Friday, February 12, 2010


Biopic or a Biographical drama is a significant genre of film making. Some of the most popular and best known movies of our time fall into this category. A Beautiful mind,Cinderella Man, Gandhi,Schindler's List and many more. Most of them have been DVD/video hits or very high grossing movies. There can be several reasons behind their success, simplest that comes to my mind is that these movies are essentially stories of triumph - they inspire us, they give us hope, they make us think and dream beyond the petty struggles of our mundane lives.

I'll discuss here three biopics which i found really interesting. Not from a cinematic point of view ,but a feature of the character that stood out for me. I normally detest writing philosophical stuff only because i know i am very bad at it,which is almost an understatement because i also know i am a bad writer too, and it precisely makes no sense to attempt a combination of two. So as i try to discuss these characters/personalities below, i will try to be as pragmatic as possible and stay away from any kind of sermonizing.

Let's start with Natarang. Natarang is essentially not a biopic,by that i mean, it is not based on a true story as per known facts. It is the story of a village farmer, Gunavantrao Kagalkar or "Guna", who aspires to be a Tamasha or a theatre artist in his life. He has always wanted to play the role of king and often behaves like one in his normal life; he has a good built and a kind of swashbuckling demeanor. Apart from that he is shown as a versatile artist - who writes, sings,can direct and act really well. Circumstances, lack of resources and an unusual turn of events land him in a precarious situation. He has an opportunity to start his own theatre company.However there's a catch, he has to take up the challenge of playing a Nachya or a 'Pansy'[1] artist,basically a man who performs a woman's role. Imagine,for a man who aspires to play a king, to take up the role of a pansy artist. He has to learn the demeanor of woman,lose a lot of weight and built, and face several other difficulties. I'll let you explore all that in the movie; but the point that stands out here is often our destiny lands us in a situation where we are forced to make choices which are diagonally opposite or much below our aspirations/expectations. Implications of all that,as i said before,fall in a domain which is beyond me.

Next is Patton,based on the life of General George S Patton.What stands out for me in Patton, is portrayal of man who has always believed in his destiny. Patton had several problems most of which can be crudely classified as behavioral. Although one of the best generals of armored warfare,Patton's career was marred by several controversies,mostly due to his outspokenness. At one point he served under people who were once his juniors in army(Omar Bradley and Eisenhower). But i guess Patton, as he is portrayed, more or less accepted his weaknesses, although never really succeeded in overcoming them. However, he believed he was destined to achieve something great as a general and he did that. Initially when the allies landed at Normandy he was not part of the battle but when he got his chance, he proved his mettle. Third army,which he commanded, engaged far more divisions of the enemy in far less time as compared to any other division of US army.At one point during the Battle of bulge ,he removed some corps of the third army from an already fighting position and turned them abruptly north to relieve another division of US army stranded at Bastogne. You can read more about it here,watch the movie,or better still read parts of his diary here.

Finally I'd like to discuss Ed Wood based on the life of Edward Wood, Jr; a very different case.Ed wood loved to make movies.Period.Nothing more to it; he neither had great movie-making skills to boast of nor did he always have sufficient means to them.Most success stories one comes across, are of people who became champions of their field by virtue of their skills or sometimes by chance.Wood was different,i'd like to say he was a classic case of, "I'd-like-to-live-my-life-the-way-i-want,do-hell-with-the-world". Big deal,you'd say,but isn't that a classic case of "Stay hungry,stay foolish".To quote from his page on Wikipedia.
[..]Wood made a run of cheap and poorly produced genre films, now humorously celebrated for their technical errors, unsophisticated, large amounts of ill-fitting stock footage, idiosyncratic dialogue,eccentric casts and outlandish plot elements[..]

In an essay paying homage to Wood in Incredibly Strange Films, Jim Morton writes: "Eccentric and individualistic, Edward D Wood Jr was a man born to film. Lesser men, if forced to make movies under the conditions Wood faced, would have thrown up their hands in defeat."
Back home Kanti Shah would probably come close.

That's it,a very long post,i'd say. I composed it over few days,writing for few minutes everyday. And that's all ,that's one for the season, no more philosophical or even semi-philosophical posts from me for some time.

[1]I have used this word because i couldn't find a proper translation for the Marathi word Nachaya. This word was used in movie subtitles,although, i guess it doesn't exactly mean the same.

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