cinema Manoj Bajpayee says playing Surya Sen in Chittagong came with its share of moral dilemmas

“Don’t expect anything big from me. I will keep experimenting.” Every time you praise Manoj Bajpayee his modesty comes in the way.

From Bhikhu Mhatre to Sardar Khan, Manoj has crafted many cult characters and his role as Surya Sen in Chittagong is no different.

Unlike Bhikhu or Sardar, he is a hero in this film who is the backbone and the mastermind of a movement where 50 teenagers shook the British Empire when they drove the colonial masters out of Chittagong on the night of April 18, 1930.

A lean looking Manoj says this one was one role he didn’t want to let go. “There was a challenge in this.While studying the character I could not come to terms with the fact that a teacher pushed 13-14-year-olds into a battle where they could die or be tortured. He must have faced so much dilemma. I wanted to bring this into the character.”

Manoj found approval from his director Bedabrata Pain, who is making his directorial debut with the film. “ The rest of the world doesn’t matter to me that much,” he says. Manoj says the idea was to bring the story of these revolutionaries out of Bengal and Bangladesh to the whole country. Manoj feels Gandhi and his non-violent struggle took over the national sentiment so much that the other revolutionaries lost out in public memory.

“The film tries to correct it by giving us an insight into one uprising that shook the British government.” But he is quick to add that it is not an attempt to undermine Gandhiji’s contribution. “It is just that the director got an idea from a part of forgotten history and he made a film.”

In two weeks from now Manoj will be seen as a Naxalite leader Rajan in Prakash Jha’s Chakravyuh . When his career went through a dull patch, it was Jha’s Raajneeti that put Manoj back on track.

A product of Delhi University himself, Manoj says he has hobnobbed a lot with the students of Marxist ideology in Jawaharlal Nehru University. “We all agree on the idea of equality and equitable distribution of natural wealth, but the question is whether the means adopted by the Naxalites, to put their point across, are right? The film debates it.”

anuj kumar

A question of ethics

Talking about the ethical question of children participating in the freedom struggle and the contemporary zing that comes with it, director Bedabrata Pain says a small portion of the film deals with this dilemma. “I am okay if it leads to a debate on the issue because in Palestine and South Africa we have seen teenagers fighting for independence. In the U.K. you can get into a consensual physical relationship at 16. Then why can’t you fight for your country? And the socio-political climate of the country is once again ripe for the young minds to take charge of the situation. I hope the 50 children of Chittagong will prove an inspiration.”

I hope the 50 children of Chittagong will prove

an inspiration.