Chittagong, directed by Bedabrata Pain, is a story culled straight out of history books, yet the film is so loaded with heart that it easilyresonates with you. The theme is familiar – it does, after all, treadthe same ground as Ashutosh Gowariker’s Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Se De (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 byhis association with Surya Sen (Manoj Bajpai), who is recruitingcommitted 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 outconvincing performances from dependable actorslike Manoj Bajpai, Jaideep Ahlawat, Rajkumar Yadav, and particularly Nawazuddin Siddique as Suriya’s deputy Nirmal Sen. Amidst theotherwise 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 dithertowards the end. Pain, an ex-NASA scientist, makes a confident debutwith this moving drama. I’m going with three out of five for Chittagong. It’s a significant film that’s worthy of your time.