Researching For CHITTAGONG Meant Revisiting The Stories That Bengal Lives With: Bedabrata Pain

CHITTAGONG’s Director Bedabrata Pain writes in response to issues raised by Prof. Chaman Lal in his review of the film

Thank you so much for a fabulous and perceptive review. I am so touched that you went to see the film, almost immediately wrote this review. You have raised certain points that are so important that i thought i’d add my two cents – purely to start a discussion on these questions or to clarify.

Eric Zimmerman and Debabrata Pain on the sets of the movie Chittagong (Courtesy: FridayMoviez.com)

First of all, i wanted to tell a story of victory, rather than of defeat. Growing up with stories on Chittagong (i am a bengali – fluent in reading, writing and speaking), what has always struck me is that the uprising didn’t end in 1934 with masterda’s death. in this regards, Utpal Dutta’s Tiner Torobari had a big influence on me. coming back to chittagong – i noticed that almost everybody survived and lived, and vigorously participated in the political life (most of them became communists with a few exceptions) and won some fine victories. I have tried to weave my story to reach that victorious climax.

Secondly, i had access to most books and accounts written in Bengali, way back in 1950s and 1960s. From Anant Singh’s Chattagramer Jubo Bidroho (which is a fabulous chronicle of the 1930-34 uprising) to suresh dey’s mukti sopan jalalabad (the only first hand account of the battle of jalalabad to this date), to various anthologies edited Sachindranath Guha, or Pritilata’s diary that i got in Dhalghat, Bangladesh, and not to speak of the first hand accounts from Subodh-da and Benode Behari Choudhury (102 year old last surviving participant of the uprising residing in chittagong) – i had no dearth of source materials.

The bigger problem i had was to understand and recreate the milieu and the atmosphere of that era. For that both Benode-babu and subodh roy’s brother suhas roy were god-sent! from the style and design of the plates in which food was served to the description of the red and white cards (which most accounts seemed to side-step, including do and die) to the description of colour of walls and the styles of furniture, i got detailed descriptions from them. We even went to the extent of renting schools built in 1910s and 1920s for shooting so that the architecture would be right. For instance, the edges of our walls nowadays are sharp, while in 1930s it was beveled.

Thirdly, the question of do and die. Manini chatterjee had put together a very well-researched and documented chronicles of the events. the book is great read. being in english, her book reached out beyond, and she rendered a great service in this regard. (there was another english book before this in 1977, i believe, but that certainly lacked Manini’s clarity).

However, being a Bengali armed with the entire battery of Bengali source materials, Manini’s book – as amazing as it is – was not necessary for me. However, i was perfectly willing and happy to bring her as a consultant, and acknowledge her book, but then she sold the rights to her book to Ashutosh Gowarikar – which certainly created a legal barrier.

Finally, just to clarify one tiny point. the story was written by me and shonali. shonali is not the co-director, but co-producer. The film is produced and directed by me. in fact, the film was made because i put in every bit of money into this film. when every bombay film producers refused to back this project, i put in my life savings to make this film.

Thank you again for seeing the film, and highlighting the ideo-political issue surrounding the film. I have tried hard to get political issues in the background, and the let the fact speak for themselves, and allow people to draw their own conclusion. Whether i have succeeded or not is for you all to judge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Thanks Bedabrata ji for taking time to respond to my excited response to film, it was not review as claimed by some of my friends. I just returned from theater around 7.30 pm and started writing my response on my face book page by 8.30, within an hour! In fact I had to go to film website to check spellings, characters and other details and the error I made in case of describing Shonali Bose as co-director was just the result of too hurried response, there may be some such other errors too, as happens with instant responses on social networking sites.
    Yes I agree with you that you gave the movement the positive form of victory, which I also liked and acknowledged as it to be related to Tebhaga movement.
    Surely, you had access to much more material, than I can even imagine to read, even if I wish to. ‘Do and Die’ had been a major source of my exposure to Chittagong movement, apart from which I had few more books in English, one published by PPH, New Delhi-Challenge-the book has first 110 pages section on Chittagong, which includes memoirs of Kalpana Dutt, Ananata Singh and Ganesh Ghoshe, apart from some other articles. Another is I M Sharma’s book-Easter Rebellion in India:The Chittagong Uprising, with introduction from Binod Behari Dutta, not sure whether both Benod Beharis are same or different. Then I had another interesting collection by Ganesh Ghosh, but not on Chittagong, but on Kamagatamaru memorial(that too in Punjabi), published by Gurdwara), when he was President of Bajbaj Ghat Muncipial committee. Since long I have in my waiting list-Suresh De’s-Mukti Sopan Jalalabad’, published in Hindi by some obscure publisher and I am still not having able to acquire its copy yet. All these books and more do figure in Manini’s book as references. I have been fascinated by Anant Singh’s character, as his ancestors came probably from Punjab, as mentioned somewhere and also his rebellious spirit, which did not make him part of any established ‘Communist Party’ etc. My reference to Manini’s book was only to the extent that this and all other books could have been referred in credits for research angle. Moreover in cinema house, one is rarely able to read credits, so I may even had missed these. In fact i want to share something related and different both. Once on a visit to Kolkata and on college street itself, I saw Master Surya Sen street nearby, I started asking about his memorial/monument, no shop owner could tell, not even CPI book shop Manisha, only an old comrade in CPM-National agency book shop told me its whereabouts in Jadavpur! And the friend which accompanied me, a Hindi lecturer and CPM activist, did knew its location, so I could visit Chittagong movement or Surya Sen memorial in Jadavpur area. I got a gut feeling in Kolkata that it carries no more any romance for its or other revolutionary heroes any more, which is reflected in Kolkatta audience response in theaters there, to your film as painfully mentioned by you on film wall.Delhi Vasant Kunj DT star theater was also not full, despite weekend show, but surprisingly there was one man slogan at a point-‘Inqlab Zindabad’ and clapping by me at the conclusion of the film, which I rarely do, but it was joined by many! Only oddity its being in neo colonial set Mall theaters! To conclude, you deserve all praise for making such brilliant film on such sensitive theme, I wish some one has made such film on Bhagat Singh movement as well,though many, most are all loud and without sensitivity!