film Neerja and encouraged the audience to watch the
movie so that they are aware of their sister’s sacrifice. Now, the headlines “Neerja’s brothers to sue for profits”
confuses the audience and makes us think if all is business when it comes to biopics where the movie is based on a
real-life narrative.
While movies like MS Dhoni, Mary Kom, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag were some of the biggest hits of Bollywood, which were based on
the lives of extra-ordinary sports persons, the money involved in the making of these films, life rights from the
person/family on whose life the movie is based on, the share of profits, remuneration for the real-life inspiration for
the movie etc are often confused with the intent behind making a biopic. While some may argue that these movies are made
purely to make the audience understand the character of the person who has been through interesting events in life, it is
also safe to say that not everything in the movie business in so black and white.
In the movie Mary Kom, audience deducted analogies which said that the actress Priyanka Chopra who played Mary Kom
earned way more money playing the character than who Mary Kom actually earned in her entire life. While it is valid to
say that the salaries of two different streams cannot be compared, it should also be considered a tricky comparison
between the real-life and reel-life heroes/heroines.
It was reported that Mary Kom took 25 lakhs to grant the life rights before agreeing to share the events of her personal
life. MS Dhoni which was one of the biggest Bollywood releases of 2016 is based on the former captain of the Indian
cricket team, MS Dhoni. It was also reported that MS Dhoni demanded 65-80 crore for granting the life rights and a share
of the profits for making the movie. In a different case, Milkha Singh on whom the Bollywood movie Bhaag Milkha Bhaag is
based on, has agreed to share his life on-screen without any remuneration. Often the money involved in making a biopic
deducts a lot of analysis from the audience to why the film is made?
Though movies like The Dirty Picture, Paan Singh Tomar have concentrated on some unconventional lives, the money
involved is often discussed and the success of the movie is based on how much it made on the opening weekend than the
story itself. Though Hindi cinema has evolved from hero-centric movies to movies that work on the character’s graph and
growth, a lot of controversies has surrounded biopics.
Actress Priyanka Chopra said that “To reduce the life of an Indian hero like Mary to a comparison of how much she earns
compared to me or anybody else is taking away the message of her life. What she has done has made all of us richer, all
women especially by giving us the inspiration that every woman can fight for herself”.
 Needless to say a biopic is beyond money and fame but conveys the message of hope and achievement that the real life
character reflected in their lives.

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