How's my Luck now?

Reflections, views and descriptions during my stay at IIM Lucknow from July 2004 to March 2006

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Location: India

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

'Bose: the Forgotten Hero'

This weekend, I watched this latest Shyam Benegal film. And to my friends' and my own great surprise and consternation, we found it a very badly made film, going by Benegal's standards.

Documenting the life of Subhash Chandra Bose from a 1939 Congress meeting in Tripura to the plane crash over Formosa after which Bose remained untraceable, the film makes Bose look more like a diplomat and a political craftsman than a brave, practical, action-oriented man that I had a view of. It does bring out the major tragedy of Bose's mission - being tossed about amid larger geopolitical interests by the Russians, the Italians, the Germans and then the Japanese. But it does so while carrying a lot of useless baggage (the film is 3.5 hours long, with the intermission coming after 2.5 hours!).

The film starts off quite well, and Bose's escape from Calcutta to Germany through Kabul is engrossing, and brings out Bose's character well. But then onwards, things start to go downhill. His stay in Germany, his marriage (contested in court currently), his escape to Indonesia when Hitler declares war on Russia, his setting up of INA and then leading it into India through Manipur are all filled with scenes which could easily have been cut, dialogues that could have been much more meaty.

The casting for the film is horrid. Only a few people in the cast do well. Sachin Khedekar as Bose puts in his best effort but the situations sought to be depicted (like his marriage with Emilie Schenkl, having khichadi in a German U-Boat, having food at a pathan's dhaba in Kabul in disguise hearing them praise him) and the empty, rhetoric-filled dialogues don't help him. Rajit Kapoor is so-so as Abid Hasan, Bose's lieutenant. Rajeshwari Sachdev just doesn't wash as Captain Laxmi Vishwanathan (who later became Laxmi Sehgal). Actors playing Gandhiji and Hitler for one scene each are unintentionally comic, as is the actress playing Schenkl. Kulbhushan Kharbanda and Ila Arun as the Punjabi couple in Kabul are quite good, but their role gets too much exposure. A. R. Rahman's music is quite good, with a good song developed from the Tagore refrain of 'ekla cholo re', sung well by Sonu Nigam, and a good qawwali sung by Rahman himself.

Overall, one has come to expect a much better job of film-making from Benegal and one is really disappointed in this film.

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