The documentary film, ‘The Transformation’, which portrays the rising revolutionary fervour against British rule in early 20th century Bengal and focuses on the period of internment of Sri Aurobindo during the days of the freedom struggle, received its public hall premiere at an event hosted by the Pondicherry University recently to mark the 150th birth anniversary of the poet-philosopher and the 75th anniversary of Independence. The nearly one-hour film is co-produced by Sri Aurobindo Society (SAS) in collaboration with Kolkata Sukriti Foundation. Titled ‘The Transformation’ in English and ‘Naya Janma’ in Hindi, it depicts the 1908-1909 period when Sri Aurobindo was in jail in Alipore in erstwhile Calcutta. The following year Sri Aurobindo would arrive on the shores of then Pondicherry, which he would describe as “....a place appointed by those who are Beyond”, to pursue his spiritual goal.
Directed by documentary maker Abhijit Dasgupta, a recipient of multiple national and international awards, the film shows footage of the actual places where landmark incidents took place such as the site of the bomb burst in Muzaffarpur for which the revolutionary Khudiram Bose was hanged, the Mokama railway station where Prafulla Chaki shot himself before being caught, or the hillock where Barindra Kumar Ghose, Sri Aurobindo’s younger brother, and his associates tested a crude bomb. Rare newspapers from the British library and the National library with actual writings from Sri Aurobindo, when he was kept in solitary confinement and the Uttarpara library where he revealed his experiences form the source material of the film. Beloo Mehra, senior academic mentor, Auro Bharati at SAS, pointed out that the film revolves around the time when Sri Aurobindo was in jail in Alipore from 1908-1909. This was also the first public hall screening of the film though it was shown to a select group of SAS volunteers last month. About 300 students, faculty and scholars from various departments of the university attended the programme hosted by the School of Education, Pondicherry University. Shruti Ramteke, manager, AuroMedia, spoke about the inspiration behind the making of this film and some of its unique aspects. She added that the film has been shot at actual locations wherever possible. Vice-Chancellor Gurmeet Singh said the film carried the powerful message that all inner transformation begins with a deep resolve to dedicate one’s life for a cause much bigger than oneself. Later, addressing a Q&A with students, Ms. Mehra pointed out that the film, while presenting the one year of Sri Aurobindo’s life in jail and the deep transformation he experienced during that time, also attempts to correct the narrative about India’s freedom struggle and highlights the immense contribution made by great revolutionaries who sacrificed their lives for freedom of their motherland. She pointed to the sacrifices of people such as Prafulla Chaki, who was 18 years of age when he was hanged to death and Kanailal Dutta, who was 20 at the time of his execution. To another question, she informed that more projects focusing on Sri Aurobindo’s and the Mother’s works on education are being planned for the School of Education students. It was also suggested during the session that the film needed to be made in as many Indian language versions as possible. Amaresh Samantaraya, Registrar, Rajeev Jain, OSD, Culture and Cultural Relations, K. Chellamani, Dean, School of Education and Mumtaz Begum, Professor, were among those who participated. Poet Gayatri Majumdar also presented a copy of her edited volume ‘Home Anthology’ to the Vice-Chancellor. Copies of Sri Aurobindo’s ‘Tales of Prison Life’ were presented to the University dignitaries at the event.