There is a plethora of stories related to India's freedom struggle, so is the number of heroes that this struggle has given rise to. But our history books focused on a handful of those stories and our film industry too has, until recently, stuck to the history books. However, Debabrata Pain's Chittagong is a refreshing change in the genre of patriotic films and to some extent, sets high standards for filmmaking in the future.
Based on a true story, Chittagong is a first-hand account of teenage rebel Jhunku Roy who was a part of the Chittagong uprising in the 1930s. Jhunku belongs to a wealthy family and has prospects of studying abroad, but is simultaneously involved with a group of youngsters led by Master Da (Manoj Bajpai). His dilemma is resolved when one of the boys is killed by an inhumane British officer. However, he finds it hard to blend into the rigorous lifestyle, but later fits in. But the revolt begins to fall apart, as most higher-ups are either captured or killed. Jhunku continues the struggle years later, after his release from prison, and leads a peasant revolt by himself.
What makes the film stand out from other accounts of glory is the way the content is handled. While not revering the martyrs and revolutionaries for what they mean in today's world, the film delves into their lives at that time and shows the characters for what they are as people. Every single character that is important to the narrative is well-crafted and none of them appear like two-dimensional cutouts. The art direction on a tight budget is commendable, as making a period drama requires tremendous caution. To add to visual authenticity, the cinematography (Eric Zimmerman) and visual tones transport you back to the 1930s and its simplicity holds your attention.
With an ensemble cast that includes the likes of Manoj Bajpai, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Jaideep Ahlawat among others, the performances are measured and accurate in terms of intensity. Delzad Hiwale, who plays the young Jhunku, does a tremendous job acting along side the industry's finest artists. The supporting cast, being handpicked, has also raised the overall standards of this film.
The background score is a little repetitive in the larger picture, but the soundtrack by Shankar-Ehasaan-Loy and Johnny Wilson, just like the film, travel from the maker's heart straight into the audience's heart. The reason Chittagong rises above good films and becomes something better, is Debabrata Pain's direction. The focus and vision he must have had while making this film is evident in every single scene of this film.
But as they say, filmmakers only make good films. A great film is what the audience makes of it. And in a week where nearly a dozen films have released, Chittagong deserves to stand taller than most others.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Published in DNA After Hrs (Pune) on October 13, 2012