“RRR”, “Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy”: can fiction become a fact in historical films?

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With two great historical films coming out this year, the debate on the judicious meeting between reality and fiction is very topical.

Finding the right balance between historical facts and fictional freedom in a mainstream film narrative is a tricky space. The filmmaker is often caught in the crossfire, between staying true to the historical character’s story, pleasing the supposed fan base of the lead actor (s) and making the execution engaging at the same time.

What directors fail to assess is the danger of fictional freedom being presumed as fact by the average viewer and how a particular film might be viewed as historical evidence by many future generations.

Since Tollywood will be producing two mainstream films RRR and Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy Based on the lives of legendary Telugu freedom fighters Alluri Seetharamaraju, Komaram Bheem and Uyyalawada Narasimha Reddy in rapid succession, the debate around the judicious meeting ground between reality and fiction is very present among moviegoers.

When fiction becomes reality

Cut from the 1974 hit movie Alluri Seetharamaraju, a biopic of the legendary Telugu freedom fighter, starring actors Krishna, Vijaya Nirmala and Jaggaiah in the lead roles. The author of the film Tripuraneni Maharathi gave a fictitious twist to the word Seetha in the name of the legendary freedom fighter, attributing it to a woman who was deeply in love with Alluri and who also allegedly took her last breath when she s ‘is forcibly married to another. gentleman. Alluri, who was previously called Rama Raju, firmly announces that he will now be called Seetha Rama Raju after her death (in memory of her).

Although Telugu viewers are well aware that this premise is only fictitious, the insistence of filmmaker SS Rajamouli that this is indeed a real chapter in Alluri’s life during the press conference of RRR created more ambiguity than clarity. The filmmaker said: “Alluri had a maradalu named Seetha (who will be played by Alia Bhatt). They had a love affair in their life before marriage ”, and this statement has not been welcomed by historians and biographers, who claim that there is no historical evidence to say that Seetha had existed. in Alluri’s life. Although Rajamouli made it clear that the film is a work of fiction involving real characters, the director should have been right from the announcement, they believe.

A journalist, biographer and writer Goparaju Narayana Rao, who recently invented the novel Akupaccha Suryodayam based on the life of Alluri, says: “The film of veteran actor Krishna Alluri Seetharamaraju also had little or no historicity. First, the Visakha tribes did not have any members of the Koya tribe in their group. Alluri had only given the Bhagatha community the power to fight for our freedom. Seetha is also a character that did not exist in Rama Raju’s life. According to several accounts of British officers and civilians of the time, the freedom fighter was only called Alluri Sri Rama Raju and not Seetha Rama Raju. It is our negligence for historical accuracy that we have retained its alias to this day. Moreover, SS Rajamouli’s statement that Alluri had a romantic interest in his life is quite unfortunate. Maybe the movie industry doesn’t appreciate celibacy so much and I can even say this is a case of character assassination.

In addition, the RRR The filmmaker had added that there was no account or evidence of the places Komaram Bheem and Alluri visited between 1920 and 21, but that does not appear to be true either.

“There are enough documents that confirm that Alluri was in Barrackpore and Calcutta during those years and that he also met figures like political leader Surendranath Banerjee,” adds Narayana Rao.

Meanwhile, some historians claim that Komaram Bheem spent time during this phase in Assam. Rajamouli’s assertion that these years marked a definitive transformation in their lives is difficult to accept, as the two freedom fighters had by then proven their leadership qualities within their respective communities.

Bringing historians to the table

Meanwhile, filmmaker Allani Sreedhar’s biopic on Komaram Bheem (released in 2010) is also not exempt from commercial freedoms. The film does not address the fact that there were several women in his life and only makes his outrage against the Nizam rule his goal. It doesn’t do much damage as the film’s priority is to show Komaram Bheem’s greatest contribution to his people. In fact, it’s safe to say that the narrative’s focus on her personal life could have been counterproductive for the film’s impact.

Allani Sreedhar, however, is a happy man now, having witnessed the attention surrounding Komaram Bheem following the announcement of RRR. While adding cautiously that the authors of RRR need to do some homework to preserve the sanctity of the people’s leader, Sreedhar shares, “The world will know the leader now; but what aspects of the leader will they know are also important. I hope Rajamouli garu will succeed in his quest. As the director of the Komaram Bheem biopic, I’m quite happy that Google searches for Komaram Bheem are at an all-time high.

In the second half of 2019, all eyes will be on the release of Chiranjeevi’s most ambitious project to date, Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy, the Uyyalawada Narasimha Reddy biopic which has a huge all-star cast including Nayanthara, Tamannah, Vijay Sethupathi, Amitabh Bachchan and Sudeep in its lineup. It’s also surprising that it took the filmmakers so long to make a film based on Narasimha Reddy, a retired Poligar from Uyyalavada to Koilkuntla Taluk, who was one of the first Telugu freedom fighters to lead a rebellion against the British East India Company. He had an army of over five thousand people in the 1840s before he was hanged to death.

Among the few popular accounts based on his life (besides a biography titled Renati surya chandrulu) is a novel Palegadu, written by Telugu writer SDV Aziz, which gives a tangible account of the life of the freedom fighter leading to rebellion, without going into his personal life in great detail. In conversation with TNM, Aziz does not deny that filmmakers distort historical facts to their liking. However, he doesn’t really blame them for it.

“With a film, the directors are under pressure to deliver the navarasas through a product. There is only basic information that the story can provide, but a filmmaker has to build a world around this time. Cinematographic freedom is necessary because of the emotional load it must provide to the viewer, ”explains Aziz.

Aziz also advises filmmakers to bring historians and writers together to verify facts and fictional freedoms they might take for a particular story, before filming. “The script would then be true to the facts and also have commercial appeal.”

Movies like The darkest hour and Lincoln are instances where reality has encountered certain fictitious freedoms and yet films have been widely received in Hollywood by audiences and critics alike. Is this humble plea for a solid factual basis for films based on historical figures asking too much of Tollywood?

Srivathsan, journalist by profession and explorer by choice, finds meaning in his life through the books he searches and the stories he writes. A walk in the park with music gives him a sense of calm while watching movies in the cinema week after week is a ritual he can’t get enough of.


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