Restructuring the long-gone era is an arduous task. It's also demanding, laborious and strenuous. Most importantly, the person taking on the mantle of narrating a real-life story ought to do wide-ranging research on the subject matter. There cannot be shortcuts. Besides comprehensive detailing that goes into making the story come alive on the big screen, the raconteur also needs to ensure that the cinematic interpretation is defined and based on facts.
Bedabrata Pain's CHITTAGONG takes you back to the 1930s. Around two years ago, Ashutosh Gowariker's KHELEIN HUM JEE JAAN SEY had traversed the same path, tracing the uprising in Bengal. A group of school boys and a young woman, led by a school teacher, took on the British Raj. Unfortunately, their plans went askew, but their courage and valor motivated freedom fighters in multitude.
Both KHELEIN HUM JEE JAAN SEY and CHITTAGONG tackle an important aspect of history, but Bedabrata's film comes across as a distinctive motion picture. KHELEIN HUM JEE JAAN SEY was from Surajya Sen/Masterda's point of view, while CHITTAGONG orbits around a 14-year-old teenager named Jhunku Roy. Jhunku gave up the comforts and luxuries to become a revolutionary. CHITTAGONG doesn't sacrifice the spirit of the uprising, yet narrates a story that's different from the one we watched in KHELEIN HUM JEE JAAN SEY.
What makes you connect instantaneously with CHITTAGONG is the fact that it highlights the victory of the ordinary people. Also, it's a heartening take on one of the splendid chapters of India's struggle for independence, not just focusing on the iconic heroes. It also drives home an extremely valid point: The common man can script a victory.
The drama, the tension, the fury... it's all there in CHITTAGONG. The cinematic endeavor of a real-life incident succeeds in moving you, just like its characters. Most importantly, what translates on celluloid is extremely captivating, truly enlightening and exceptionally inspiring. In short, CHITTAGONG salutes the heroes who fought valiantly for India's freedom and also evokes patriotic feelings. Every genuine effort needs to be encouraged, appreciated and applauded. CHITTAGONG is one such experience.
Set in the turbulence of the 1930s British India, Chittagong is a true story of a 14-year-old boy Jhunku [Delzad Hiwale] and his journey to find where he belongs. For the first time in Indian history, the British army is defeated by an army of schoolboys and their teacher, Masterda [Manoj Bajpayee]. Called a traitor by his peers, and let down by a man he trusts, Jhunku impulsively joins the movement.
As his world is turned upside down, Jhunku is forced to confront his self-doubts. As the leaders of the movement are caught or killed, Jhunku battles against seemingly insurmountable odds to win a victory of his own.
Bedabrata recreates this event with earnestness and fortunately, his interpretation comes across as compelling and persuasive. Also, hard-hitting/forceful that doesn't allow you to lose focus. It won't be erroneous to state that Bedabrata's endeavor also manages to drive a strong message: Triumph of the human spirit. On the flipside, the pacing could have been speedier and the tension-filled moments could have been lengthened for an enhanced impact.
The body language of people who lived in the long-gone era, the apparel and also the overall styling look bona fide. Bedabrata uses the songs [Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy] skillfully. The effective background score takes the film several notches above. The calm and serene locations add tremendous credibility to the Chittagong of the 1930s [the film has been shot in Lataguri in West Bengal]. The DoP [Eric Zimmerman] captures the lush green locales as well as the intensity of the characters with flourish.
The performances are earnest and genuine to the core. Delzad Hiwale is outstanding as Jhunku. Manoj Bajpayee gets to the character a certain authority. Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Raj Kumar Yadav, Vega Tamotia, Jaideep Ahlawat, Barry John, Dibyendu Bhattacharya, Vishal Vijay, Vijay Varma [as the grownup Jhunku], Sauraseni Maitra, Chaiti Ghosh, Anurag Arora and Alexx O'Nell, each of them leave tremendous impression in their respective parts.
On the whole, CHITTAGONG is a film of immense significance. Much like some of the hi-concept films that left an indelible impression on the minds of viewers, CHITTAGONG should also last longer in the hearts of cineastes. Not to be missed!