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MIFF 2024: Panel Discussion Explores the Blurring Boundaries Between Biographical Documentaries and Biopics

Mumbai: The 18th Mumbai International Film Festival (MIFF) hosted a thought-provoking panel discussion today titled “Biographical Documentaries versus Biopics: The Blurring of Boundaries.” The session delved into the nuanced debate between these two genres, exploring their delicate distinctions and coexistence within the film industry.

Renowned figures from the film industry, including veteran film director and editor Rahul Rawail, screenwriter Robin Bhatt, National Award-winning filmmaker B. S. Lingadevaru, and director-producer Milind Lele, shared their insights. The session was moderated by A. Chandrasekhar, a distinguished film critic and author of 21 film books.

Rahul Rawail opened the discussion by highlighting the intricate challenge of differentiating between biographical documentaries and biopics. He explained, “A biographical documentary presents a straightforward narrative of real events, while a biopic is inspired by the same events but dramatizes them to make the story more engaging. Both genres require thorough research and are distinct streams that should coexist rather than replace each other.”

Robin Bhatt emphasized the current popularity and success of biopics in India. He noted the importance of dramatization in keeping the audience engaged but cautioned filmmakers to respect the integrity of the main character. “You can dramatize incidents, but not the person. The goal is to entertain while staying true to the essence of the story,” he advised.

B. S. Lingadevaru shared his experience with his film ‘Naanu Avanalla…Avalu,’ stressing the importance of sticking to facts in documentaries. “Include every character that was part of the story. Omitting any character can render the documentary incomplete,” he remarked.

Milind Lele underscored the necessity of avoiding sensationalism in biographical films. He suggested that filmmakers consult with the family members of the main character to gain their consent and support, which can add significant strength and authenticity to the film. “Engaging with those closest to the character can provide invaluable insights and help avoid potential controversies,” he said.

The panel concluded with a consensus on the importance of maintaining the integrity of both biographical documentaries and biopics, ensuring they complement rather than compete with each other in the cinematic landscape. The discussion highlighted the need for both genres to maintain their unique approaches while contributing to the broader goal of storytelling in cinema.

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