Once upon a time, there was is a man named Arunachalam Muruganantham from Coimbatore in India, who could not bear to see the discomfort and embarrassment that his wife had to go through, just to buy/ wear a sanitary pad / napkin. Risking even his very marriage, Arunachalam’s empathy and resolve lead him to research everything from material to pricing of sanitary pads. And after a long, unrelenting journey, he makes sanitary napkins that become the preferred and highly affordable alternative to what many rural and even urban women were used to for the longest time; cloth. This inspiring story of an Indian hero was recently depicted by way of a Bollywood movie, Padman.
Now consider some Hollywood movies inspired by real-life heroes. Erin Brockovich (played by Julia Roberts), Joy (Jennifer Lawrence starrer), Sully (featuring Tom Hanks), Argo (Ben Affleck playing the cool, brave Antonio J. Mendez of the CIA), etc., etc. Noticed anything in common?
The protagonist always bears the real name of the character it was inspired by. The way I see it, that helps real heroes get the recognition they deserve in their home countries, if not the world. And it helps the masses connect better with the name and great actions of that hero or changemaker. Of course, there are other movies loosely based on some real-world people. In which case, I agree that moviemakers would be wary of incurring the wrath of linked families. And therefore use fictional names. But why the same even with movies completely inspired by one, known person.
Bollywood has been notorious for decades, for being “inspired” by original content from the world over, and repackaging it for our audiences. To add to the plagiarism, is the unimaginative rehashed Bollywood classic songs that regularly make their way back to newer Bollywood movies. The least this multi-billion dollar industry that avoids imagination and innovation like the plague could do, is let real heroes have a share in the limelight. By using the person’s real name in the movie it is inspired by.
They did with Padman. And with Airlift. With Guru, among other movies.
Why do they do it? Are box office proceeds all they care about? Or is it some lawsuit they’re trying to avoid? Or do they want credit for the empathy, innovation and perseverance of another?
‘Arunachalam Muruganantham’ is a tough enough name even for Indians to remember, without it being portrayed by Akshay Kumar but bearing a completely different name. Giving a fictional name takes away the powerful connect it could create among the masses. And this movie could have been the perfect effort to make the real man a household name. To inspire many more such changemakers because of the direct connect to the real person it creates.
Look forward to your views. And if you liked this one, consider following/subscribing to my blog (top right of the page). You can also connect with me on LinkedIn and on Twitter.
Allan Massie said, “Do you know what a soldier is, young man? He’s the chap who makes it possible for civilized folk to despise war.”
Last night I watched a movie called ‘Holiday‘. An action thriller about a soldier on vacation who uncovers a dangerous plot.
I noticed something rather shameful with the crowd at the theatre during the last 3 odd minutes of the movie. And it was more offensive than the people who speak or scratch their haunches when the national anthem is playing. The last scene showed soldiers on their way back from vacation. The scene has families and loved ones spending a few emotion-filled moments with the soldiers before they leave for another long, trying stint away from home, to guard the country.
During this bit, over 60% of the people at the theatre got up and started leaving. You might argue that it is a movie after all. Or that it was past 1:30 am, or even that the climax scene was done. But aren’t we the same people who buy into, and believe the absurdity that is sold to us in the name of Bollywood? Then is this representation of reality so unimportant that we choose to ignore it?
I read some articles a few months ago, that might give some perspective to this. Some random American citizens were at a burger joint, when they noticed a few soldiers standing in line behind them. They got to the counter and paid for their order. They then handed some money and instructed the person at the counter that it was towards everything the soldiers ordered. And that if the money fell short, to let them know and they’d pay the balance as well.
Then there was another story of how someone left some money and a note on the car of a soldier, thanking them for serving their country, and asking them to take their loved one to a nice restaurant with the money, saying it was just a small token of their gratitude. While these don’t seem like fictional stories, surely they might sound a little dramatic, or like we Indians say, ‘filmy’. Citizens in the US have always acknowledged the futility of sending their soldiers to fight unnecessary wars, and they are grateful and acknowledge this huge sacrifice soldiers make for them, and sometimes try to express this gratitude in their own small ways.
We Indians are aware of the tainted reputation of some cricketers and even some cricketing events, but yet will watch the game with undeterred reverence and willful ignorance, but a few minutes that offer a glimpse into the lives of the very people whose sacrifice enables us to enjoy these trivial and meaningless luxuries, and we get easily bored and leave.
This attitude of educated fellow Indians begs me to wonder what exactly our soldiers are sacrificing their lives to guard. A thankless, money and pleasure-seeking race of self-centered robots?