US-based NASA scientist Bedabrato Pain is upbeat about his maiden feature film “Chittagong”, which is set to hit the screens in India on October 12. The film is based on the 1930 armed insurrection by a band of daredevils led by 'Master-da' Surja Sen against the might of British colonial power.
The film, featuring Bollywood actor Manoj Bajpai and a host of new faces, was shot in a village of West Bengal state, which, according to the director, resembles Chittagong in Bangladesh.
One of the high points of the film will be its music set by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy and the lyrics written by Prasoon Joshi. The music, the director says, has an “unmistakable flavour of Bengal”.
Pain has high hopes from viewers in Bangladesh, where “Chittagong” will also be released (though no date has been finalised yet), and says a few people who watched the film in Bangladesh have appreciated it.
In his early 40s, Pain is a Bengali graduate from Indian Institute of Technology in Kharagpur, West Bengal, and is now settled in the US. He gave up his lucrative job of a scientist at NASA to turn to filmmaking and took on a challenging period drama, which many first-time film directors would avoid.
Following are the excerpts from an e-mal interview with Pain:
Why a film on Chittagong Uprising?
Chittagong Uprising is one of the glorious chapters of our freedom struggle. For the first time, the British were militarily defeated and were kicked out of a town in the 20th century -- that too at the hands of some untrained teenagers. It required the visionary thinking of Master-da Surja Sen and the bravery of the teenagers led by him. Yet practically nobody knows of this stupendous achievement.
“Chittagong” is a celebration of the human spirit that refuses to give up. And more importantly, “Chittagong” is a story of victory. Most of our films on freedom struggle end in a defeat. I did not want to tell a story like that.
You have said the protagonist of your film is not Master-da. Do you think in that case you run the risk of distorting history? And why did you choose to focus on a teenager?
There is no connection between distorting history and the choice of a point of view. Disinformation or distortion of history can only happen if the main achievements are left out or the significance of a movement is compromised or the roles played by the stalwarts are denied or dealt with in an underhanded manner. I do not think any of these things have happened in “Chittagong”.
At the same time, I do have my issues with historians on this matter. For instance, often the impetus of the Chittagong Uprising is situated in the armed struggles in Ireland. My research shows that to be not true.
In traditional rendition of the Chittagong Uprising, the narrative almost always ends with the hanging of Master-da. However, this is a sadly myopic view. In the case of Chittagong, almost all the revolutionaries -- except for a few -- survived and went on to participate in other heroic and equally visionary struggles. My film does not end with Master-da's death, but continues on to one such story. And this is one of the reasons why a 14-year-old boy is my protagonist. My “Chittagong” is a story of the victory achieved by a reluctant hero.
Did you ever think of shooting the film in Chittagong and are you planning to commercially release it in Bangladesh where you might find a big audience?
I had travelled extensively in Chittagong -- including the remote locations -- such as the village Noapara where Master-da was born and Dhalghat, which was the scene of a famous encounter leading to the death of Nirmal Sen.
However, looking at the developments that have happened in Chittagong, it was clear that there is no resemblance between today's Chittagong and that of 1930s. So, obviously, the practicalities of shooting took over. In fact, in the end, I chose to shoot in a place that lends tremendous authenticity to the 1930s' Chittagong.
Given the fact that Ashutosh Gowariker's “Kheley Hain Hum Jee Jaan Sey” was a box office disaster, how jittery or hopeful are you about your movie?
The Indian film market has changed a lot in recent times.
There is a significant rise of non-traditional Bollywood films -- which above all, are good films. Why, only this year, we have had successful films such as “Kahaani”, “Paan Singh Tomar”, “Gangs of Wasseypur”, “Shanghai “and others! I strongly believe that “Chittagong” is part of this new wave. So, irrespective of what Bollywood films may or may not have been there, “Chittagong” will stand on its own feet. I am extremely hopeful about “Chittagong”, but then you know as they say it's after all luck by chance.