CHITTAGONG | 13 October, 2012

NDTV, Anurag Kashyap Films Pvt. Ltd., Bohra Bros. Production and Jonai Productions’ Chittagong is a period film set in pre-Independence Bengal where a school teacher, Surya Sen (Manoj Bajpayee), leads a group of untrained boys and girls to join a revolution called the Indian Republican Army in Chittagong against the ruling Britishers. This group shows the British their first military defeat. This tale is narrated by one of the youngest revolutionaries of the Indian Republican Army, Jhunku Roy (Delzad Hiwale as young Jhunku; and Vijay Varma as the older Jhunku). After the revolt, Jhunku is sent to a jail in Andaman Islands along with his peers. Seven years later, when Jhunku returns to Chittagong, he again leads the villagers to participate in an agricultural revolt. The film is about the journey of Jhunku who overcomes his fears and doubts and emerges as a hero in many ways.

Debut-making director Bedabrata Pain’s story is based on real events. The reality factor is brought out very well in the story and all credit for this would go to the director. The portrayal of the struggles of freedom fighters in pre-Independence India is very touching and overwhelms the audience with a feeling of patriotism. However, the film lacks entertainment value and appears too stretched in parts. Also, it is very unlikely that too many people, especially among the youngsters (who, incidentally, comprise a large chunk of the cinema-going audience today), would patronise a film drawn out of the pages of our history books.

The screenplay has many stories leading to a common goal. Every character is well-drawn and has been established to the desired level. However, the romantic angle in the film between Aparna (Sauraseni Maitra as young Aparna; and Chaiti Ghosh as the older Aparna) and Jhunku is not very convincing. Also, in spite of having so many characters and stories, the film moves at a slow pace. The climax is engaging and some scenes bring out the emotions effectively. Piyush Mishra’s dialogues are good and suit the characters.

The performances in Chittagong are topnotch. Casting Director Honey Trehan deserves a pat on his back for having put together this cast. Manoj Bajpayee is at his best as Surya Sen. His expressions speak louder that his dialogues. Nawazuddin Siddiqui, as Nirmal Sen, is brilliant. Raj Kumar shines as Loknath Bal. Vega Tamotia, in the role of Pritilata, has a meaty role and has shown her potential to the fullest. Jhunku’s childhood role is played by Delzad Hiwale and he is good. The older Jhunku’s role is essayed by Vijay Varma, and he too does a lovely job. Alexx O’Nell, as Charles Johnson, plays the cruel officer by getting into the skin of the character. Anurag Arora (as Ahsanullah) excels in his role. Barry John (as Magistrate Wilkinson) is admirable. Jaideep Ahlawat, Vishal Vijay, Sauraseni Maitra, Tanaji Dasgupta and Saheb Bhattacharya are seen in the roles of freedom fighters and all of them play their parts successfully. Others provide the desired support.

Bedabrata Pain’s direction is praiseworthy. He has made a film which looks so real that one can’t help but admire his skills. Shankar Ehsaan Loy’s compositions and Resul Pookutty’s sound design and mixing are commendable as they evoke patriotic feelings in the audience. Prasoon Joshi’s lyrics are weighty and go very well with the mood of the film. Eric Zimmerman’s camerawork is simple and effective. The film does not look exaggerated even one bit for which Zimmerman deserves kudos. The production design for the historical drama must have been a tough task but Samir Chanda has pulled it off successfully. Neelanjana Ghosh’s costumes are very apt for the era in which the film is set.

On the whole, Chittagong is a beautifully made film with a simple and patriotic tale of simple villagers. However, people seeking entertainment may not be interested in the film. Those looking for a meaningful story with great performances will like it. It will win more acclaim than box-office rewards.

Released on 12-10-’12 at Metro Big (daily 1 show) and other cinemas of Bombay thru STV Networks Pvt. Ltd. Publicity: so-so. Opening: dull. …….Also released all over. Opening was dull almost everywhere.