The ‘Sun’ rising

Revolution and poetry are two strong traits of Bengali people. No surprise, armed revolution against the oppression of the British Empire started here, in Bengal. Led by Surya Sen, the Chittagong uprising of April 1930 was the first strong armed resistance against the empire. To commemorate the revolution, Istiaque Ahmed Nahian reviews Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey (2010), a film based on the rebellion.


‘Minute by minute they live:

The stone’s in the midst of all’

Poster of Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey (2010).THIS is a quote by W.B Yeats, from ‘Easter 1916’. When I am writing this piece, an uprising somewhat similar to the Easter Rising, the famous Irish armed uprising, is going on in my university. Easter Rising was a long time ago. In this quote, Yeats talks about a stone in the midst of a stream which remains unmoved no matter what. He depicted the integrity of the Irish people using this metaphor. We, the Bengali people, always acted as a stone whenever the situation was against us. Our history of revolution is long. It dates back to 1857 starting from the Sepoy Uprising which was the first organised revolution against the British empire.

Following that revolution, protests started brooding from the beginning of the 20th century in different parts of India, mainly in Punjab and Bengal. Young scholarly bright minds started protesting the actions of British in the non-partisan India. Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey (We will fight till the last breath) is a 2010 film based on the true story of such an incident, known as the Chittagong Uprising, against the oppression of British government which took place in 1930. In fact, this armed resistance from the ordinary people against the empire made people believe in their strength.

Directed by Ashutosh Gowariker, the film narrated the story of the famous revolutionaries led by Masterda Surya Sen. Sen was among the few, who, not only dreamt of a free India, but also worked towards the fulfillment of that dream. He, along with his comrades, Ganesh GhoshLokenath BalAmbika Chakrobarty, Harigopal Bal (Tegra), Ananta SinghAnand Prasad GuptaTripura SenBidhubhusan BhattacharyaPritilata WaddedarKalpana DuttaBinod Bihari ChowdhurySubodh RoyMonoranjan Bhattacharya, devised a plan to capture the two main armories in Chittagong. They also had an elaborate plan of disconnecting the rail communication, destroying the radio station and taking hostages from the European club. The goal was to free Chittagong from the British rule, through an armed uprising. Unfortunately their plan was thwarted for some technical miscalculations and they had to take shelter in the Jalalabad hills where they lost 12 of their fellow revolutionaries in a gunfight with the British army. Surya Sen somehow survived and divided his team into small groups and sent them to Kolkata. A group of the disguised revolutionaries almost got captured on their way to Kolkata. A reformation was taking place but it finally ended through the capturing of Surya sen in 1933 from Gairal village. Surya Sen was hanged by the British court on 12 January 1934. He suffered inhuman torture by the jail police, prior to his execution.
The Chittagong uprising was a huge slap on the face of the British Government and their discrimination towards the ordinary people. The most surprising fact was that Surya Sen made it happen with a group consisting only 60 to 65 members, and majority of them were teenagers. Not only that, some of the revolutionaries was born in the Zamindar and affluent families who had dealings with the British Government. They left their comfortable life in quest of freedom. Pritilata Waddedar and Kalpana Datta, the two female revolutionaries, were depicted in the film as epitome of courage and determination. They aided the revolution by smuggling weapons and placards and by making bombs for attacks on British establishments. Both of them were brilliant students too. Pritilata committed suicide during the raid of the European Club of Pahartali in 1932 for avoiding arrest. Kalpana was arrested on 19th May, 1933. She was sentenced to transportation for life but later was released in 1939. The Chittagong Uprising, in reality, paved the path towards a free and sovereign India.

Surya Sen was the nucleus of the movement. He was born in a lower-middle class family on 12th March, 1894. Influenced by the nationalist ideals during 1916, while being a student of B.A. in Behrampore College, Sen had been active in politics. In 1918 he was elected as president of Indian National Congress, Chittagong branch. But later, he changed his political views. Also a renowned mathematics teacher, he was often referred to as Masterda (teacher).
The Ashutosh Gowariker masterpiece was a three hour long movie, but was surely worth the time. The movie was fast-paced and action packed. The casting was praiseworthy. The casting was so brilliant that most of the characters were almost similar to the real life, you will understand by the original portraits shown in the credit section. Released on 3rd December, the major shooting locations were Goa and Mumbai. Abhishek Bacchan, Deepika Padukone and Sikander Kher were the leading actors. The storyline was the main driving force of the movie. It made up for the slightly slow first half of the film. The focus on the details and characterisation is also notable. Some of the dialogues in the movie were in Bangla, but it seemed like a mismatch as the actors were struggling to pronounce the words. Sohail Sen was the music director and Javed Akhter penned the lyrics.

Surprisingly, despite such a strong storyline the movie proved to be a disaster in the box office. The makers were unable to get back even fraction of the production cost. Renowned directors claimed that this disaster was a let down to the upcoming filmmakers who tend to opt for diverse stories.
A spotlight is never complete without a straight or a curved line. That means you need to reach out and do things to prove your worth. Surya Sen managed to convey his dream to the common people without any help from the media. Today, our youth has great opportunities for societal reformation because of the omnipresence of social media. Every concerned youth should project their soul to the county apart from their faces. The scratched mirror of injustice will never break if the soul is not pretty enough.


Istiaque Ahmed Nahian is a student of University of Dhaka

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