When the first look of Meghana Gulzar’s Chhapaak got released, the first thought I had was, ‘Wow!’ – Right here was a poster that had the capability of moving you, of exciting the fan of the movies in you.

What made it so powerful for me were several things. The beautiful, downright stunning Deepika Padukone, here, played the role of an acid attack victim. Her face was covered with burns but what stood out was that bright smile on her face that spoke out loud about the spirit of her character Malti. Above it all though, what made it even more stunning was the fact that it was based on a true story, the story of the inspirational Laxmi Agarwal, and perhaps several other acid attack victims who come out as the ultimate winners in life (P.S. If you don’t know about Laxmi, you make it a point to look her up).

And that’s the thing about real life stories. You feel uplifted and inspired, at times introspective and moved, not just because the script is good or the performances are good, but also because the people, the situations are all based on reality, and that does make a difference.

Right from biopics being made on influential figures to web series’ being launched based on true incidents, it won’t be wrong to say that real life is slowly conquering the reel. My feelings about that are mixed though. The adaptations that are served often use, at times misuse, the creative liberty that they get. Take Netflix’s Delhi Crime, based on the Nirbhaya case from the point of view of the police, for example. It’s a good show, very gripping with intense ensemble performances but it presents a little too unbelievably nice version of the system. Another example is Akshay Kumar’s recent film Kesari, based on the Battle of Saragarhi. Amidst all the money that went behind that extravagant war scenes and sets, in general, several people claimed that it presented a distorted version of what actually took place, that it mixed facts with fiction to make it more people-friendly. Was it justified? Maybe, but the actual story was definitely not done justice to.

These things hit you. Because these instances do take away the believability from the topics you’ve read about in the past, and want to know more about. The only advice there would be look at them just the way they intend to be – a form of entertainment, and nothing more. It’s important for us to separate the real from reel and draw a bridge somewhere.

But here comes the good part. There are some interpretations that are close to facts too. Take Priyanka Chopra-starrer Mary Kom, for example, which traced the ups and downs of the much-decorated boxer in the right spirit. Or even Netflix’s 21 Sarfarosh, a more factual representation of what was attempted in Kesari. In recent times, I’ve liked many of these representations, including Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, based on the legend of the ‘Flying Sikh,’ Milkha Singh. As many would agree, it was perhaps Farhan Akhtar’s best work as an actor but it honestly disappointed me as a viewer that his wife, Nirmal Kaur’s character was excluded from his biopic.

Then there were films like Neerja and No One Killed Jessica too, which used the best possible way to depict the incidents that surrounded them, in my opinion. I remember reading about both cases as a child, about Neerja Bhanot and Jessica Lal. The former’s bravery made my chest swell out of respect, while the latter’s tragedy ran chills down my spine. Both died way too young, but in completely different circumstances. To present all that with sensitivity and without taking away the rawness of the characters, these two films justified the meaning of adaptations.

Meghana’s Raazi too, starring the extremely talented Alia Bhatt, was based on Harinder Sikka’s Calling Sehmat. The adaptation was on point as far as whatever was written about Sehmat in the book, but the fact that the real Sehmat truly stayed in the backgrounds till the time she breathed her last, was something that stayed with me even after the film was over. Did you know that the quirky Badhaai Ho too was loosely based on real life? Yes, newspaper clippings of senior citizens having children of their own led Amit Sharma to come up with the ultimately super-hit script.

Lastly, there was also a certain Crime Patrol. Haven’t we all gone through, or seen people go through that phase where we were hooked to these crime shows that were based on real incidents which we often missed – or spotted – in the newspaper columns? Television shows will never get old, especially the ones like these. My father, till date, tends to call me up to warn me about stuff that he sees on the show, which, yes, airs till date. And I get it, honestly.

All in all, nothing takes away from the fact that real stories are a hit. They tend to generate emotions that can only come from knowing that all this had happened out there, closer to us. Generations and generations find it relatable, and that’s for a reason. Which is again why we have shows like Vikrant Massey’s Criminal Justice – that looks massively interesting, by the way – coming up on Hotstar and films like Farhan and Priyanka’s The Sky Is Pink, based on the life and times of the incredibly talented and brave teenager Aisha Choudhary (again, look her up if you don’t know who she is!).

And all this does give me hope that real stories, whether adapted completely from, or just loosely based on, will be given justice to – properly.


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