Chittagong: Film Review
Bedabrata Pain’s debut feature focuses on the true story of a 14-year-old boy's journey to find where he belongs.
While many associations surrounding India’s liberation from Britain center on Gandhi and the nonviolent independence movement, in fact it was a long series of political and social developments that eventually expelled the English. The 1930 Chittagong Uprising was among the first events to challenge colonial authority, setting the stage for India’s independence in 1947.
Bedabrata Pain’s debut feature transforms an historical anecdote into a rousing cry for freedom that will be welcomed at international festivals and could notch DVD release in limited territories.
Protagonist Jhunku Roy (Delzad Hiwale), the privileged teenage son of a UK-educated Indian attorney (Vijay Varma) in the eastern city of Chittagong, enjoys a good education and easy access to the upper levels of local society, which is largely dominated by colonial authorities. Chafing under the arbitrary indignities perpetrated by local administrators and military officers, schoolteacher Masterda Surya Sen (Manoj Bajpai) begins organizing a nascent resistance movement that consists of a few middle-aged colleagues and a corps of schoolboys, held under his sway with inspirational revolutionary rhetoric.
Sen eventually persuades Jhunku to join the group and before long the boy is running clandestine errands and training with the rebels’ few functional rifles. Despite a lack of military experience and a shortage of arms, the group raids the local British garrison, sending the troops packing. But with reinforcements quickly arriving, their victory is short-lived and the insurrectionists are soon confronting forces far beyond their expectations. Faced with seemingly insurmountable odds, Jhunku must make a choice between his commitment to liberty and surrendering to British authorities.
Pain, a scientist by training whose innovations in digital imaging have contributed to development of the RED camera and other technologies, demonstrates a similar flair and passion for filmmaking. The film’s essentially anecdotal material and youthful point of view, however, can’t generate sufficient excitement or gravitas to fashion either an all-out action-adventure or a sweeping epic.
Persuasive period details and competent filmmaking aren’t enough to overcome the predominantly self-conscious writing and unimpressive performances either, rendering the film more passing curiosity than epic milestone.
Venue: Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles
Production companies: Jonai Productions
Cast: Manoj Bajpai, Delzad Hiwale, Vega Tamotia, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Vijay Varma
Director: Bedabrata Pain
Screenwriters: Bedabrata Pain, Shonali Bose
Producer: Bedabrata Pain
Director of photography: Eric Zimmerman
Music: Shankar Mahadevan, Eshaan Noorani, Loy Mendoza
Editor: Aldo Velasco
No rating, 105 minutes.