Set in the turbulence of the 1930s British India, Chittagong is a true story of a 14 year old boy, Jhunku, and of his journey to find where he belongs. For the first time in Indian history, the British army is defeated by a ragtag army of schoolboys and their teacher, Masterda.
Set in the turbulence of the 1930s British India, Chittagong is a true story of a 14 year old boy, Jhunku, and of his journey to find where he belongs. For the first time in Indian history, the British army is defeated by a ragtag army of schoolboys and their teacher, Masterda. less
“A compelling story coupled with terrific acting and commendable directing, Chittagong is a must watch!”
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Unlike elsewhere in the world, where filmmakers source the rarest pieces of history to assemble a period film that reminds the present generation of the commendable sacrifices made by valorous rebels of a forgotten era, Bollywood doesn't quite thrive on that culture of story-telling.
So it is barely surprising that an ex-NASA scientist, Bedabrata Pain is responsible to bring the story of the lesser-known Chittagong uprising in the forefront.
He directs Chittagong with remarkable restrain, authentically recreating an era very crucial in shaping our history yet so callously overlooked.
In the 1930's, Suraya Sen, a school-teacher revolutionary led a movement against the British Empire that was supported by students as young as 14-year olds.
The film is interestingly told from the perspective of a young Jhumku, who dreams to study in Oxford; also enjoying the support of the British district magistrate in Chittagong, where he tentatively learns piano. His teacher Master Da (Manoj Bajpai) is someone he highly looks up to but is indecisive about entirely committing to the movement he's pioneered against the imperialist government. The main trigger for him to become an active part of the rebellion is when he is forced to give out the name of one of the rebels to the police, eventually leading to a cold-blooded murder of the said rebel. Jhumku, filled with guilt and despair, sees being a part of the uprising as a mode of redemption. He is driven more by remorse than by anti-colonial ideologies which will eventually become an inseparable, motivating part of his impressionable years.
This perspective remains consistent throughout and at one point in the film, which is also the film's most rousing moment - Jhumku introspects on the pointlessness of the entire struggle. Accommodating this stance in the first place immediately separates the film from being a biased, text-book piece of a bygone era.
For a period film that is centered on a radical, one-of-a-kind uprising, the film remains realistically understated. Despite the valiant acts of great freedom fighters like Nirmal Sen, Loknath Bal, Anant Singh and Ganesh Ghosh - the heroism here is subtly conveyed, aided by minimal background score and by haunting lyrics of Prasoon Joshi. Never does the director try to manipulate us by a jarring score punctuated with loud jingoistic lines. The dialogue is made relevant by eliminating any kind of propaganda or pseudo-nationalism. The agenda to conquer Chittagong remains as it is - the lines conversational and used with constraint; just enough for required functionality.
The film benefits infinitely with its terrifically affecting performances, the pack lead by the ever-reliable Manoj Bajpayee. His sincere commitment to the performance reflects in his consistent control over Surya's character. He is a leader, but not the extremist kind which might give an actor the dramatic premise to â€œshowâ€ performance. Almost always with a plan in his mind, and ostensibly cheerful, Bajpai drives the film with his looming, reassuring omnipresence. While the apprentice, Jhunku, played by Delzad Hiwale (Bubblegum) shows stupendous potential. His untrained gait works very well in his favor while the evocative eyes reveal everything in great measures - initial indecisiveness, contemplation, introspection, finally settling on staunch dedication.
Chittagong has an awe-inspiring story that deserves to be told a million times.
At an age when they are supposed to be breaking leg playing football, these kids were ready to overthrow the mighty British, unafraid to take guns in their hands and bullets in their hearts.
The tone of the film, the authentic production design as well as the costumes rends it with an environment quite believable.
The sentiment it spreads, that of patriotism is subtle, consciously understated and the reality of it makes Chittagong highly effective as a film. Because it documents an era when every conversation was laced with ideas of throwing out the British, women did their own bit by spreading word about the burgeoning movement while a sense of deep-rooted unity sparkled in everyone's eyes.
It tells us that what is ours cannot be forcibly taken and if it has, we'd do whatever it takes to get it back. It says that the mightiest movements begin with a small germ of an idea and what is important is not that we overthrow the colonial powers, but ensure that the movement sustains and the struggle never, ever stops.
Chittagong is a compelling retelling which not only makes you learn about this defining victory in the past and question you about the same, but also convinces you of the answer. Would you be willing to sacrifice your life at an age when you are expected to play ball?
I think so.
Sweeping statement? Watch the film and then tell me.