The first part of KHJJS (Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey) will make you feel nostalgic. Not because you were a part of the freedom struggle but because you've either participated or witnessed a school skit. Yes! Mr Gowarikar's depiction of 1930 Chottogram (Chittagong) finds everyone excited to get on with this historical costume drama. And the costumes are well researched too.
Only problem, some of the characters seem like perfect misfits in their freedom fighting avatars. Best example, Sikander Kher (Nirmal Sen) who could pass for a Juhu brat in soiled Khadis (can't bring about a revolution in clean kurtas no?). You can imagine, the minute the director calls for a break, he would slip on his aviators and sip on his low-cal cola. It's like casting Antonio Banderas to play a rickshaw driver. Then you have the stunning Deepika Padukone (Kalpana Dutta), who tries hard but fails to de-glam herself. Even in her rural garb, one can't miss her perfectly drawn eyes that seek your undivided attention everytime she walks into the frame. We bet there will be a cosmetic brand trying to sell this look soon.
But overlook these minor misplacements and the film has enough bang for your buck (bang being an operative word here). If you remember your history or if you've read Manini Chatterjee's book "Do and Die", there would be very few surprises. Surjya Sen (Abhishek Bachchan), part-time teacher, full-time revolutionary, spends the first half of the movie recruiting and then training his group of radicals (who range from early teens to mid-twenties). The kids get recruited when they approach Surjya-da (Bengali pronunciation- Shooorjo-da) to help reinstate their football playing ground which had become a camping site for the British army. After a conviction check (a cocky interview where each kid is asked questions like why he wants to join and can he part with his life for the cause), everyone's on board, irrespective of their response. The team is also joined by Kalpana Dutta (Deepika) and Pritilata Waddedar (Vishakha Singh) who feel for the cause just as strongly, while Pritilata feels for Nirmal Sen too. The women prove their mettle by procuring a map of the British cantonment in Chottogram.
The movie picks up dramatically as the kids are taken through artillery and combat training (accompanied by a pumping patriotic score), as their seniors plot a complex five-part attack to be executed simultaneously. Now, if you're faint-hearted or don't enjoy the sound of gun fire, this is not your film. Because every bullet fired (and there are countless) reverberates around the movie hall to finally seek refuge in your ear lobes. Long live Dolby Digital!
The screenplay for the second half is tight and the back-to-back attacks, counter-attacks, chase sequences etc manage to evoke much excitement. Apart from the trigger-happy scenes, the strategic techniques employed to outwit the Brits are ingenious and make for an interesting watch. It does get uncomfortable when Surjya Sen eventually loses one comrade after the other and you feel his frustration, yet commend his determined focus towards his motive. You're gripped as he dodges bullets and spots the bull's eye every time around. And finally when he's caught and convicted to be hanged, the final assault on him in the cell is too graphic to be mentioned here.
Entirely shot in Sawantvadi, the glorious Malvan coastline is picturised like a painting to suit the 1930's port of Bengal.
The movie scores for its thrills and makes for a fitting tribute to one of the most explosive events in India's freedom struggle. An emotional parting thought while exiting the movie, is that our freedom struggle consumed mostly Indians. Be it the revolutionaries or the troops in the British army.
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