Bollywood movies are released each year a-dime-a-dozen. Believe it or not, our Bollywood movie industry doles out more than a thousand films each year, but most of them fail to connect with the audience on an emotional level. However, in recent years, biopics on the lives of various Indian individuals have really made their mark on the minds of the Indian people and are slowly becoming a must-watch for all kinds of audiences.
Voxytalksy chronicles a massive list of the best-ever Bollywood biopics, past, present, and future that should definitely be on your ‘must-watch’ Bollywood movies bucket list:
Based on Lakshminath Bezbaroa’s play about a 17th-century Ahom princess Soti Joymoti, this first-ever Assamese film stars Aideu Handique (Assamese Cinema’s first actress). It recounts the sacrifice of Joymoti who was tortured and killed by the Ahom king Borphukan since she was unwilling to reveal the whereabouts of her husband Gadapani (a fugitive prince). The movie elicits a strong sense of patriotism to the land to try and establish harmony between the people of the hills and those of the plains.
It was the first Indian talkie to use Dubbing and Re-recording Technology and was also lauded for its advanced political views and the use of a female protagonist (first time in Indian cinema).
Nandanar is a Tamil language devotional film which showcases M. M. Dandapani Desikar as Nandan, a low-caste farmhand who was considered a pariah (untouchable) in society. However, Nandan’s deep devotion towards Lord Nataraja of Chithambaram (Lord Shiva) is seen when he is forced by priests to walk through fire as a punishment for trying to enter an ‘elite’ temple. He enters the fire with Lord Nataraja’s name on his lips and comes out unscathed only to disappear the next moment and unifies with his beloved Lord.
The Indian epic historical drama film directed by K. Asif stars Prithviraj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar, Madhubala, and Durga Khote in lead roles and explores the love affair between Mughal Prince Salim (who later became Emperor Jahangir) and Anarkali, a court dancer. Since Salim’s father, Emperor Akbar, disapproves of the relationship, an epic battle ensues between father and son and eventually ends in massive bloodshed.
Antony Firingee (1967)
This Bengali biopic is a musical drama that stars Uttam Kumar. Uttam portrays the life of Anthony Firingee (Hensman Anthony), a 19th-century Bengali language folk poet of Portuguese origin who falls in love with Shakila, a local courtesan and marries her. Their social ostracism and life tragedy show how the poet was mentally tortured and harassed for marrying a courtesan since it was a social taboo then.
Uttam Kumar won the National Film Award for Best Actor at the 15th National Film Award (1968) for this performance.
A film by noted Indian lyricist Gulzar, the biopic portrays Hema Malini in the titular role of Meera, a Hindu saint-poetess who renounced all her princely comforts in pursuit of her love for the Supreme Lord, Krishna.
The movie shows how a woman struggles to find her dignity and spiritual satisfaction in a society which considers women to be confined to household chores. Eventually, she is jailed for challenging the norms of society and is executed in a public trial.
Raziya Sultan (1983)
Hema Malini plays the titular role of Razia Sultan (1205–1240) impeccably in this Hindi movie. Razia was the only female Sultan of Delhi (1236–1240) and the movie explores her rule, her love affair with the Abyssinian slave, Jamal-ud-Din Yakut and how her supposedly ‘weak’ gender led to her downfall in society.
Ek Doctor Ki Maut (1990)
The Hindi biopic is loosely based on the life of Dr. Subhash Mukhopadhyay, an Indian Physician who is said to have pioneered the In-vitro fertilization treatment procedure, but due to massive red tape, bureaucratic negligence and social ostracism prevalent in our society, a doctor is compelled towards committing suicide when the credit for this discovery went to an English scientist called Dr. Robert Edwards.
In the movie, Pankaj Kapur plays Dr. Dipankar Roy who discovers a vaccine for leprosy and becomes an overnight sensation, but professional jealousy and abuse leads to two American doctors receiving credit for discovering the same vaccine. The film also stars Shabana Azmi, Irfan Khan, Deepa Sahi and Anil Chatterjee in pivotal roles.
