The ApunKaChoice movie review of Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey. What exactly did they feel? What was the nature of the flame that flickered in those hearts? Eighty years on from the lesser known Chittagong rising where young teenagers with hardly any facial fuzz picked up guns and, unbeknownst to their parents, joined the revolt against the British, it’s hard to grasp the emotion that filled those breasts. In the times when we tend to take our societal freedom for granted, we need people like Ashutosh Gowariker to jolt us and keep us mindful of the unsung heroes who died for something we’ve ceased to value. With these questions and befuddlement I ambled out of the theatre after watching the director’s latest film Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey, a well intentioned, albeit cluttered ode to the heroes of India’s independence.
For, would a bunch of teens join the kranti against the colonial goras just because they have been shoved off from their football playing ground? Hard to believe! Could it be foolhardiness or genuine patriotic fervour? I haven’t read Manini Chatterjee’s book Do and Die (the inspiration behind the film), but I do trust Gowariker as a film-maker enough to know that he did his homework well before taking up this subject that’s been omitted from history syllabus.
So we have Surjya Sen (Abhishek Bachchan) a school teacher, spearheading a revolt with the help of his five comrades (Sikander Kher, Samrat Mukherjee, Feroz Wahid Khan, Shreyas Pandit, Maninder Singh), two feisty women (Deepika Padukone and Vishakha Singh), and 56 teenagers on the night of April 18, 1930 in Chottogram (Chittagong).
But their plan to take on the cantonment, destroy the telegraph office, cut off the rail link, confiscate the armoury and take the firangis hostage goes haywire for several reasons. Coming under retaliatory attack, the band of 62 flees into the jungles of Jalalabad where many of them are massacred by the British. One by one all the revolutionaries on the run are either gunned down or arrested and thereby ‘transported for life’ or sent to the gallows.
Clearly, there isn’t a long story here needing a cinematic exposition running into three hours. Once the characters have been established and the plan put into action, the remaining film is merely reduced to a series of shootouts between the British soldiers and the revolutionaries. Here the director is handicapped by the need to stay loyal to the history. So the narrative flits from one location to another, as characters handpicked from historical data (Gowariker is pretty punctilious about dropping exact names and designations of Brit officers, lieutenants et al) stream across the canvas. It is in this bid to be a factual historical telling of a revolution that Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey begins to plod. Granted, it’s a thin line for any storyteller to tread. Staying loyal to history or taking cinematic liberty that might be deemed sacrilegious.