Chittagong Director’s Rejoinder to Prof Chaman Lal
Bedabrata Pain is the director of Chittagong.
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.
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.