On October 12, Bedabrata Pain’s directorial debut, Chittagong, will take us on a flashback to the 1930s. Two years ago, in December 2010, Ashutosh Gowarikar had traversed the same path with Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey (KHJJS), a film that had traced the same uprising in West Bengal. It starred Abhishek Bachchan as Surjya Sen, aka Masterda, who instigates a group of schoolboys and a young woman to take on the British Raj. Manoj Bajpai plays the revolutionary schoolteacher in the upcoming film.
Word is that Bedabrata had approached Abhishek for the part first, and he admits to having one meeting with the star. He had started working on the film in 2007 and wanted to release it much before KHJJS. “But I quickly realised that Abhishek, at six feet, two inches, was too tall and wouldn’t work as the unassuming rabble-rouser,” he says, pointing out that Masterda kept to the background and let his young protégés take charge.
The director insists that unlike Ashutosh’s period drama, Masterda is not the hero of his film whose focus is a 14-year-old boy named Jhunku. “Delzad Hiwale is my star, I couldn’t let any other star overshadow him,” he says. “Manoj is a known face and a big name yet merges so well with his on-screen persona that he doesn’t stand out. My film doesn’t end with his hanging and the end of the uprising. Almost all the other revolutionaries survived to take the revolution forward.”