Over the last few years, Bollywood has developed a fascination of biopics, especially ones based on sports personalities. Many welcomed this trend as it was expected to provide stardom to hitherto unrecognised sportsmen and sportswomen. However, many of these films have been rather disappointing.
So, why does Bollywood struggle to produce good and wholesome sports biopics? Why, in spite of large amounts of money and the best actors being used, these movies turn out to be underwhelming? They may be successful at box-office but in terms of quality, they are highly defective. Let's look at five major reasons why this happens.
Lack of appreciation and understanding of sports
If one has to make a full-fledged movie about the success of a sportsman, the basic requirement is having proper knowledge of the intricacies of that discipline. However, what Bollywood scriptwriters and movie makers have repeatedly shown is that they are completely lacking in this department. So, in Mary Kom, the protagonist wins her fight by repeatedly hitting the arms of her opponent – a tactic that nobody in the world uses! Perhaps because nobody is as good at boxing as the writers of that script were. But more likely, they didn't care about the technicalities of the game. The lack of concern about the dynamics of the sport renders these movies devoid of authenticity.
Over-sentimentalism and melodrama
What is Bollywood or even the entire Indian entertainment world without melodrama? Whether it is our Saas-Bahu shows, reality TV or even sports biopics, they all try and make everything ultra-theatrical. So, Dangal has one of the Phogat sisters registering an incredible comeback to win the gold when in reality, she romped home to an easy win. This desperation to infuse extra drama is not unique to Bollywood. Even the movie Chariots of Fire took many liberties with the real story to make it interesting. But in Bollywood, it is taken to another height. As a result, the movie becomes less an account of real struggles of players and more a Bollywood masala-infused fictional version of their life.
Choosing stardom over accuracy in casting
Another major reason for Bollywood movies that seek to portray the lives of real sportspersons not living up to expectation is that, when it comes to casting, the makers are more keen to have big stars than those who can better portray the personalities. Priyanka Chopra as Mary Kom is the biggest example of this and now, there are rumours that Katrina Kaif might be roped in to play PT Usha! Actors who are not necessarily stars but possess great acting ability and are closer in looks and stature to the people being depicted can do a much better job. But the need for stardom is considered more important than accurate depiction.
Compulsion to have villains
In India, be it a television show or a movie, having a villain whom everyone will hate is considered necessary. So, even biopics are gratuitously provided a hate figure whom everyone can despise. This is especially counterproductive in sports biopics since games takes place between rivals, not enemies. But, as we saw in Dangal and Mary Kom, movie-makers feel that there have to be bad people in the movie standing in the path of the protagonist. This removes the beauty of sports from such cinematic ventures and makes them a typical Bollywood potboiler.
Taking liberty with facts
This is a problem which afflicts all Bollywood movies based on history and not just sports biopics. The lack of respect shown to actual events and facts leaves history connoisseurs cringing. Again, liberties with facts are taken even by Hollywood but our Bollywood movie makers take it to another level. When it comes to biopics, it has an even more galling effect. The kind of mutations to real-life stories that filmmakers indulge in is cringeworthy. Unnecessary songs and dances are gratuitously stuffed into stories. The films then become not biopics but just a modified version of Bollywood entertainers. We have seen this in almost all sports biopics so far.