There are probably more movies on the Independence Struggle than the actual number of years the British ruled us. So what is so different about Chittagong? A lot! Chittagong focuses on a small part of the entire uprising, the cast doesn’t consist of big-budget stars, Bedabrata Pain, the writer, director and producer of this film is a former NASA scientist who has ventured into filmmaking with a sensitive topic and lastly, towards the end, there is a testimonial from Subodh Roy ie Jhunku who is now very old. But is that enough for the survival of Chittagong? Not really.
The Plot: Chittagong spans British India from 1929 to 1939 when teacher-and-freedom fighter Masterda, along with young, teenage boys, shakes the British from their complacent superiority. But Chittagong is not just about the uprising, it is about young Jhunku and the turmoil he goes through in figuring out right from wrong.
Jhunku (Delzad Hiwale), son of a barrister, is like a son to the British Governor of Chittagong thanks to his father, but a traitor to his own friends. This doesn’t change the affection Masterda aka Surya Sen (Manoj Bajpayee) has for the boy. But when he’s blamed for the death of a friend, Jhunku turns against the British for the first time and decides to take revenge. Meanwhile, Masterda has a major revolution planned to drive the British out of Chittagong. His army: his closest aides and teenage kids, driven by patriotism and love for India. Their plan: cut down telephone and railway connections, attack the artillery and the club. It works. The British try hard to catch and even kill the kids, Jhunku and a few of his fellow-conspirators get arrested. After several years when Jhunku returns, nothing has changed – neither the British nor his people’s problems or the love of his dear Appu (Sauraseni Maitra). For Jhunku, the war isn’t over; what started as a kid goes on till India gets her freedom.
The good: An incident about which there isn’t much known, has been brought to light and Bedabrata Pain’s research is in-depth. The scenic beauty of the place is excellently captured by Eric Zimmerman. Also, Prasoon Joshi’s beautiful words find soul with Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy’s music.
The bad: With a starcast like Manoj Bajpayee and Nawazuddin Siddique, you would expect fireworks on screen but it’s actually a fizzle. Seasoned actor like Manoj Bajpayee emotes as if he is being forced to. eg: when his nails are being plucked out and fingers badly damaged during third degree torture, his expressions show no hint of the pain that one might go through, the pain on his face isn’t even sufficient to show a small burn. Nawazuddin Siddique and Raj Kumar do well as Masterda’s aides. Delzad Hiwale is convincing as young Jhunku. The older one, played by Vijay Varma, has hardly any screen space. On the other hand, the younger and the older Appu, played by Sauraseni Maitra and Chaiti Ghosh respectively, manage to make their mark in spite of little screen time. However, Vega Tamotia who plays Preetilata Wadedar outshines everyone else.
The dialogues are shabbily written. ‘Mein khuda se aapke liye roz duva padhta hoon, aaj jyada mangunga kyunki aaj aap humare saamne ho” or “Abhi isi waqt, kuch der pehele” are uttered with such seriousness, they make you laugh at their silliness.
Another deterrent are the numerous close-up shots of every character, the super close-up faces almost always expressionless with the exception of Delzad. Also, after a point, the film feels too long, with nothing gripping enough to touch the heart or empathise with the struggle.
Overall: Well meant, Bedabrata but that’s not enough, right? And do remember we’ve already seen the Chittagong Uprising in Ashutosh Gowariker’s Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Se and that flopped too.
- Priyanka Ketkar