The legend of Netaji on screen

New Delhi, Jan 21 (IANS) The legend of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, his life and persona, even death, never ceases to amaze filmmakers. Various facets of his life have been explored on screens big and small over the decades, many more are waiting to be told.
More than seven decades after his death, the mystique of Netaji is still being unraveled. With the advent of OTT, exploring any biopic beyond mere life story of the subject has become easy. In the case of Netaji, more so. His is a life that lends itself naturally to drama.
From being rusticated from Kolkata’s prestigious Presidency College for his famous assault on history Professor EF Oaten for the latter’s racist comments against “natives”, to the great escape from house arrest at his Elgin Road home in the guise of a Muslim insurance agent, and from his getting away to Germany via Afghanistan and the Soviet Union, to the mystery that remained associated with his death for years after he passed away, Netaji’s story never fell short of intrigue.
Above all, there was the undying love for the country that made him a national hero.
While many filmmakers who have attempted to capture the essence of Bose on screen, most of Bollywood trade, too, would like to see more work on the iconic freedom fighter. Apart from providing ready material for script — something Bollywood always hungers for — most in the film business circle, which works as a connection between audience demand and industry supply, feel there are many perspectives which can be explored further, to take the Bollywood biopic as a genre to the next level.
“There has been only one series, with Rajkummar Rao, dedicated to Netaji in recent times that can be recalled. Netaji’s persona is huge. There are so many unsaid things about him, which people still are unaware of. There are many story ideas that need to be explored, and many perspectives that can still be explored. (The possibility is) quite immense,” film trade analyst Girish Johar told IANS.
Ahead of the 125th birth anniversary of Netaji on January 23, we take a look at the notable cinematic efforts based on the life of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose:

Creative producer Hansal Mehta’s 2017 miniseries, based on Anuj Dhar’s 2012 book, “India’s Biggest Cover-Up”, cast Rajkummar Rao as Netaji. Created by Ekta Kapoor, the show tries probing the mystery behind the freedom fighter’s death, recalling how, shortly after his death, his family in Kolkata receive a telegram from Mahatma Gandhi to not conduct his last rites. The show is an attempt to understand Netaji’s disappearance.
“Our intention is to portray Bose as a contemporary hero, a rebel who worked in different ways, thereby making him relevant and a part of today’s youth,” Mehta had said at the time of the show’s release.

New-age Bengali maverick Srijit Mukherji’s 2019 film stars Bengali superstar Prosenjit as Netaji, and explores answers to various elements of mystery surrounding the disappearance and death of Netaji, besides throwing light on his political beliefs and vision for India.

Based on the Mukherjee Commission Hearings that happened from 1999 to 2005, the story follows a journalist investigating Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose’s death and focusses on the freedom fighter’s uncanny resemblance to the controversial figure Gumnaami Baba. The film kicked up a minor storm upon release, with Netaji’s family objecting to such an allusion.

Filmmaker Kabir Khan in 2020 focussed on Bose’s Indian National Army (INA), or Azad Hind Fauj, through the web series. With Sunny Kaushal and Sharavari leading the cast, the show narrates the true story of the men and women who fought for the independence of India as part of the INA.

“I’m not a great expert on Netaji. I’m just a normal person who has read books on him. But I feel a person like him would never remain ‘gumnam’. A person like him would always come out and do something for the country if he was alive and around,” Kabir had told IANS.

The biopic by Shyam Benegal featured Sachin Khedekar as Bose. The 2004 release has been the biggest film production on the leader till date. The film primarily explores India’s freedom struggle through his perspective. Benegal’s effort was a middling success and it received critical acclaim at the BFI London Film Festival. The film also features Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Rajit Kapur, Arif Zakaria, and Divya Dutta.

The periodic drama by Tigmanshu Dhulia is about the contribution of Subhas Chandra Bose’s Indian National Army (INA) in the independence struggle. The film stars Kunal Kapoor, Amit Sadh, Mohit Marwah and Mrudula Murali, and was released in 2017.

The 1966 biographical Bengali film is directed by Piyush Bose. Starring Amar Dutta, Samar Chatterjee, and Ashish Ghosh, the film narrates the life of a young Netaji, through his college days and political campaigns. The film goes on to capture Bose’s life through different phases.

The 2019 Bengali historical series attempts a comprehensive look at Netaji’s life. It stars Abhishek Bose in the lead role, and also has Dhruvajyoti Sarkar, Kaushik Chakraborty, Sriparna Roy, Debopriyo Sarkar, Sohan Bandopadhyay, and Fahim Mirza.

Starring Ashok Kumar, Nalini Jaywant, Shyam, Kuldip Kaur, Mubarak, David, Ram Prasad, and Shashi Kapoor, the 1950 spy thriller revolves around Subhash Chandra Bose’s attempt to get freedom, along with his Indian National Army.

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