The Mad Race Of Biopics – Part -1

by IFH

Posted on 16 Apr 2019

V. Shantaram's Dr. Kotnis Ki Amar Kahani was Bollywood's First Biopic

The Mad Race Of Biopics – Part -1

V. Shantaram's Dr. Kotnis Ki Amar Kahani was Bollywood's First Biopic

It's raining Biopics in Bollywood from historical personalities like Kangana Ranaut's Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi (2019) to Braveheart Indian soldier Uri –(2019) to Bollywood film stars like Sanju(2018) to unknown strugglers like Gully Boy ( 2019) to political leaders like the Anupam Kher's The Accidental Prime Minister (2019). In fact, the biopic on Prime Minister Narendra Modi called ‘PM Narendra Modi' is much awaited but has fallen into tangle due to Model of Conduct on eve of Lok Sabha Elections.

A look down the years establishes that biopics are nothing new they have been being made since the early ‘40s. Bollywood's First biopic was Dr. Kotnis Ki Amar Kahani (1946) made by actor cum filmmaker V.Shantaram. It was an emotional and romantic film about the self-sacrificing life of Indian doctor Dwarkanath Kotnis, who dedicated his life by serving the wounded in China during the Japanese invasion in World War II. Dr. Kotnis even married a Chinese girl and died serving the patients in China. 

After that filmmaker, cum actor Sohrab Modi gave impetus to biopics by making biopics on historical personalities like Sikandar (1941) based on the heroic tale of Alexander the Great also called Sikander in India and his battle with king Puru or Porus. Present day star Ranbir Kapoor's great grandfather Prithviraj Kapoor played the role of Alexander to perfection and Sohrab Modi as King Puru gave an appropriate confrontation. The success of the film opened flood gates of films based on historical personalities.

In fact, Sohrab Modi himself made several such films like Prithvi Vallabh (1943), Jhansi Ki Rani (1953), Nausherwan-E-Adil (1957) and of course his career's most successful film Mirza Ghalib (1954) based on Ghalib, one of the greatest Indian Poet ever born in the Indian subcontinent. Actor Bharat Bhushan played Mirza Ghalib quite convincingly. The film won a National Award for best film.

In fact, many filmmakers made movies on the Mughal Emperors like Humayan (1945) and Babar (1960),, the first Mughal Emperor who invaded India.  Later two films were simultaneously made on the life of King Akbar and the love story of Anarkali and Prince Salim (who was later called Emperor Jahangir). The films were Anarkali ( 1953) and Mughul –E-Azam (1960). A film was made on King Shahjahan’s life called Taj Mahal ( 1963). A film was also made on the life of emperor Shahjahan's daughter Jahan Ara (1964), and one film was made on the wife of Emperor Jahangir called  Noorjahan (1968).  

The golden era also witnessed a few biopics on the life of cruel and brutal foreign invaders who looted India and exploited but fearless Indians gave them a tough fight. Like Sikander-E-Azam (1965). The role of cruel Alexandra was played by Dara Singh. Brilliant actor Pran played the role of malicious Chinese invader Halaku (1956) superbly. Likewise, action hero Sheikh Mukhtar played the evil Mongol rule Changez Khan to a perfect T. Recently, actor Ranveer Singh gave a super performance of the ruthless king Sultan Alauddin Khilji, who attacked India to seek beautiful Rani Padmavati in the film Padmaavat (2018).





  • Dr Dwarkanath Kothnis
  • V Shantaram

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