It took Manini Chatterjee an inordinately long period of research to set a record straight an event that never got upgraded in school textbooks from the status of an armoury raid to the popular anti-colonial uprising that it really was. The Chittagong Uprising of 1930-34 has never been hailed as the important event that it was. It shook the very foundations of the British administration, says Manini Chatterjee.
Her 1999 book, Do and Die, was an attempt to present one of the first comprehensive accounts of the uprising. In the pages of history, the revolutionary movements in Bengal, seem to have been completely overshadowed by the non-violent freedom movement led by the Congress under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi.
Unfortunately, admits the writer, the book didnt quite manage to bring about the change in perception she had hoped for. It was well-received by historians and book lovers, but it was definitely not a bestseller, she confesses.
But can you ignore a noble effort for long Do and Die comes to the forefront in all Bollywood glory, thanks to Ashustosh Gowarikers decision to adapt the book into a full-fledged film. Ashutosh came to me right after Lagaan, showing a keen interest in the film. Eventually he got busy with Swades and Jodhaa Akbar and I thought he had forgotten all about the project, says Chatterjee.
A phone call from Ashutosh Gowarikers office earlier this year rested her doubts. He wanted the rights to the book and asked me to join his research team, she informs. Needless to say, Chatterjee was excited. I admire Gowarikers integrity. I have seen only three films of his, Swades, Lagaan and Jodhaa Akbar, and his honesty as a filmmaker shines through in these efforts, says Chatterjee.
Interestingly, this is not the first time Chatterjee was approached by a filmmaker to adapt her work. Right after the book released, she got calls from Shekhar Kaurs office. In fact, it was Shekhar Kapur who recommended the book to Gowariker, informs Chatterjee.
And contrary to popular belief, the book is not Surya Sens biography. My book is as much about the young teenagers who were involved in the Chittagong attack, as it is about Sen. In fact, there are more than twenty important characters in it, she says. Which is why she feels that young acting talents from Bengal should feel encouraged.
In many ways its like Lagaan, it will require a lot of raw talent, she adds. And does she have a favourite for Surya Sens role I think it will be very unfair to interfere with the directors vision, she says.
Having granted Gowariker his vision, Chatterjee has only one wish. I hope the film does what the book couldnt. Reach out to as many people as possible.