“Chittagong Is Not Inspired By Manini Chatterjee’s Book”

A still from movie 'Chittagong'
A still from movie ‘Chittagong’

There seems to be no end to the troubles facing Bedabrata Pain’s historical Chittagong.

Three years in the making, the director lost his son while the film was being made. And now the news from Kolkata is that the city’s intellectual class is up in arms against the film’s director for allegedly having borrowed chunks from author Manini Chatterjee’s novel Do And Die, a historical account of the Chittagong uprising in 1930, without acknowledging the source material.

Interestingly Ashutosh Gowariker’s Khelenge Hum Jee Jaan Se was an official adaptation of Manini Chatterjee’s book.

Bedobrata Pain says he is aware of the Kolkata intelligentsia “ganging up” against his film. “I’ve been told repeatedly in Kolkata that I’ve borrowed from Manini Chatterjee’s book. That is not true at all. If she thinks I’ve borrowed from her book she’s most welcome to sue me. My film is very different from her book. I’ve used the works of several eminent historians including Prof Sumit Sarkar, and most important of all I met the actual participants of the Chittagong uprising. I have been guided by the Surya Sen Bhavan. The repository of Chittagong uprising materials in Kolkata who are fully behind the film. I have been guided also by eminent historians such as Amalendu De, chairman of Surya Sen Bhavan. My film is based on first-hand accounts of Subodh Roy whom we met on his deathbed and video-taped, as well as those of 102-year old Benode Behari Choudhury, the last surviving participant whom I met in Chittagong. I also talked at length and video-taped Subodh’s brother Suhas Roy in Kolkata.”

Pain admits he met Manini Chatterjee during the initial stages of his research for his film. “But she was keen we buy the rights of her book. I was not keen on using material from her book. Her account of the Chittagong uprising covers only the period between 1930 and 1934. My film goes into a much wider time arc. Also, her book ends on a note of abject tragedy. I’ve opted for an optimistic hopeful ending.”

The books that Bedabrata has consulted are:

Chattogram Jubo Bidroho – Anant Singh, Dec 1968, J.N. Ghosh and Sons, 6 Bankim Chatterjee St, Cal 12.

Chattogram Biplober Bohnishikha (1838-1971) edited by Sachindranath Guha, Aug 1974, Chattogram Parishad, P-7 Raja Subodh Mallick Road, Cal 32.

Muktir Sopan Jalalabad – by Suresh De, April 1988, Surya Sen Bhavan, 432 Prince Anwar Shah Rd, Cal 45. [the only first hand account of jalalabad battle]

Surya Sen Smriti – edited by Ganesh Ghosh, April 1971, Surya Sen Bhavan, 432 Prince Anwar Shah Rd, Cal 68.

Chattogram Jubo-Bidroho: 1930-34 Alekhyomala, April 1970, Surya Sen Bhavan, 432 Prince Anwar Shah Rd, Cal 68.

Easter Rebellion in India: The Chittagong Uprising, – I. Mallikarjuna Sharma, Mar 1977, Marxist Study Forum, 6-3-1243/116 D. Sanjeeviah Nagar, Hyderabad, 500482.

Sadhinota Sangramey Chattogram, Purnendu Dastidar, July 1967, Anupam Prakashani, 38/4 Banglabazar, Dhaka 1100

Priilata Pranam, 1994, Bangladesh.

Pain says he wanted Manini Chatterjee on board as a consultant for the film. “But she was not interested in working with me and my wife in that capacity. Later she sold the rights of her book to Ashutosh Gowariker. So we really had no occasion to collaborate with Ms Chatterjee.”

Pain admits he has read Do And Die, but not to borrow anything from the book. “I read it to make sure there is no similarity between the episodes described in the book and depicted in my film. For example, Ms Chatterjee describes how the protagonist Masterda and his followers were hidden by the villagers from the British soldiers and were served a really bitter rice curry. The villagers later confessed to Masterda that they they had mixed tea leaves in the curry. I deliberately avoided this episode since it was a part of Ms Chatterjee’s book.”

Pain wants Manini Chatterjee to watch his film, so she can judge for himself if he has borrowed anything from her book.

When contacted all one got from Manini Chatterjee was a terse response saying, “I would rather not comment on my experience with Mr Pain or his wife Shonali Bose who was initially supposed to make the film.”

To Pain’s offer to show her the film Ms Chatterjee says, “Since it’s being released commercially I can buy a ticket and go to the theatre if I decide to see it. I’d be happy if you do not engage with me on this issue any further.”