A biopic, as we know, is a biographical film. But cinema is an artistic expression to begin with, so what happens when we have artist biopics in front of our eyes? What we are witnessing then is a dialogue between two artists, and it can be a strong learning experience.
It was Loving Vincent that made me think of artist biopics. An animation comprising 65,000 frames of oil paintings on canvas – isn’t that one of the finest tributes ever? And this time from 115 artists conversing with none other than Vincent Van Gogh!
The fantastic film made me look homewards. Indian history is teeming with artists of all makes, yet the last decent tribute I could recall was from Gulzar to Mirza Ghalib. A longer search revealed artist biopics, both, familiar and unfamiliar.
They are all interpretations of the artist, some of them pretty shoddy, but below are the worthwhile ones.
1. Rang Rasiya (2014)
There are many things that Rang Rasiya got right, right up to the Censor Board’s objections. It got the rebellion right, it got the colours right, and it got some very aesthetically pleasing actors on board.
The fact that this Ketan Mehta tribute to famous painter Raja Ravi Varma was protested against even in the 21st century speaks volumes about the minute inch India has moved in a century.
2. Harishchandrachi Factory (2009)
This Paresh Mokashi film in Marathi revolves around Dadasaheb Phalke’s struggle to make India’s first feature film back in 1913.
The original was a B&W silent film, and this one too is devoid of songs; instead it has music composed by a Marathi music director who brought Russian musicians on board for the background score. A beautiful film.
3. Rabindranath Tagore (1961)
Directed by Satyajit Ray, who also adapted several of Tagore’s stories into the cinematic form, this B&W documentary uses archival images to bring forth the poet as a collage. Again, this is a dialogue between two artists, and it’s easy to make out what about Tagore influenced Ray most.
4. Moner Manush (2010)
A biopic about the unforgettable Baul poet Lalon Fakir, Moner Manush is a beautiful film that is a joint venture between India and Bangladesh.
The film is in Bengali, though easy to get subtitles for, and is based on a book of the same name by Sunil Gangopadhyay. It unfolds as a conversation between Rabindranath Tagore’s younger brother Jyotindranath and Lalon.
5. Manto (upcoming)
This Nawazuddin-starrer (in pic) has already gained much attention, and for good reason. First of all, it is the great short story writer Saadat Hasan Manto we are talking about. Then we have Deepa Mehta as the director, and then, to top it off, one of the finest actors of our time playing the poet’s role. Here’s one to look forward to.
6. Gustakhiyan (upcoming)
Okay, admittedly this one’s slightly dubious. It’s hard to imagine Priyanka Chopra playing Amrita Pritam. Or even Deepika Padukone attempting it. We don’t know if Shah Rukh Khan will play Sahir Ludhianvi. And if Sanjay Leela Bhansali will ever even make this film now with the Padmavati woes.
The point being, someone should show us two of our greatest poets on the big scene with grace, as an artist biopic ought to be.
Image Credit: Manto