Bollywood goes back in time with historicals

The recent announcement of Ajay Devgn and Neeraj Pandey teaming up for Chanakya, which is based on the life of the renowned political strategist by the same name, has sent ripples of excitement in the film trade. Three weeks ago, After Hrs was the first to report that Akshay Kumar will be seen as Prithviraj Chauhan in a Yash Raj Film production. Over the last few months, many historicals have been announced in Bollywood. All of a sudden, the genre has caught the attention of filmmakers. 

Despite India’s rich cultural heritage, few historicals have been made in Hindi cinema. There have been masterpieces like K Asif’s Mughal-e-Azam (1960) and Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi (1982). In the last two decades, moviegoers have liked films such as Jodhaa Akbar (2008) and Bajirao Mastani (2015), too. The most recent one was Padmaavat, which was based on the epic poem Padmavat by Malik Muhammad Jayasi. Helming such movies isn’t an easy task as it demands a lot of research, enormous budget and is a time-consuming process. Also, one has to be careful about what they depict on screen, lest it ruffles feathers. So, it will be interesting to see how the makers infuse a new lease of life in this genre from the yore. 

Here are some historicals that will hit the marquee in the near future.

Akshay KumarKesari

After regaling us with action, comedy and socially-relevant films, Akshay Kumar will now be seen as a turbaned martyr in Kesari. The National Award winner plays Havildar Ishar Singh, who fought the Battle of Saragarhi and led an army of 21 Sikhs against 10,000 Afghans in 1897. The actor is also producing the war drama along with Karan Johar. Directed by Anurag Singh, it stars Parineeti Chopra as the female lead. The movie, which went on floors this January and has been largely shot in Wai, Satara, opens in cinemas next Holi.

Prithviraj Chauhan 

Akshay will play the protagonist in a biopic on Prithviraj Chauhan, the last ruler of the Chahamana (Chauhan) dynasty. Directed by Chandraprakash Dwivedi, it will not only chronicle the warrior king’s exploits on the battlefield but also his epic romance with Sanyukta (the daughter of his enemy, Kannauj King, Jaichand). The project will roll out around mid-next year. Right now, the filmmaker and his team are busy with research and pre-production. The rest of the cast is yet to be finalised.

Ajay DevgnTaanaji: The Unsung Warrior

Last year, Ajay Devgn unveiled the first poster of his most ambitious project, Taanaji: The Unsung Warrior, on social media. The film, which goes on floors this September, is based on the life of the legendary Maratha warrior, Taanaji Malusare, who was the commander of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s army. Known for his valour, he lost his life in the Battle of Sinhagad in 1670 AD. Ajay, who essays the titular role, is also backing the project. His real-life partner, Kajol, is likely to play his wife on reel. Helmed by debutant director Om Raut, it hits the screens next year.


After playing Taanaji, Ajay will be seen as the renowned political thinker and philosopher, Chanakya, who played a key role as a royal advisor in the Chandragupta Maurya dynasty. Rather than a biopic on the 4th century BC scholar, it will be a contemporary socio-political drama helmed by Neeraj Pandey. This is the first time that the National Award-winning actor and the filmmaker will collaborate. The film is likely to go on floors by the end of this year and releases mid-next year.

Kangana RanautManikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi 

Kangana Ranaut, who is known for playing strong characters, essays the titular role in this period drama. In the past, the lives of some great rulers have been depicted on screen, but the story of the valiant queen — Rani Laxmibai, who was one of the leading figures of the Indian Rebellion of 1857 — has hardly been seen on celluloid. Some on-set pictures from Varanasi, which have already made it to the internet, show Kangana dressed in a regal attire. The three-time National Award winner looks befitting as the brave warrior. Helmed by South director Krish, the film also features Sonu Sood, Atul Kulkarni and Ankita Lokhande. Bankrolled by Zee Studios, it releases later this year. 

Arjun KapoorPanipat

Ashutosh Gowariker, who has helmed historical dramas such as Lagaan (2001), Jodhaa Akbar (2008) and Mohenjo Daro (2016) in the past, will now depict the third Battle of Panipat on screen. Titled Panipat, it revolves around the war that was fought between Marathas and Afghans in 1761 and stars Arjun Kapoor, Sanjay Dutt and Kriti Sanon in lead roles. Arjun plays the Maratha army’s leader Sadashivrao Bhau, whereas Sanjay essays the main antagonist, Ahmad Shah Durrani, who led the Afghans to victory.  Kriti will be seen as Bhau’s second wife Parvatibai. The movie opens in cinemas on December 6, 2019.