Dangers of Historical Period Dramas and Biopics in India


History is a great teacher for the humankind. It teaches us about war, peace, betrayal, bravery among many other things. The most important lesson, however, is to not repeat the mistakes made a hundred or thousands of years ago and expect different results. It’s such a powerful learning tool that transferring it to the next generation in its truest form becomes the responsibility of the current one.

Book burning in Berlin 1933

Throughout history, however, there has been a constant battle to rewrite it, not figuratively but literally. Kings and rulers in the early days often burnt old books that didn’t align with their ideology and rewrote their own versions of it. Nalanda University in Bihar is one of many institutions that were destroyed to wipe the history and teachings in order to fill the history with one’s own exaggerated claims. Over 9 million books were burnt in the Nalanda University fire incited by Khilji’s troops, whose amount of data cannot be accounted for.

Remains of the Nalanda University

This was prevalent in medieval times. However, as the storage of information became easy since the invention of other forms of data storage it wasn’t sufficient to burn books. The decoits of history have now resorted to making fake historical facts and making it indistinguishable from actual history at first glance.

Writing outright factually incorrect books to making movies, everything is being done in order to have one’s say in history. In a country like India, this becomes a huge problem since the reach of these movies is far greater than the fact-checked critiques of it would ever be.

Every periodic drama and biopic made in the country is hugely altered to please the current mood of the masses and primarily to make money.

Padmavat, Tanhaji, Mohanjodaro, Manikarnika, the list goes on, are all factually inaccurate. Padmavati, as depicted in the movie, wasn’t even a real person! The masses however now believe that she was since most of them have watched the movie. The fact-checked analysis of the movie will never reach the masses and so they will be oblivious to the actual fact. This is where the problem arises, though filmmakers don’t burn actual history books, their work is far more dangerous.

What is even the point in making a movie about a famous person who is still, famous and in their prime? Other than to make money and use their popularity with skewed facts for monetary gains? It is also used for changing the image of that person. Look at the movies Sanju and PM Narendra Modi. How these movies see the day of light is beyond me.

Sanju poster

In a country where the movie industry enjoys a very handsome reach, the directors and producers need to give more thought to what they’re conveying through the film. They are rather busy making money off of people’s sentiments, insensibly making a huge dent in the history of our country. The onus to teach history to the country is certainly not on the directors but they can’t wash their hands off of the consequential misinformation either.

There’s no easy way to fix this. A government-regulated movie industry would be even worse, as it would be only used for political propaganda and any opposing voice would be silenced, so I won’t suggest that.

Teaching kids about the actual history of the land and getting them interested is our best bet, a solution where we eventually land for all our social problems.

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