Reconfiguring India: Narrating the Nation through Great Men Biopics

Author: Preeti Kumar, St. Teresa's College, India
Published: July 2014

Citation: Kumar, P. (2014). Reconfiguring India: Narrating the Nation through Great Men Biopics. IAFOR Journal of Media, Communication & Film, 2(1).


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 hyper-masculinity, 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 reflects 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.


cinematic biopic, Bollywood, identity, memory, otherness, gendering, simulation/construction