Retelling the Nation: Narrating the Nation through Biopics


Cinema plays a pivotal role in the negotiation and construction of national identity, selectively appropriating history, attempting to forge a sense of commonality in a set of people by evoking a sense of a shared past and by establishing a rupture with ‘others'. One of the means of constructing a nation is through the biopic. Great men biopics chronicle heroic deeds, sacrifice, and lofty moral virtues and either fabricate, or rediscover, and authenticate the myths of the founding fathers and celebrated men. Biopics disseminate the "myth of nationhood" by use of various narrative strategies - such as a glorification of hypermasculinity, structuring binary oppositions in terms of character and thematic concerns, ‘otherness', visualizing national territory, homogenizing a cultural diversity etc. These films become a part of the nationalistic discourse that reflect perceptions of what it means to be "Indian". Bollywood in general and the biopic in particular has moved away from the Mother India mythology and its feminine reading of the nation to produce a particular variant of nationalism. This paper attempts to deconstruct how the nation is simulated, and meanings, such as national pride and national idealism, are mediated to the audience in selected Indian biopics - Sardar, The Legend of Bhagat Singh, Mangal Pandey - The Rising and Bhaag Milkha Bhaag. Key terms: Cinema, biopic, Bollywood, identity, memory, otherness, gendering, simulation/construction. Biopics selected for StudySardar (1993) - Biopic on Vallabhai Patel, Statesman and India's first Home Minister. The Legend of Bhagat Singh (2002) - on Bhagat Singh, martyr and freedom fighter.Mangal Pandey-The Rising (2005) - on Mangal Pandey, rebel soldier of the Sepoy Mutiny, popularly known as the First War of Independence.Bhaag Milkha Bhaag (2013) - on Milkha Singh, Sportsperson.

Author Information
Preeti Kumar, St. Teresa's College, India

Paper Information
Conference: FilmAsia2013
Stream: Film

This paper is part of the FilmAsia2013 Conference Proceedings (View)
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To cite this article:
Kumar P. (2014) Retelling the Nation: Narrating the Nation through Biopics ISSN: 2187-5294 – The Asian Conference on Film and Documentary 2013 – Official Conference Proceedings
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