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by Alex Deleon 



Bedabrata Pain (Bengali: বেদব্রত পাইন; born 27 March 1963, West Bengal, India) is a new Indian film director, producer and screenwriter.

Bedabrata Pain is also inventor of the CMOS image sensor.


One of the most interesting things about Chittagong, the film, is that it is the debut feature of a 49 year old director with a PhD in physics, Bedabrata Pain, who left his day job as a leading scientist for JPL (Jet Propulsion Labs in Pasadena) after a brilliant 15 year career there, to take up a new career in filmmaking at the age of 45. He started out by co-producing a film by his Bengali wife Shonali Bose, "Amu" which dealt with the government backed pogroms against Sikhs in 1984 after President Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her own Sikh bodyguards. "Amu" was shown at major festivals such as Berlin and Toronto. Now Sinhali returns the compliment by coproducing Bedabrata's maiden effort along with maverick producer/director Anarug Kashyap.


Pain's "Chittagong" is so well crafted that it's hard to believe this is a first time film by a new director, but there it is, one of the more topical films of the year.  "Chittagong" tells the story of a little known uprising against British rule by Bengali shoolboys under the leadership of a charismatic village teacher, Masterda Surya Sen. Some audacious young ladies were also involved. Generally speaking historical films relating to partition have not fared well in India.  Why such a tale is now suddenly of interest is a good question. Director Pain who is himself Bengali said that he wanted to tell a story in which the Indians come out victorious, because most historical films of the Raj colonial era tend to dwell on defeat and martyrdom. The schoolboy revolt succeeded and Chittiagong was actually liberated in 1930, if only for a single day.


At the same time he said he did not want to give viewers a history lesson, but more a sense of dramatic entertainment. In this he has more or less succeeded. Chittagong has the right mix of all the elements --action, drama, politics, romance and patriotism, convincing little-known actors, and is also a history lesson, like it or not, maybe more so than intended.  

Pain chose to shoot the film in Hindi, not the original Bengali language which was and is still spoken there. Chittagong today is not even in India, but in the Islamic state of Bangladesh next door, originally created as East Pakistan when India was partitioned in 1947.  However, choosing Hindi, the langauge of Bollywood,  automatically gives the film a national rather than a regional outreach.  Several Bollywood character actors spotted by co-producer Anurag Kashyap, notably Manoj Bajpayee, who plays the teacher, Surya Sen, in Chittagong, and ended up as Boss Sardar Khan in Wasseypur I, and Nawazuddin Siddiqui who plays his military sidekick, Nirmal Sen, in Chittagong and his weed puffing son in Wasseypur II, have now become high profile figures in what is fast becoming an independent Bollywood Nouvelle Vague ...


The other interesting thing about Chittagong, basically a straightforward historical drama, is that it lies at the center of a tempest, involving a clash between established Bollywood and the new Young Turks of off-Bollywood. The uncrowned king of this new wave of independents operating outside of the Big Banner Bollywood studios, is Anurag Kashyap, and Bedabrata Pain, along with his activist minded filmmaking wife Sonali Bose, seem to be his latest acolytes.


Brash and ballsy little king Anurag is not afraid to challenge anybody in the industry, not even the King of Kings Amitabh Bachchan. Although Big B is his avowed screen hero and was his role model growing up, Kashyap recently locked horns with Bachchan on the widely read hotlines of personal media accusing Bachchan of using his industry clout to have the release of Pain's Chittagong delayed, so that another picture on the same subject starring Bachchan's own son, Abhishek, could get a leg up in the highly competitive B-Town market.

I needs to be mentioned that Abhishek Bachchan, 36 year old son of King Amitabh, while tall dark and handsome, is no chip off the old block as an actor, and has established a career as a leading man in Bollywood largely on the strength of his illustrious family name and his marriage to fabulous Bollywood beauty Aishwarya Rai. However, his star of late has has shown signs of fading if not burning out.


The other Chittagong film in queston "Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey", (immediately dubbed KHJJS in true Bollywood  fashion) is another Hindi period piece directed by Ashutosh Gowariker, starring Abhishek Bachchan and Deepika Padukone in the lead roles, and also based squarely on the same student uprising of 1930. Deepika, 26, is like Rai another striking beauty from the south, more lauded for her looks than her acting abilities, but exceptionally popular. Gowariker is a respected mainstream Bollywood director best known for  "Lagaan" 2001, (Land Tax) which was barely nosed out for Best Foreign Film oscar that year and brought some recognition to Bollywood from out west.



Face off Between a little King and the Big King


The two films were set for release around the same time but the Gowariker version got there first by a mile while the Pain pic was held up for over a year. Reacting sharply against what he saw as undue influence by Amitabh Bachchan to hold up release of Pain's Chittagong in order to protect his son's film from being upstaged, Kashyap started posting caustic remarks on the networking sites. One of them read:
"See Chittagong, a far superior film made on the same subject as Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey.. At 1/8 th of the cost, far superior actors and immense passion... Producers decided to sit on it, because of a phone call from someone, because that someone was trying desperately to save his son's career... welcome to Bollywood, where whose son you are outshines all the hard work and passion and potential and talent. KHJJS came and went, now what?"


Well, here's what. KHJJS received some respectable reviews but flopped badly in spite of it's prestige director and bankable stars. Chittagong was voted audience favorite in Florence, but it remains to be seen what it will do elsewhere, especially now that two of its actors, Siddiqui and Bajpayee, have become overnight sensations.

On opening night at River to River when Bachchan and Kashyap shared the same stage only minutes apart, no trace of any lingering hostility was visible so the above issue seems to be closed. The festival gathering was blissfully unaware, it would seem, of the edgy relationship between the opening night guests of honor. Kashyap paid his public respects to Bachchan with very good grace and Bachchan settled down to watch Kashyap's film --at least until the part where an old movie of his is seen for a few seconds. Since Mr. B likes to move with the times it would be no great surpise if he were to be seen in a role in a forthcoming Kashyap film.  That would surely be one for the books.







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