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Adapting a work of literature into a movie is an arduous task. Satyajit Ray's 'Apu Trilogy' (Pather Panchali, Aparajito and Apur Sansar) was based on two Bengali novels written by Bibhuthibhushan Bandopadhyay. Ray's Shatranj Ke Khiladi was based on Munshi Premchand's short story of the same name. In fact, film-makers have always been fascinated by best-selling books/novels for adapting into feature films. Mira Nair's The Nameshake, P.C. Barua, Bimal Roy and Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Devdas, Pradeep Sarkar's Parineeta, Rajkumar Hirani's 3 Idiots, Atul Agnihotri's Hello and the recent Aisha have been adapted from literary works. Even in Hollywood, Lord Of The Rings, Harry Potter, Narnia and many more have been successfully adapted from novels by reputed names.
However, if you analyze the past, you will realize that not all movies adapted from novels/short stories have set the cash registers jingling at the box-office. Films like Pinjar, Paheli, Raincoat and international experiments like Bride And Prejudice and The Mistress Of Spices have found very few takers in the past.
This is not the first time Ashutosh Gowariker has adapted a book into a film. Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey is yet another book-to-movie adaptation by this talented storyteller [this one is based on the book 'Do And Die: The Chittagong Uprising 1930-34' by Manini Chatterjee]. Again, this is not the first time Ashutosh Gowariker has revisited the bygone era. He did it successfully in Lagaan [period], then Jodhaa Akbar [historical] and now Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey [period].
Recreating the bygone era is indeed demanding, laborious and strenuous. It's a challenge to present the era convincingly. Besides extensive detailing to lend authenticity, the director carries the responsibility of making the characters come alive to the present-day generation. Gowariker has successfully done that in the past and does it successfully yet again in Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey.
Once the film-maker takes on the task of depicting a chapter from history, it's imperative that he/she remains factual to the depiction of the revolution, giving an accurate account of what actually transpired in that period. But details alone won't help, it needs to be well dramatized for the big screen. There's a vast difference in the style novels are written, but one needs to take extra care to make it film friendly. While I may not be able to comment on whether Gowariker has been faithful to the book or tampered with it or implemented some changes, which may be necessary to suit the tastes of the present-day spectators and make it more palatable, I would definitely like to say that what comes across on screen is very absorbing, truly informative and exceptionally inspiring.
Final word? The expectations from Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey are minimal, but you can't overlook the fact that it's a genuinely honest effort that needs to be encouraged and appreciated. I would like to add here that the promotional posters/billboards/promos don't create any impact whatsoever. Wish the makers would've looked into this very important aspect as well!
1930, British India: In the province of undivided Bengal lies the sleepy, peaceful port of Chittagong. In this unassuming little town, a revolution is about to begin; a revolution which will forever wake all of Chittagong and inspire the entire nation.
April 18. 1 night. 5 simultaneous attacks. A band of 64 - 56 innocent yet fearless young boys, 5 defiant revolutionaries, 2 determined young women, and an idealistic leader [Surjya Sen], a school teacher by profession.
This group of 64 represents a little-known chapter in history; a forgotten night that reigned terror on the British through a series of calculated attacks. This is a true story of these forgotten heroes and the narrative takes us through every step of the action from the initial trepidation, to the thrill of the attack, to the underground movement, daring escapes and tragic captures, and most importantly, their undying legacy.
A film-maker of extensive aptitude and sensitivity, Gowariker's tryst with period films continues. Seems like he has worked himself to the grind in order to attain perfection. The writing [screenplay: Raoul V. Randolf and Ashutosh Gowariker] and execution of the material are so credible that it influences you to wonder if the writers and director were part of the revolution. The Bengali ethos and the behavioral patterns of the characters, recreating the etiquette and body language of people who lived in a different era along with their attire and styling and also their dwellings come across as very pragmatic. In fact, Gowariker has left no stone unturned to make a film that does justice to the event.
Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey has almost entirely been shot in Goa and not Chittagong [now Bangladesh] because the location that was there in the 1930s no longer exists in that shape, I understand. However, the film captures the spirit and intensity to perfection. On the other hand, with Gowariker's films, the length/running time of the film is always a topic of discussion and that's a problem with Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey as well. The film has a running time of approx. 2.48 hours and the editor [Dilip Deo] and director could've easily trimmed a few fight sequences in the second half, to make the goings-on crisper.
Musically, Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey is embellished with soft and soothing compositions, but I have an issue with that. Sure, the album is high on patriotic sentiment, but the songs in the first hour act as a roadblock in the narrative. Ideally, it should've been a songless film. However, the background score [also by Sohail Sen] enhances every scene, making it more impactful. The production design [Nitin Chandrakant Desai] transports you to that era. It's that authentic. The stunts [Ravi Dewan] are true to life. Kiran Deohans and Seetha Sandhiri's cinematography captures the era to perfection.
Abhishek as Surjya Sen suits the character right. His character appears very fervent, but at the same time truly tranquil, incredibly unperturbed and really unruffled, which merges very well with the character of an educationalist that he illustrates. A freedom fighter with these attributes hasn't been presented in a motion picture before. Abhishek gets to the character a certain authority. The rebelliousness and boisterousness are depicted to perfection.
Deepika sheds her glam look and looks every bit the character she illustrates. Kudos to her first of all for accepting a challenging role [of a woman revolutionary of the 1930s] so early in her career and then almost living that character in the film, continuing to prove her mettle far ahead of her poise and exquisiteness.
Sikander Kher leaves a terrific impression. He excels in several scenes. Vishakha Singh is a complete natural. She catches one's attention instantly. Samrat Mukerji, Maninder and Feroz Wahid Khan, each actor is earnest and sincere to the core. In fact, every actor in the film looks most convincing in their respective parts. I would like to make a special mention of the young artists [most of them seem like first-time performers], who have a very unpolluted/uninfluenced approach to acting. Brownie points to each one of them.
On the whole, Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey, based on the Chittagong rebellion, is an enlightening experience of a poignant, but little-known chapter in history. It's a film of immense significance which evokes a colossal patriotic fervor. A motion picture like Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey isn't created targeting the box-office solely. It's also made for the gratification of the senses. And that it does in sufficient measure. In an industry obsessed by opening weekend business and box-office records, this is one of those rare films that doesn't compromise on its gracious objectives for the sake of becoming more box-office friendly. At the same time, a film like Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey, although very well made, may not appeal to those who relish the customary kitsch and masala. Therefore, the film will have to rely on a very strong word of mouth to create any kind of an impression or impact at the box-office.
Director: Ashutosh Gowariker
Cast: Abhishek Bachchan, Deepika Padukone, Vishakha Singh, Sikander Kher, Amin Gazi