A mans passion to oust the British


Hindi (U/A)
Director: Bedabrata Pain
Cast: Manoj Bajpai, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Barry John, Vega Tamotia, Jaideep Ahlawat, Vishal Vijay

“Hindustan mein bahadur beton ki kami nahin hai, iss mulk ki mitti unke khoon se nehalayi hui hai,” Masterda. 

“Most of those rebels are under 18 years of age,” says Officer Wilkinson. “This is a war,” says Officer Charles Johnson. 

A war it was in 1930 - waged in a corner called Chittagong. A tiny town in Bangladesh (then in India), the story of the Chittagong Uprising was waiting to be told, not just because it has ‘action’, ‘drama’, ‘romance’ and ‘emotion’ in Bollywood parlance, but because it finds contemporary resonances, too.

Told from the point of view of a 14-year-old boy, Jhunku Roy (Dilzad Hiwale), who joins Bengal revolutionaries in their war against the British, along with a bunch of 50 other teens, Chittagong softly but grittily unravels one man’s passion to oust the British from his town. That man is Surya Sen (Manoj Bajpai in an exemplary performance), better known to his bunch of rag-tag soldiers as Masterda, who was hanged for his efforts and because he did manage to achieve his objective – if only for a day.

But Pain’s (pronounced pai-yen) Chittagong moves beyond the attack that these boys waged by cutting off communications, disrupting rail traffic and isolating Chittagong from Calcutta, and won their battle in a face-off.

It is a film that weaves in self-doubt of a youngster who is torn between choosing what his barrister father wants for him and going with Masterda’s fight. It is a film encompassing pain of a young couple – whose cause becomes bigger than their love story; it is a story of a visionary who motivates youngsters and thus, entire villages to come together to do what is right and, and who is not plagued by doubts of whether they will succeed – he is driven instead only by the fact that try they must.

The film’s treatment is fresh and simply not ‘Bollywoodish’, owing possibly to the fact that it comes from a debut maker who walked onto a film set only when he decided that he was going to be filmmaker! An ex-NASA scientist, Pain’s film is an exceptional effort in storytelling, complemented supremely by experienced crew which had Eric Zimmerman as DoP; Resul Pookutty on sync sound; composers Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy; dialogue writer Piyush Mishra and lyricist Prasoon Joshi.  

Watch Chittagong, for it reminds you that we too have causes today, live as we do in times of corruption, scams and despair. These need to be rooted out. What’s missing is a man called Masterda.