Directed by Bedabrata Pain Cast: Manoj Bajpayee, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Vega Tamotia, Delzad Hiwale
A chapter in Indian history forms the backdrop of director Bedabrata Pain’s debut which chronicles the struggle of a bunch of freedom fighters in undivided Bengal.
Based on true but lesser-known incidents in the 1930s, the movie is about a group of teenagers — led by school teacher Surya Sen (Manoj Bajpayee) — who gave an unequal but brave fight to the British authorities in Chittagong (now in Bangladesh).
The film is seen through the eyes of the youngest soldier in the Indian freedom struggle — Subodh Roy aka Jhunku (Delzad Hiwale).
Besides Jhunku’s journey from a diffident 14-year-old to a courageous freedom fighter who defies the colonial rulers, Pain has expertly recreated the lives and times of several martyrs like Nirmal Sen (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) and Pritilata Waddekar (Vega Tamotia).
As Jhunku grapples with nagging self-doubts on one hand and a formidable opponent on the other, he takes us along on his seemingly impossible mission.
His victory, when he and his comrades give the British their first military defeat, is bittersweet. And thanks to Neelnajana Ghosh’s costumes and Samir Chanda’s production design, one gets transported to a different time and place where the fight for independence took precedence over everything else.
Chittagong is a well-crafted period film, understated and restrained in parts, and a far cry from the poorly-researched costume dramas that are often peddled in the name of historical films in Bollywood.
The music by Shankar Ehsaan Loy is soulful; and Bajpayee and Siddiqui play out their roles with such ease it is hard to believe they are not real martyrs who died fighting for the country’s freedom.
The film is supported by a great cast that includes Barry John, Jaideep Ahlawat and Dibyendu Bhattacharya among several other character artistes who slip easily into the characters of the young rebels.
With photography by Eric Zimmerman, sound design by Resul Pookutty and editing by Aldo Velasco, Chittagong is a history lesson that should not be missed!
Verdict: Well-crafted and compelling