Friday, December 03, 2010

Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey 

Text-book History

The most commendable thing about Ashutosh Gowarikar’s Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey, is his selection of the subject—a long-forgotten chapter from India’s freedom movement. It is based on Manini Chatterjee’s book about the Chittagong uprising—and the interesting part  is that some of the participants in this anti-British revolt were alive when the book was written; one of them still is at a 100 years of age. There are photographs of most of the characters portrayed in the film,  so, somehow, one expected a sense of excitement, if not immediacy, when watching this saga unfold. Unfortunately, the film is only slightly better than a droning, boring old-style Films Division documentary.

When recreating a historical event that has no real relevance today, it is important that the audience is drawn into the story. The characters should be fleshed out, the conflict heightened and a point of view established.  But Gowariker tells the story with the intention of crossing every t and dotting every it, till audiences starts to feel oppressed by the information thrown at them, about characters they don’t particularly care about.

The time is 1930, a bunch of kids in Chittagong are angry because their football field is taken over by the British army. They approach revolutionary Surja Sen (Abhishek Bachchan), who, along with his band of followers, is planning a big armed operation against the British in their town.
He recruits the teens and two courageous women Kalpana (Deepika Padukone) and Pritilata (Vishakha Singh); they are trained, the simultaneous attacks coordinated and carried out. But things go wrong… not that the sense of tension and urgency is communicated to the audience. 

You don’t know who Surja Sen is,  what drives him, who the kids are—what the episode does to tender minds, is there a debate or dilemma about using children for dangerous missions? The British are just a marginal presence, not menacing enough as villains who generate such a fearless, self-destructive kind of patriotism. The film is just a tedious recreation of events without comment.
After that it is how beefy-looking white extras chase the kids and their leaders and round up all of them over a period of time. 

The production design is meticulous, some of the performances are sincere, but the film seems like an interminable preparation for an examination—difficult to see it as entertainment.


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