Cast: Manoj Bajpai
Director: Bedabrata Pain
Chittagong, directed by Bedabrata Pain, is a story culled straight out of history books, yet the film is so loaded with heart that it easily resonates with you. The theme is familiar – it does, after all, tread the same ground as Ashutosh Gowariker’s Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Se (2010), capturing the events surrounding one of the earliest chapters in India’s freedom struggle – the Chittagong uprising of the 1930s, led by school teacher Surya Sen against the mighty British. But the film’s greatest strength is that while it salutes the fervor with which the revolutionaries took on the administration, it never lets us forget that this army was mostly made up of mere school children. Their intent is brave, but their fear is palpable – handling weapons they never have before, the dread over the act of killing, and even the idea that they will have to lay down their young lives for the sake of their motherland. It is in capturing these details with an understated hand that makes Chittagong seem so real.
The film is told from the perspective of Jhunku Roy (Delzad Hiwale), the teenaged, privileged son of a barrister, who is set to follow the family tradition of studying in England. Those plans are waylaid by his association with Surya Sen (Manoj Bajpai), who is recruiting committed patriots for a revolt involving a daring takeover of the British armory.
What is impressive about Chittagong is the solid cast Pain puts together, drawing out convincing performances from dependable actors like Manoj Bajpai, Jaideep Ahlawat, Rajkumar Yadav, and particularly Nawazuddin Siddique as Suriya’s deputy Nirmal Sen. Amidst the otherwise caricaturish portrayals of British officers, only Barry John stands out as the local governor who caught between his duty to the Crown and his empathy for Jhunku.
Shot ever so beautifully, Chittagong is a textured film, but too many songs and an overlong narrative causes your attention to dither towards the end. Pain, an ex-NASA scientist, makes a confident debut with this moving drama. I’m going with three out of five for Chittagong. It’s a significant film that’s worthy of your time.
Rating: 3 / 5
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