But, as the wise say, expectation is the root cause of disappointment. Although authentic in its depiction of the era in which the story is set, impressive in its scale, and consistent in its tone and mood, Chittagong isn’t too engaging a film. Partly because of the complexity of the plot, the film is unable to weave the different strands of the lives of its multiple characters into a single adventure.
The film starts promisingly enough; the story is told the point-of-view of the 14-year-old Subodh Roy aka Jhunku, the son of a lawyer who is on the cusp of familial loyalty to the British Raj and political awareness about foreign domination. His close relationship with freedom fighter mentor Surya Sen ensures his interaction with patriotic youngsters in Sen’s training camps and his imminent participation in their dangerous revolutionary activities.
With a group comprising of several youths and teenagers, Surya Sen devises a plan to destroy the rail network, telegraph and telephone offices and simultaneously capture two key armouries in the area of Chittagong to destabilise the British. The foolhardy plan is successful but the militants have to soon flee and face many hardships before they separate and move toward safety. The film goes on to show the capture of each of its key revolutionaries and their arrest, sentencing, and subsequent hanging or release, and then regrouping to again fight for India’s freedom.
For a debut film, Bedabrata Pain has cut his teeth on an ambitious venture. Although meant to be an endearing intimate story of Jhunku, he often can’t resist the temptation to make it into an epic. Especially after the uprising, the film is unable to maintain its tense brooding mood.
The actors, all extremely talented, have barely any scope for performance. Delzad Hiwale who plays Jhunku is bright, so is Vega Tamotia who plays Pritilata. Alex O’Neill looks like he was picked up straight out of Joker. Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy’s background score is repetitive; although it works in the scarce romantic portions, it rarely builds tension. All in all: a long history lesson but very little drama.