Stories that should be told

[This is the 3rd post in a series that I am writing in the run up to the Goa Thinkfest organized by Tehelka]

There is no better time to write this post than now. Just finished watching "An American Crime" - a film made in 2007 about a true story that occurred in 1965. Two things distinctly struck me about the film - one, the way it depicted a chilling real life story by cloaking it as a court-room drama and two, the choice of the story itself.

Now how many times have you seen such a film made in Bollywood? Are Bollywood film makers too scared to make movies on real-life incidents? While I say this, I do remember "No One Killed Jessica". But for reasons best known to whoever have watched it, the film was just another Bollywood movie "based" on an incident that gained widespread media coverage. To give credit where its due, we do have films based on issues like AIDS and Society (Phir Milenge), LGBT issues and Society ( My Brother Nikhil and Omar), Naxalite Movement and People (Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi), Partition (Pinjar), the educational system (Taare Zameen Par) and child hunger (Stanley Ka Dabba). Each of these movies is great in its own right and I would recommend each one of them to whoever is interested in watching good cinema.

There is one caveat though. Most of the movies mentioned above are based on topics or issues. This gives the film maker, the freedom to tackle the topic to the extent to which he wants to tackle it. And even though the story may portray real-life in a generic way, there is no real life incident to pin-point to. Maybe it also speaks about the kind of skills we have in the film making community. Because making a movie on an incident without digressing too much into the time before or after it happened requires a lot of skill, especially if you want the movie to be watched in cinema halls. All these reasons result in even the most serious films ending up with some songs at inappropriate times - from the storyline perspective or diluting the issue behind the film.

If properly made, an incident based movie can deal with issues behind the movie in great detail. It can bring out the subtle undercurrents leading upto a particular incident or a spate of occurrences. I would like our film makers to make movies from the Khairlanji killings, the farmer suicides in Vidharbha, the Nithari killings, Swami Nityanand's fast which lead to his death. These are real incidents and these are stories which need to be told. And when these stories will be told honestly, the underpinning issues will highlight themselves.

While we may need a movie like Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, we definitely need movies which talk about the inconvenient truths of our rich culture. We need film makers to cater not only to the crowd which wants to leave their worries behind and enjoy, but also to those who are waiting to be told "a real story". I am sure I have forgotten many good film makers who continue making meaningful mainstream cinema like Prakash Jha and Ashutosh Gowarikar.

Though I want every film related talk to talk about this, I think Abhay Deol is most suited to take it up when he talks about "Movies Bollywood is Too Scared to Make" at the Thinkfest. Abhay, over to you!

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