30 Jul 2015,03:36 IST
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Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey review: A restless watch
Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey
Ashutosh Gowariker
Ashutosh Gowariker, Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Se, Manini Chatterjee, Chittagong Uprising, Abhishek Bachchan, Deepika Padukone
Sonia Chopra

Ashutosh Gowariker's first tryst with a story around a patriotic theme worked: Lagaan was at once riveting and moving.

The issue with Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Se, that tells the true story of the 1930 Chittagong uprising, is that it fails to grasp your attention or convince you to invest our emotions. Which is a shame considering the potential of this story that's unique in so many ways and encapsulates a range of developments.

The film is based on Manini Chatterjee's book Do and Die: The Chittagong Uprising 1930 - 1934.

Abhishek Bachchan plays Surjya Sen, a schoolteacher and revolutionary. Having kept the non-violence pact for a year under the instructions of Mahatma Gandhi, Sen is now thirsting for more direct means to drive the British out.

He has an idea and needs a small army of fearless soldiers. Enter a group of teenagers who want to enlist Sen's help in freeing their football ground that has been taken over by the British.

'You take the country, we'll take our playground,' they say innocently to Sen who is impressed by their jest.

This drive to free their football field spreads over to love for country, and Sen now has a dedicated team, some as young as 13. They find two new soldiers in the form of Kalpana Dutta (Deepika Padukone) and Pritilata (Vishakha Singh) who strive to impress Sen so he may include them in the plan.

They arrive at a strategy to attack several British outposts simultaneously; the film then trails how they go about executing this near-impossible plan.

It pains one to say this, but the film makes for a restless watch. Most of it is due to the languorous storytelling. Producer-writer-director Ashutosh Gowariker is known to spread out his film in a three-hour plus mould, and this one is perhaps a half-hour shorter. But it needed to be far more concise.

Take for example the scene where the team is requested for contributions; We have repeated and extended explanations of how they procured the money, how this one stole, and that one put in the jewels etcetera.

There are cliched portions that jar. The romance developing between Surjya and Kalpana is unnecessary (through hidden glances while a romantic song blares). Then there is the shot of the revolutionaries, all dressed in white, running toward the camera in slow-mo. Another has a female revolutionary taking the lead, with the camera panning to a goddess' photo for good measure.

The emotionally-manipulative strategies, like a couple discussing their future and the tragedy that follows is a put-off. Similarly, there�s the scene of a frightened teen who gets caught in a cross fire.

The courtroom scene with the judge talking in English and Abhishek replying in Hindi, translating the question in Hindi as well, is disappointing.

Gowariker has enthralled us with films like Lagaan, Swadesh and Jodhaa Akbar. Even last year�s What�s Your Raashee had its moments.

One misses Gowariker's ability of telling a relevant story without saddling the audience with a preachy or historical lesson.

Abhishek gives a restrained rendering of the freedom-fighter but doesn't entirely communicate the freedom fighter's fiery passion. Deepika Padukone has a restricted role, but shines within the limited screen time.

The supporting cast is superlative, including the teenagers. Art direction by Nitin Desai is flawless, transporting you to that era instantly.

The teens and the women, many belonging to wealthy families, shedding their sheltered lives to join the revolution is touching. You feel extremely emotional and patriotic as the end credits roll and you see the real faces of the revolutionaries.

The film inspires you to Google search the Chittagong Uprising and find out more about freedom fighters like Sujya Sen and Kalpana Dutta. You do feel a sense of awe at their zeal and commitment to the country, wondering how this generation would measure up if faced with such a challenge.

If only, the film was as moving as the story itself. Now, that would be a film one would wholeheartedly and unabashedly recommend.

Verdict: 2.5 stars

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