The real-life stories of ‘Taali’, ‘Neerja’, ‘Gunjan Saxena’ and ‘Mary Kom’ had a resonance of lived experience

The real life stories of 'Taali', 'Neerja', 'Gunjan Saxena' and 'Mary Kom' had the resonance of lived experience

Powerful narratives  that celebrated four extraordinary lives

When entertainment deviates from fantasy to derive inspiration from real life, the emerging narratives are richer because they have the poignance of lived experience, relatability, raw emotional power, authenticity, and profound gravitas.

They connect more deeply with us because they give us a glimpse of the pain, resilience, and courage of people who are not a figment of our imagination. We pick four such stories that will continue to resonate with the audiences for a long time to come:


In 2016, ‘Neerja’ brought audiences to tears in theatres as it recounted the bravery and sacrifice of 22-year-old Neerja Bhanot, a brave flight purser who was on the Pan Am Flight 73 during a hijacking attempt by the terrorists of the Abu Nidal Organization on 5 September 1986.

Directed by Ram Madhvani, the film narrates how Neerja not only foiled the hijack attempt by alerting the pilots, who left the cockpit, thus grounding the plane, but also helped save hundreds of passengers. She lost her life trying to protect three children from terrorists and was posthumously awarded the Ashok Chakra and many other honors worldwide.

Produced by Atul Kasbekar’s company, Bling Unplugged, alongside Fox Star Studios, the film starred Sonam Kapoor, Shekhar Ravjiani, Shabana Azmi, Yogendra Tiku, Kavi Shastri and Jim Sarbh. Watch it on Disney+Hotstar.


Right from the onset, creators Arjun and Kartk knew that the story of transgender activist Shreegauri Sawant had the potential to be translated into a riveting on-screen narrative. What emerged was a six-episode series led by the inimitable Sushmita Sen, who played Shreegauri with compelling conviction and palpable emotion.

The scene where Sen sits in the rain, willing the hospital’s management to apologise for placing a transgender woman’s dead body on the ground, is a testament to the actor’s total identification with Shreegauri.

She brings to life Shreegauri’s struggle for acceptance and equality in the face of brutal discrimination and prejudice, her remarkable journey from pain to triumph, her ability to lead and protect her community, and her strong, all-encompassing maternal instinct. Directed by Ravi Jadhav, ‘Taali’ can be watched on JioCinema.  

Gunjan Saxena : The Kargil Girl

“Main plane uthane nahin udane aayi hoon,” says Gunjan when her colleagues in the Air Force taunt her about her lack of physical strength.

Directed by Sharan Sharma and produced by Dharma Productions and Zee Studios, this 2020 biographical drama film was based on Gunjan Saxena, a female Air Force pilot and one of the first women to fly in a combat zone.

The film is a rousing account of how Gunjan, a small-town girl, sets her eyes on the near-impossible goal of becoming a pilot and, encouraged by her father, finally joins the Indian Air Force, where she faces sexism and bullying by fellow officers.

How she displays exemplary courage during the Kargil war and leads a rescue mission heroically makes for a riveting watch. The film stars Janhvi Kapoor, Pankaj Tripathi, and Angad Bedi in the lead roles. Watch it on Netflix.

Mary Kom

 This 2014 film, based on the life of boxer Mary Kom, was directed by Omung Kumar and produced by Viacom18 Motion Pictures and Sanjay Leela Bhansali.

Priyanka Chopra depicts Kom’s journey from an impoverished rural home to international glory with grit, even though she does not resemble the boxer and has obvious trouble with her diction.

Still, the journey of a determined woman through bureaucratic politics, personal challenges, and pain to the ultimate triumph at the 2008 World Boxing Championships in Ningbo is an inspiring watch. It also stars Darshan Kumar and Sunil Thapa and can be watched on Netflix.