[Marxism] I had to tell the Chittagong story: Bedabrata Pain

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Sep 11 06:55:25 MDT 2012


I had to tell the Chittagong story: Bedabrata Pain
Mumbai Mirror Sep 7, 2012, 10.46AM IST

Bedabrata Pain is not a familiar name. Not unless you would have seen 
the deeply moving and unsettling film Amu about a girl (played by 
Konkona Sen Sharma) orphaned in the anti-Sikh riots of 1984. Pain was 
the executive producer of the critically acclaimed venture that was 
directed by his wife Shonali Bose.

Seven years and a personal tragedy later (two years ago his teenaged son 
Ishan succumbed to third degree burns when an electric shaver exploded 
on him), Pain, a former NASA scientist with 87 invention patents to his 
credit, is back in India with his directorial debut Chittagong. The few 
who watched Ashutosh Gowariker's Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Se would be 
familiar with the original story. But for some, it has a deeper resonance.

Says the IIT-Kharagpur alumni about the Chittagong uprising of April 18, 
1930, "As kids in Bengal, we grew up listening to the incredible stories 
of these revolutionaries. It never occurred to me that it needs to be 
told." But he changed his mind after an interaction with a Delhi 
University history graduate, who had never heard of this immensely 
significant chapter in history.

In 2007, Pain, who had through his student years from Calcutta to New 
York engaged in social, political and cultural activism, wanted to 
finally connect "with something bigger" than himself. "I had dabbled in 
street plays, organised rallies, got artistes to perform for causes. 
Making this film was just another way of expressing myself."

Pain's Chittagong, starring Manoj Bajpai as Master-da Surjya Sen, the 
schoolteacher who grooms a bunch of kids into daring the British, is not 
really a lesson in history, he says. "It does not tell the story in an 
episodic way. Neither does it look at the event from Master-da's 
perspective." Rather, it looks at the momentous incident from the eyes 
of a 14-yearold meritorious boy, Subodh Roy, Jhunku in the film, who 
fights his inner battles before becoming a revolutionary. "When I wrote 
the script, I had my son Ishan in mind. I kept asking myself, how would 
I respond if he told me that he wanted to join such a cause? And that is 
how the story evolved," he says.

The film is also a personal tribute to someone he's had crush on as a 
young boy - Pritilata Waddedar, a young revolutionary groomed by Sen, 
who led the attack on an European club before committing suicide to 
evade capture. "When I first read about her, I was overwhelmed. She is 
unlike any 21-yearold you would have met," he says.

"But my story is no Gangs of Wasseypur," points out Pain. "There is a 
lot of innocence here. And celebration. Most films on freedom fighters 
end on a note of defeat, with our heroes either being hanged or 
massacred. Though Surjya Sen was hanged, there were many in the team who 
went on to play significant roles in the freedom movement later. My 
story celebrates them."

Shot in parts of West Bengal that have a striking resemblance to 
Chittagong (now in Bangladesh) of the Raj era, the film took two years 
to finally find presenters in India (Sunil Bohra, Anurag Kashyap and 
NDTV). Written, directed and produced by Pain, music scored by Shankar 
Ehsaan Loy, he says he put in "every cent of the royalty money" he 
earned from his 87 invention patents into it.

Away from India for over 26 years, Pain quotes Raj Kapoor to express his 
bond with his country, that runs deeper than 'NRI patriotism.' "I feel 
disturbed with what happened in Bhopal, in Delhi during the anti-Sikh 
riots... in Gujarat. There is a burning desire to capture the anguish of 
the people in these conflicted times. Both Amu and Chittagong have been 
steps in that direction."

After Chittagong, Pain is onto a couple of projects. One of them is a 
love story set against political turmoil in Assam, Central India and 
Kashmir. He is also looking at regional literary classics to adapt.

But right now, it is all about Jhunku, the boy who dared the Brits and 
lived to tell the tale.

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