BY RUBY CHINGU
“Have you ever seen the elephant in the zoo? The chains tied in his legs are much weaker than the elephant’s strength. Still it fails to break that chain. Because he is habitual of remaining tied.” – Surya Sen, played by Manoj Bajpai.
RATING: 9/10 | Directed by: Bedabrata Pain | Written by: Bedabrata Pain, Shonali Bose
Let’s cut to the chase – Chittagong, despite its humble reputation, is a marvelous film. It deserves wayyyyy more glory, fame and appreciation than it did. A historical drama film -based on true events – revolving around the resistance movement led by a teacher named Masterda Surya Sen during the 1930s, it captured the raw emotions of a young boy, Jhunku, who was torn between his bright future and his sense of duty to join the revolution. The resistance movement of India was against the rule of the British Raj was on the rise at that time – many freedom fighters longed for independence from the colonial rule. Surya Sen’s revolutionary group, based in a small town in Chittagong, consisted mainly of young boys, some barely 15 years of age. Nevertheless, the factor did not deter them to fight for their rights and the willingness to die for their cause.
What makes the story so touching is how it delicately portrayed Jhunku’s journey from an innocent teenager to a brave rebel fighter. He did not plan to do so until he witnessed a friend got shot in cold blood by a police officer. That has been the turning point for him. The moment he decided to dedicate his life for Surya Sen’s cause, there was no turning back.
The feel of the film is very minimalist, the pace is slow but in a very good way. It is a story of a doomed resistance. A small group of villagers against the British troops? We all know how it was going to end. But the characters made us believe in the cause they were championing for. Even if it was going to end badly for them – meaning death – but the movement would spark many other revolutions across India. To see a leader like Surya Sen who could envision a free India from an unknown village in Chittagong is inspiring.
Unlike many of his intense characters, Manoj Bajpai is calm as Surya Sen. He invoked charisma just by using his expressions without the need to utter anything – a skill not many actors have. I can’t help but to be in awe of his personality, too, like the followers of his resistance movement. He never raised his voice in anger, he planned his actions carefully and he advised them to always believe the impossible. Nawazuddin Siddique is also equally impressive, playing the role of Nirmal Sen, the second in command. He was in a relationship a fellow fighter, Priti, but their romance was cut short by the sacrifices they made for the movement. Both died for their cause.
The star of the show, for me, is undoubtedly Jhunku (Delzad Hiwale), the main character (and boy in the poster), a fourteen years old boy who unexpectedly joined the resistance movement despite coming from a privileged background. He threw away his chance to go to Oxford and chose to fight alongside Surya Sen. Even after he was captured, beaten up and tortured in the most horrendous manner, he remained silent and refused to expose the names and locations of his comrades. Delzad played Jhunku brilliantly, considering that he is a new actor and was barely 18 at that time. Acting alongside Manoj, who is possibly the greatest contemporary Indian actor today, he also had the ability to convey his emotions through his eyes, representing a boy small stature with an unbeatable courage.
To see how the resistance movement against the British troop failed at the second half of the story is heartbreaking. However, Surya Sen’s mission was never to win against them – for he knew that they would not – but to prove that the Bristish soldiers were not invincible and that the Indian were capable of breaking their security. That mission was accomplished with many lives lost but it was worth it. The news was spread everywhere,
The scene I cried the most is when Jhunku and two other fighters went to get food from a grocery shop as they were hiding from the British. The shopkeeper, a Muslim man, told them that the news of the Chittagong attack had spread, triggering the belief in freedom even in the most pessimistic Indians.
As the film ended, my eyes were swollen. The film haunted me with its story, its characters and the moral values and principles it conveyed. And the song Bolo Na, sung by Shankar Mahadevan, induced me into tears as well. How can a film be so brilliantly sad and inspiring at the same time….
P/S: Palah Chingu and I are getting more and more addicted to sad depressing Bollywood films. Haish… How can we not when they are so good? But please, happy shallow films, please be as good as sad depressing films as well so that me and Palah can balance out our emotions. TT