The Tham Luang script

Just as the world was giving up on them, they were discovered, and soon our screens were flooded with images of the cave, the kids, and the international team of heroic divers involved in a desperate race against the rains, the treacherous terrain and depleting oxygen to rescue them. All twelve boys and their coach have been taken out, as I write this. We, of course, remained riveted to our TVs till they were all out.

What a story. Part Dead Poets Society, part 127 hours.

If it were to be made into a film, the script would practically write itself. It would begin with the coach giving up his life in the monastery, and deciding to return to the real world. Then it would cut to the day of the hike, establish the whole team, their strengths and weaknesses, their little rivalries, cliques and internal dynamics, and the descent into the cave. Then, the rain, the panic, the fear, the vigil, the coming together of the rag-tag group as one well-knit unit, and, finally, the rescue, spread over three nights. And a beautiful, life-affirming finale, too, with the entire Wild Boar squad in Russia, watching the world cup final along with their football idols, as the honoured guests of FIFA.

But, what if it got made here in Modiji’s India? Then it would be a very different film.

Illustration: Bhaskaran Illustration: Bhaskaran

See, our new breed of film-makers, with their fancy degrees from the US and Europe, mean very well. They like making biopics and all. Besides, both ‘biopic’ and ‘cinematic retelling’ have a vaguely intellectual ring to them—they make both studios and audiences feel smarter. But, unfortunately, our film-makers also believe, very firmly, that the ‘masses’ like black and white characters, pretty girls, and a massively satisfying climax.

So, they pick a bold subject and start off with the best of intentions and great costumes and prosthetics, and then slowly slowly, they lose their nerve and start to play around with the facts, cherry-picking and embellishing... (with one eye on what would please the current political dispensation) and that is how we end up with a campy ‘Aladdin’ who dances like a goblin and gnaws on hunks of raw meat, a ‘Rustom’ who did everything not for wife, but for country, and an innocent more-sinned-against-than-sinning ’Sanju’ who apparently never got married at all till he met his (third) wife at the age of 49.

Let’s face it, if we made a biopic on the Wild Boars rescue, the kids would probably belong to an RSS shakha, the caves would have caved in not because of the monsoon but because of an Islamic terror bombing, the coach would have a buxom lass as his love interest and an item number would be show-horned in before the climax, featuring the villain capering around with said buxom lass. (Aaja gufaaon mein, aaja gunha kar le, anyone?)

Fact is fiction basically. And, ‘history’ is history. Only histrionics rule.