Jaya Biswas


Film: Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey
Director: Ashutosh Gowariker
Cast: Abhishek Bachchan, Deepika Padukone, Sikandar Kher
Rating: Good

As the film starts rolling, one wonders — is it going to be yet another Lagaan. But soon, you are eased of any doubt as the lush greeneries, village roads; rivers and ‘a football ground with kids playing’ draw your attention.
In Ashutosh Gowariker’s latest offering, Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey (KHJJS), it is the story that plays a significant role. Few of us may know of Surjya Sen – the protagonist – like we are aware of, say, Netaji Bose or Bhagat Singh. History books rarely mention in detail about the Chittagong Uprising, which took place under the leadership of Surjya Sen, a schoolteacher by profession lovingly called Masterda.
This time around, Ashutosh borrows his story from the events narrated in Manini Chatterjee’s book, Do And Die: The Chittagong Uprising 1930-34.
Now the plot: Surjya Sen (Abhishek) is fighting the freedom struggle along with his associates Nirmal (Sikander), Kalpana (Deepika) and Pritilata (newcomer Vishakha Singh) and others. However, with most of his other fellowmen in jail, he turns to a group of teenagers who want to do their bit against the British Empire. Impressed with their zeal and desire to fight for the country, Sen trains the teenagers in combat and weaponry. With help from his revolutionary friends, Sen plans an attack on five locations that are of importance to the Empire on one single night. The film chronicles the preparation that went into the execution of the attacks and the aftermath.
Full credit goes to art director Nitin Chandrakant Desai who has managed to recreate the era with perfect ease. The awesome sets come alive in the plot.
 The film’s highpoints, though, are the kids. Each and every one of them enthuses life in characters, creating an immediate connect with the audience. You smile when they are happy and feel their anguish and exasperation. You have to watch the kids discuss the meaning of Vande Mataram; it’s heartwarming.
Abhishek does his part well as Masterda. Though he plays the character to the tee in the last sequence (just before he is hung in the film) somewhere the actor falls short of delivering the kind of performance you expect from the lead actor. Forced attempts at establishing a Bengali setup, with characters trying desperately to talk in Bengali and pronouncing words badly in places makes it almost funny.
Deepika sheds her glam look and looks every bit the character. She is confident, and doesn’t have much to do, but the actress seriously needs to do something about her diction — be it English, Hindi or Bengali. 
Sikander Kher as Nirmal Sen is impressive in several scenes and takes the cake and the icing as well in the death scene.
The film drags at a number of places, and takes a little too long to wrap up, but that goes for all Ashutosh Gowariker films, isn’t it? Also, unlike in the book, where there’s a fleeting mention about Surjya Sen and Kalpana Dutt’s romance, it has been made ‘more than subtle’ in the film. In fact, Surjya Sen makes a mention of his wife who he says died due to his mistakes, but you don’t really know what actually happened.
Overall, the film makes for a decent watch. And you can’t overlook the fact that it’s a genuine, honest effort.