In this segment we will look at the two other categories of True stories.

3. “Based on” True Events

In this format, what is central to the story line is a historical event, a story is then built around this with the use of fictional characters. While the names, characters, places and actual interactions may be created, the actual event acts as the backdrop of the entire setting. Again, in order to captivate audiences and draw their attention more closely, some historical figures and smaller events as well can be added in. This adds an element of making the story ring with an element of truth.


The key elements one plays around with in this format are:

  • Central to the plot is a historical event
  • The multiple characters are mostly fictional
  • Use of some historical characters to add an element of legitimacy to the story

In such films though, one does not spell out the fact that the story is only “Inspired by” true events, one knows for fact that the major event that is portrayed had really transpired, there is ample evidence of the same. Even though there is sufficient documentation of the real people and the sequence of events, the film maker chooses to keep this aside in order to create a narrative using fictional characters of his creation. This allows for complete control in terms of the micro-events within the main event and finer details of the interplay of roles to finally add a sense of purpose to the central event.

 The use of a few real characters sprinkled along the story helps legitimize the story but they are used just as embellishment to the fictional characters. Hence the purpose of the whole exercise is to represent the event as accurately as possible while using fictional characters to string the elements that lead up to it. Films such as Shootout at Lokhanwala (2007) and Captain (2018), The Legend of Bhagat Singh (2002) and No One Killed Jessica (2011)  fall into this category.

 In Shootout at Lokhandwala, while the actual 6 hour long bloody encounter between the Mumbai police and the members of the underworld did transpire, characters like “Fattu” were added in to introduced to add comic relief and a sense of introspection and guilt that plagues the minds of those who choose to take the lives of others. The police enquiry into the statements of the three main officers also tries to brings out the shades of grey in the law enforcers who do a difficult job of doing the right thing and living through human difficulties of dealing with crime on a daily basis combined with long hours and low incomes.

More details of the movie in the link below

“Inspired by” True Events

This genre of movies is very popular among film makers as one singular event is taken to build an array of characters and the central event. None of the people portrayed are real, neither are the events that play out in the movie. However, they draw inspiration from a real place and some events that transpired against a real backdrop.

Many films and series based on crimes start at the end point of the crime and try and work their way backwards to unravel the case not just from the standpoint of evidence but also trying to recreate the mental state and the fragmented emotions of the various parties. This is what creates a sense of intrigue for the audience, an attempt to picturize what might have happened.

Some films based on a period in history also use this format where the details of the societal condition are known but very little about the characters and the smaller aspects of their lives. Here a story to support the backdrop and create the same emotion for the audience is attempted.

Films such as Lagaan (2001), Kesari (2019) and Once upon a time in Mumbai (2010) are some examples

In Lagaan, though the backdrop of the movie of the British rules India and oppression through the back-breaking taxes was true for that period of time, there was no cricket match that was played between the British and the Indian villagers. In fact, in the 1893 which serves as the setting for the movie, no Indian had ever played cricket. However, the cricket match is the most riveting part of the movie. Read more about the cricket match that inspired Lagaan in the link below.

Writing Stories Based on or Inspired by Public Domain Stories

Intellectual Property is another highly sought-after source of stories, since these are new in the public eye and protected by laws, turning them into movies is an expensive affair. This makes many film makers then turn to those available in the Public Domain, while these stories have been told over and over again through different interpretations, a fresh take on them is always welcomed owing to their timelessness. These stories could have also been in the form of comics in the past. These can also be further divided into the “ Based on” and “Inspired by” categories.

What constitutes the Public Domain?

In a nutshell, Public Domain refers to properties that are available for anyone to use by virtue of the Copyright expiring, loopholes or mistakes of the same, loss, death of the owner or failure to have work copyrighted or the extensions of the same.

Further details about the Copyright laws in India are in the links below,Khan’s%20Mother%20India%20(1958).

Some laws pertaining to the US

While there is a danger in infringing on the general trademarks from other interpretations of content from the Public Domain, there has to be a very unique version of the story and character in the telling. Hence this is an area that filmmakers have to tread carefully in order to stay out of legal issues.

1.“Based on”

Film Based on Intellectual property would have specific elements that define both the events and characters portrayed. For example, in the case of Bahubali 2, while the settings and era were adapted to kingdoms in South India, in certain portions the film maker picked up the story of Maharana Pratap. While the Kalkeya in the movie have no archeological evidence of having existed, there are literature that describe a similar race. The seamless meld of cultural elements, story of the main protagonists and setting with the completely unique inputs from the maker turned the movie into a master piece at so many levels.

Read more about the historical base of the movie in the link below

2. “Inspired by

Inspiration drawn from a Public Domain would steer a keener interest on the types of characters and events in the movie that would point to the original, however would still keep a fresh approach in changing the settings. The similarity in storylines would be the giveaway. Chachi 420 (1997) inspired by Mrs. Doubtfire, Sarkar (2018) by The Godfather and Baazigar (1993) by A Kiss before Dying.

In each of these movies the general plot of the movie is remarkably similar, however the events that transpire as well as the whole cast of characters are very differently adapted into the story. Both the movies will still stand apart as unique films.

In Chachi 420, the backdrop of a divorced father trying to find ways to spend more time with his children in the guise of a nanny are similar, however their current situations, the supporting characters and even the number of children is completely different in the two movies. One goes in expecting the same storyline but is left surprised at a very different approach the narrative takes.

More details in the link below

No matter what the starting point of the story, we all enjoy these various permutations and combinations that are presented to us every year.

By  Sab John Edathattil with By Sneha Kuryan Reddy