5 signs of a Bollywood biopic


5 signs of a Bollywood biopic

Our handy guide to identifying one

By ELLE team  September 4th, 2014

It’s not a biopic ‘per se’.
It’s a “fictionalised account” instead, or “just an interpretation, really”. Or as Priyanka Chopra fielded the question at a recent Mary Kom conference: “Her story is the same as mine. It is basically the story of every girl who has a dream.” But like, mostly Mary’s, right?

Love life? Amplified.
They can be too-short champion boxers who surmounted insurmountable odds; troubled sex symbols challenging the status quo; award-winning soldiers pushed to the brink of desperation and into a life of crime. But all these story arcs must make a quick detour to load up on corn and cheese in the name of love. Think Milkha Singh’s giggly paramour (played by Sonam Kapoor), flyaway dupattas and all, in Bhaag Milkha Bhaag (2013). Or the lascivious Silk of The Dirty Picture (2011), gyrating on bar tops as her lover seethes. Love gets us all in the end.

One loaded monologue will iron out any wrinkles.
If you’re uncertain about how you’re supposed to feel – incensed or inspired – wait for the knockout monologue. Remember Silk’s verbal diarrhoea while accepting her award on stage? Ajay Devgn’s Bhagat Singh defending his actions in song and speech? B-wood biopics rarely wrestle with that old storytelling maxim ‘Show, don’t tell’.

Training shots. Lots of them.
If the subject is a sporting legend, expect dramatic against-all-odds close-ups of sweat, bile, blood and pulsating muscles as they reach for the stars. Singh darts across mountains dragging a tyre through the terrain, and promptly treats us to ripped abs. Mary Kom and her Mr Miyagi get utmost screen time and the nimble-limbed Paan Singh Tomar will be frozen mid-leap in cinematic history.

Flashback endlessly.
Biopics make the best time machines. They’re functional because they deliver you back to sepia-toned yonder, but also tie up complicated backstories. The Dirty Picture takes it one step further with an opening flashback, shot in negative, so you really understand the gravitas. While we’re at it, could we also get in on that inexhaustible resource of biased narrators and patient listeners? 

Mary Kom releases on September 5