MATTER OF FACT, OR NOT?
How the film frat balances facts with fiction in films
Be it a period drama, a biopic or a film based on real-life incidents, writers and directors often face public ire for ‘distorting facts in the name of creative liberty’. Not like teams don’t research well, but fictional elements are added for entertainment value. Still, films such as Jodha Akbar (2008), Mohenjo Daro and Airlift (2016) faced flak for having tweaked facts.
Recently, filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali and his team were attacked by the Rajput Karni Sena while shooting for his film, Padmavati, leading to outrage on social media. “If Bhansali wanted a dream sequence, what’s the problem? If a film is inspired by someone, one can add fiction without misinterpreting. Historical facts, however, have to be kept intact,” says filmmaker Onir.
But how do industry names go about with balancing fact and fiction in a period film? Filmmaker Anurag Basu says, “If I were to make a historical film, I’ll get a historian on board to ensure accuracy. Yes, there is creative freedom but one should not tamper with facts.” But isn’t a disclaimer stating the inclusion of fictional elements enough? “It’s more for legal reasons,” says Basu. “Anyway, nobody goes to watch a film thinking that it is going to educate them.
Those who raise objections are just yearning two minutes of fame,” adds trade analyst Komal Nahta.
Actor-filmmaker Piyush Mishra, however, bats against those taking liberty in the name of creative freedom. “Even Amitabh Bachchan’s Deewar (1975) was based on prisoners of war in Pakistan and it showed that they reach their homes, but in reality, nobody did. We can’t do that for the sake of making a commercially viable film.” Mishra adds that some films depict historical characters whose existence is questionable, like Anarkali. But these things don’t matter to cinema-goers, a good film does.
(Right) A grab of filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali getting attacked on the set of Padmavati, starring actor Deepika Padukone (above)