Chittagong – Movie Review
Posted by FATEMA H.KAGALWALA on October 14, 2012 | No Comments
PRODUCER – Sunil Bohra, Anurag Kashyap, Guneet Monga, Shonali Bose, Bedabrata Pain
DIRECTOR – Bedaprata Pain
WRITER – Bedabrata Pain, Shonali Bose
CAST – Manoj Bajpai, Barry John, Delzad Hiwale, Jhunku Roy, Vega Tamotia, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Raj Kumar Yadav, Jaideep Ahlawat, Dibyendu Bhattacharya
MUSIC – Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy
Bedaprata Pain, a NASA scientist and debut director has delved deep into the history of our freedom struggle for the story of his film, ‘Chittagong’. In pre-independence India of the 1930’s, a lesser-known yet important uprising took place in Chittagong, Bengal. Surjya Sen, a much-respected teacher put together a bunch of rag-tag teenagers, trained and motivated them to fight to defeat the British rulers. The motley group of barley 50 teenagers was called the Indian Republican Army and together with revolutionaries like Nirmal Sen, Lokenath Bal, Ganesh Gosh and Ambika Chakraborty, they raided the British armoury while disconnecting the telephone and railway lines. The uprising was successful but was squashed before it could turn into a full-fledged movement. Yet, the seed of nationalism it spawned germinated years later in the Tebhaga farmer uprising. ‘Chittagong’ recalls this part of our history through the eyes of one of the young soldiers, Jhunku aka Subodh Roy (Delzad Hiwale). The voice-over of Jhunku however keeps the film engaged with the human nature of this very vulnerable movement.
In a series of quickly-moving scenes the film covers all the bases of this story keeping in balance the momentum of nationalistic fervour and time progression. It is a period narrative, conventional in the sentiments it presents and evokes. Yet, the honesty with which it deals with its subject matter and characters doesn’t allow the single-note sentimentality to peter into jingoism or out-of-date preaching. And maybe it is for this that when we see a live interview of Subodh Roy (who passed away in 2006, two weeks after the interview) the sentimentality suddenly begins to make sense. Suddenly, a past we had relegated to mere realities of an overly-thumbed and tiresome history book informs our present.
Sentimentality and a sedate seriousness make the mood for the entire film, sometimes too heavily underscored with music. Yet, we are never made to forget the vulnerability of these common men and women who turned uncommonly heroic under dire circumstances. The film brings us to close to their pains, fears and worries, their inexperiences and little joys. Much like the 1857 First War of Independence, we know this movement was to be doomed beyond its initial euphoria. But there is a humane celebration of the will and passion of all those behind it. For this, Pain brings his cast to great effect. Nawaazuddin Siddique as Nirmal Sen and Surjya Sen’s deputy, Jaideep Ahlawat as Anant Singh, Dibyendu Bhattacharya as Ambika Chakraborty and Raj Kumar Yadav as Lokenath Bal become more than mere heroes of the moment as they wear their characters gently, fully exploiting the heroism and the common man’s identity equally well. Manoj Bajpai plays his school-teacher with a sentimental idealism struggling with the emotional bits too much for comfort. Barry John’s soft-hearted and bound-by-duty British officer is a relief from stereotypes and Barry John’s rounded persona and well-meaning act balances the story. Vega Tamotia as the gallant Pritlata Waddedar is striking and so is Chaiti Ghosh as the strong-minded Aparna.
Chittagong, despite being a debut effort, has texture and grace that we rarely get to watch in the films of more experienced film-makers. The plot unfolds evenly, although the telling is more documentary-like. Yet, its perfectly-placed intentions apart, it never becomes soul-stirring cinema. It is way too straightforward and simplistic at times, too focussed on the facts at times. Yet, it is not about facts but about the fact that something so grave did happen. That and the sheer honesty of telling that keeps the balance raise it out of mediocrity.