Bollywood films accused of misconstruing facts

When Ashutosh Gowarikar released the trailer of his film, Mohenjo Daro, little would he have anticipated the kind of backlash it would face across Twitter and the social media, over the factual inaccuracies that both the film, and the lead actress, Pooja Hegde’s look, have. While many lambasted Gowarikar for sticking to stereotypes of exotic orientalism, a Twitter user even commented on how the film looks like a mix of Koi Mil Gaya, Krish, Gladiator, Ek Paheli Leela and Lagaan.

While Bollywood has always had a penchant for magnum opus dramas depicting historical and other real life incidents, our films have also been criticised for not sticking to facts. We take a look at eight such films that have been accused of not doing due research:

Neerja: Sonam Kapoor’s Neerja, which was released in February 2016, earned her many accolades for her performance, the crew members of the actual hijacked Pan Am Flight 73 felt that the film was more fiction than reality. One of Neerja’s co crew members, Nupoor Abrol, went on to state that Neerja had received undue adulation in the film, and that the real heroes were, “Astrid Lobo, Sherene Pavan, Sunshine and Massey.” On her part, Kapoor chose to ignore the criticism, stating that it was a Facebook post which was deleted in a few hours, and adding the fact that Neerja received bravery awards such as the Ashoka Chakra, the Tamgha-e-Insaniyat and the American Award for Justice, spoke for itself.

Bajirao Mastani: While the historic epic romance, directed by Sanjay Leela Bansali, was a major commercial success, and one of the highest grossing Indian films, the director has been accused of not doing his research properly, and taking too many cinematic liberties. The film was slammed by the Mastani and Peshwa families, and the Peshwa family had even filed a legal objection to the way their lineage had been portrayed in the film.  For one, the much hyped Pinga dance, which bore similarities to Dola Re of Devdas, could never have taken place as Kashibai was known to have been bedridden most of the time, since she suffered from arthritis and tuberculosis. Secondly, the two women are supposed to have met only once in their life, hence the possibility of such a dance cannot arise. Also, Bajirao and Mastani actually had a Marathi wedding in Bundelkhand, however the film does not mention any such wedding and depicts that Mastani considered herself as his wife, after Bajirao gifted her a katar. Mastani died several months after Bajirao’s death, but the film depicts that both of them died on the same day.

Azhar: This was one movie that had the entire country waiting to find out if they would finally get to learn about the controversial cricketer, who was in the middle of the entire match fixing scam. However, it deviated largely from fact and was more of a fictional story – a fact that the filmmakers had cleverly mentioned in their disclaimer. While the movie shows that Azhar found out that he was accused of match fixing from officials of the Board of Cricket Control of India (BCCI), and that a bookie confessed about him, it was actually the deceased former South African captain, Hansie Cronje, who first mentioned Azhar in the match fixing scandal, before being named by the bookie. Similarly, while the movie mentions that Azhar received Rs. 1 crore from the bookie to fix a match against Sri Lanka, according to the actual CBI report, MK Gupta, the bookie, had given Azhar Rs 50 lakhs as advance. As per Azhar’s statement, he was offered Rs 1.25 crores by the bookie, however the deal did not go through. Also, the 1998 Jubilee Cup final between India and Sri Lanka that is shown in the movie, is actually the 1997 Asia Cup title match.    .



Airlift: Among the highest grossers of this year, Airlift won many accolades and some brickbats for its portrayal of the evacuation of Indians from Kuwait after the Iraqi invasion of 1990. The film, which is loosely based on the heroic deeds of Indian businessman Mathunny Mathews, who is credited to have safely evacuated 170,000 Indians during the Gulf war, did not amuse the Ministry of External Affairs, which criticised it for taking artistic liberties with events that actually happened. The film shows the Indian Ambassador as being careless, and the Embassy staff as having abandoned those who were stranded during the war, however, in reality, the Indian Ambassador had accommodated hundreds of Indians in the Embassy during the war. While MEA spokesperson, Vikas Swaroop, tweeted that the film was a ‘great entertainment but rather short on facts,’ former Ambassador to the United States, Nirupama Rao, stated that the makers of the film did not do due research before making it. “Airlift” the movie falls completely short in its research on role of@MEAIndia in 1990-91 Gulf War,” is what she tweeted.

Mary Kom: Director Omung Kumar came in for criticism for choosing Priyanka Chopra to portray ace boxer Mary Kom in the film with same title, instead of someone of Manipuri descent. The film’s climax scene was also factually incorrect. In the movie, Mary Kom fights for the World Championship while her son is being operated on, however, in real life it was after she returned from China, that her son got operated on.

Gulaab Gang: The Madhuri Dixit starrer ran into trouble with the very people whom the film was based on – the Gulaab Gang. Its leader Sampat Pal Devi, claimed that Madhuri Dixit had not even met her once during the making of the film. Also, the film shows the character Rajjo, which is based on Sampat, taking revenge on shrewd politician Sumitra Devi. However in reality, such a revenge never took place.

The Dirty Picture: While Vidya Balan received many accolades for her depiction of the yesteryear’s South Indian film siren, Silk Smitha, the film deviated from reality in an important aspect. The movie shows that Silk Smitha’s suicide was due to an overdose of sleeping pills, but, in reality the reason of her death is unknown.

Jodhaa Akbar: Another historical Ashutosh Gowarikar film, which faced flak for getting facts wrong, was the epic Jodhaa Akbar. The film was banned across many states in India, including Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh after demonstrations by the Rajput community, which described the depiction of Jodhaa Bai as Akbar’s wife an ‘insult’ to the community. The community stated that, according to history books, Jodhaa Bai was married to Prince Jehangir, who is Akbar’s son, hence making Akbar her father in law. Another issue that was raised was the way in which Akbar’s look was portrayed. While, historically, Akbar is known to be dark and not too tall, Ashutosh’s Akbar, played by Hrithik Rosshan, is fair-skinned, tall with Greek god looks.