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regular-article-logo Thursday, 23 May 2024

Bagha Jatin: Dev is a larger-than-life hero in this flawed but earnest biopic

Directed by Arun Roy, the historical drama features Sudipta Chakraborty, Sreeja Dutta and Carl Andrew Harte in key roles

Agnivo Niyogi Calcutta Published 19.10.23, 04:27 PM
Dev in and as Bagha Jatin

Dev in and as Bagha Jatin Twitter

In his second biopic outing Bagha Jatin (Dhrubo Banerjee’s Golondaaj where he played footballer Nagendra Prasad Sarbadhikari was his first), Dev leaves a mark as a freedom fighter with legendary courage.

Set in the decade from 1905 to 1915, the film begins with Lord Curzon’s momentous decision to divide Bengal along religious lines. The decision is met with widespread protests and many underground groups rise up to fight and evict the tyrannical colonisers. One such group, Jugantor, is led by Jatindranath Mukherjee aka Bagha Jatin (Dev), an officer in the government’s finance department.

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When Khudiram Bose (Samiul Alam), a young revolutionary, accidentally kills a British lady during an attempt on the life of Kingsford, the Calcutta Presidency Magistrate, the Crown sends in a ruthless officer, Charles Tegart (Carl Andrew Harte), to crush the Indian freedom movement. The British forces are on Bagha Jatin’s tail but he manages to outsmart them.

Meanwhile, the prospect of a world war looms large. Germany is willing to help India fight Britain. Russia’s Bolshevik Party is also ready to help Indian revolutionaries monetarily. Bagha Jatin draws up a plan to get arms from Germany and gold from Russia. The consignment is scheduled to arrive at the Balasore port in Odisha, but Tegart gets wind of Bagha Jatin’s plans and surrounds him at Buribalam.

Arun Roy’s film is occasionally loud, is too long and certain sections drag on unnecessarily. It also does not delve into Bagha Jatin’s personal life and the emotional toll the freedom struggle takes on him. Furthermore, a comprehensive historical context in which the incidents pan out would have enriched the audience’s understanding of the intricacies of the era.

But given that historical biopics are rare in Bengali cinema, this film stands out as a brave effort. Its strength lies in instilling a patriotic fervour that transcends faith, caste and creed. The anger and contempt the revolutionaries felt for the British rulers strikes a chord with the audience.

One of the notable features of the film are the action sequences which serve to showcase the fearless warrior that Jatindranath Mukherjee was. The intense fight scenes are well-choreographed, and Dev’s dedication to embodying the physicality and courage of the character shines through. The final battle between Bagha Jatin and the British forces at Buribalam is heart-wrenching.

Dev transitions from an idealistic revolutionary who fights from the shadows to a seasoned freedom fighter with minor lapses only. The supporting cast that includes an array of young actors — Shoaib Kabeer, Rohaan Bhattacharjee, Kolaj Sengupta, Abhirup Chowdhury and Anirban Paitandi to name a few — make Bagha Jatin’s revolutionary group look quite convincing.

Sudipta Chakraborty’s screen presence is felt as Jatindranath’s elder sister who stands by him like a rock, while Sreeja Dutta is impressive in her short stint as Jatindranath’s wife Indubala. And as the ruthless British officer Charles Tegart, Carl Andrew Harte is a scene-stealer.

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