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Romance with period movies

Costume dramas and historicals continue to fascinate Bollywood

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(Clockwise from top left) Panipat; Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior; Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi and Shamshera
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Costume dramas and stories from the bygone era have always held sway over Indian filmmakers. Looks like this fascination won’t end any time soon. This year, we’ve already seen two historical films — Kangana Ranaut’s Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi and Akshay Kumar’s Kesari — which did great business at the box office. Though it failed to impress the viewers, the year also had Karan Johar’s Kalank, and then came Salman Khan’s Bharat, which turned out to be a blockbuster. The list does not end here. 2019 will end with Panipat releasing on December 6, making it five period dramas this year alone.  

That’s not all, viewers have four more films to look forward to next year. After playing Bajirao in Bajirao Mastani (2015) and Allaudin Khilji in Padmaavat last year, Ranveer Singh will play another character from the Mughal Empire in Karan’s Takht. Ajay Devgn has two projects lined up — Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior and Neeraj Pandey’s Chanakya based on the 4th Century BC scholar. While these are based on chapters of history, Ranbir Kapoor will essay the role of a dacoit fighting for India’s Independence against the Britishers in the fictional drama Shamshera. Then there’s Akshay Kumar who will play the titular lead in Prithviraj Chauhan’s biopic.

According to film exhibitor Akshaye Rathi, Indian history, whether ancient or modern, is rich with tales waiting to be narrated. “If you look at the Mughal Empire, the history of our freedom fighters during the British period or even the post-Independence era, there are so many amazing stories. The Tashkent Files, for instance, spoke about the mystery behind our second Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri’s death.” Since all of us have grown up listening to these stories, they are relatable and one feels that they are stories of our lives, Akshaye adds.

Trade analyst Komal Nahta observes that since the budgets for films have increased, the scale that the movies are mounted on has also gone up. “There is also a good audience to watch these films because of which many historical films are working,” he points out. Period movies have been made in the past but with not as much frequency they are now. Historical films are more time-consuming to make than regular outings since thorough research on the topic, costumes, sets, music and much more needs to be in great detail and on point. But with the advancement in technology and VFX, the game has changed. The recreation of the past days has become easier than before.  

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