Paresh Rawal plays the titular character of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, also known as the Iron Man of India in this Hindi biopic by Ketan Mehta. The movie recollects the reasons why his legacy is overshadowed by the likes of Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru and how he was also a key freedom fighter in building an independent India.
Bandit Queen (1994)
Directed by Shekhar Kapur, the biopic depicts the troubled life and atrocities faced by Phoolan Devi (played by Seema Biswas). She was gang raped, abused by policemen and shows how she vows for revenge and embarks on her transition from Phoolan Devi to the Bandit Queen.
Mangal Pandey: The Rising (1995)
This Hindi historical biographical drama celebrates the true grit of Mangal Pandey (played by Aamir Khan), an Indian sepoy in the East India Company who was pivotal in sparking the Indian rebellion of 1857 (also known as “The First War of Indian Independence”).
The Making of the Mahatma (1996)
Starring Rajit Kapur (as Mahatma Gandhi) and Pallavi Joshi (as Kasturba Gandhi), and directed by Shyam Benegal, this movie portrays the early life of Mohandas Gandhi and how his 21 years of struggle in South Africa fighting against racism slowly transforms him into the Mahatma as we know him today.
The film was an Indo-South African collaboration and won two National Awards – National Film Award for Best Actor – Rajit Kapur as Gandhi and National Film Award for Best Feature Film in English
Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar (2000)
Featuring Malayalam actor Mammootty in the titular character, this movie chronicles the life of revolutionary leader Dr. Babasaheb Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar who fought against social discrimination against the Dalits and also worked for the rights of women and labor.
The film was funded by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment and the Government of Maharashtra as a tribute to the great man.
Shaheed Udham Singh (2000)
Featuring Raj Babbar in the titular character, the movie relives the horrors of one of the most brutal massacres in the world history – the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in Amritsar during the British Raj. Shaheed Udham Singh avenged the death of 1000s of innocent men and women killed in the massacre by killing the British Lieutenant, Michael O’Dwyer who had ordered the massacre.
The Legend of Bhagat Singh (2002)
Ajay Devgn portrayed a remarkable tribute to Bhagat Singh, the young freedom fighter who sacrificed his life for India’s Independence while challenging the British to leave India.
Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose: The Forgotten Hero (2004)
Shyam Benegal’s 2004 war film Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose: The Forgotten Hero features Sachin Khedekar in the titular character who depicts the life of Netaji Bose in Nazi Germany (1941-1943) as well as Japanese-occupied Asia (1943-1945) which eventually lead to his formation of the Azad Hind Fauj. The Azad Hind Fauj originally helped spark the spirit of nationalism in our country.
Gandhi, My Father (2007)
This movie is based on Mahatma Gandhi’s son Hiralal Gandhi (played by Akshaye Khanna) who portrays the fragile yet personal relationship between Mahatma Gandhi and his son.
This Tamil biographical film directed by Gnana Rajasekaran relives the life and times of social reformer and rationalist Periyar E. V. Ramasamy with Sathyaraj playing the lead role. The film revisits the cruelty of the Hindu Caste System and how Periyar having starved severely due to this social ostracism disguises himself with the appearance of a Brahmin wearing a thread on his bare chest.
He leaves Kashi and joins his father’s business to eventually become the Chairman of the Erode Municipality. Later, he begins a freedom struggle and is pivotal in the Anti-Hindi agitation and Vaikom struggle and the formation of the DMK.
Loosely based on the life of Reliance Industries’s founder Dhirubhai Ambani, Guru portrays the life of Gurukant Desai (Abhishek Bachchan) who lives a life full of struggle and hardship to eventually build a massive indigenous cloth empire in India.
Rang Rasiya (2008)
Based on the life of Indian painter Raja Ravi Varma, a Malayali Indian painter and artist who is considered as one of the greatest painters in the history of Indian art, this movie directed by Ketan Mehta tells the story of an artist and his pursuit for the ultimate model for his painting of a Goddess.