‘When Someone Asks Me To Think Of Gandhi, I Think Of Ben Kingsley, That Is The Power Of Cinema’

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Shekhar Kapur, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra and Farhan Akhtar speak with Shoma Chaudhury. Photo: Arun Sehrawat
Shekhar Kapur, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra and Farhan Akhtar speak with Shoma Chaudhury. Photo: Arun Sehrawat

The biopic genre is at a nascent stage in India. But both in terms of literary writing and cinema, Farhan Akhtar, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra and Shekhar Kapur have painted a rich canvas of movies that are being discussed globally. Day 1 of THiNK 2013 saw another engaging session, ‘The Lives of Others: Fidelity, Drama and the Art of the Biopic”, where all the three cinematic geniuses discussed the ethics, the art and the aesthetic of creating a vivid biopic.

“Every director has his or her own way of looking at things,” said Kapur, “Doing a biopic was like trying to find myself. I had to find myself in Elizabeth, I had to find myself in Phoolan Devi, I had to be the raped and the rapist.” Kapur drew an interesting parallel between the lives of Elizabeth and Indira Gandhi. Throughout their journey, both of them lose their femininity and feminism in order to fight and survive in a world of men.

Mehra’s views also mirrored that of Kapur’s. He maintained that while making a biopic it is very critical to decide the extent upto which one can take creative liberties. “We took some creative liberties in Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, we dramatised the moments. But the fact is that he suffered, he lost everything. He grew up with the demons of his troubled past. There was the process of finding a Milkha in myself, in Farhan and in the audiences as well. We wanted the audience to see his pain, and to see it through Milkha’s eyes when he was a child”.

“For me it was a very personal story about a man who wanted to claim his identity” said Akhtar. The actor went on to state that the biggest challenge of the character was to gain acceptance. “Although Milkha had problems going to Pakistan, he still wanted that recognition. It was a story about this boy being accepted by this country that at one point had rejected him.”

It was an arduous 18 months for the actor as he had to undergo rigorous physical training to fit the character. In a strange way, Farhan points out, “The face of the real person starts resembling the actor. When someone asks me to think of Gandhi, I think of Ben Kingsley, that is the power of cinema.”

By Donna Mathew

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