Cast: Indraneil Sengupta, Raima Sen, Pavan Malhotra, Riddhi Sen, Rucha Inamdar, Tillotama Shome, Victor Bannerjee, Farooque Shaikh, Joy Sengupta
Director : Mrityunjay Devvrat
IE Rating: * 1/2
Countries born out of war and genocide carry the scars in the memories of those who were there, and those who paused to listen. Bangladesh came into being in 1971, amidst large scale violence. ‘Children Of War’ attempts to recreate that terrifying, tumultuous time through personalized stories of the victims and aggressors. The ambition is evident, but the execution is less than satisfying.
A young brother and sister are the only inhabitants left in a village which has been attacked and left for dead by Pakistani soldiers. A journalist and his wife are torn asunder , with him having to make his way to temporary safety, and her being captured and shoved into a camp with other young women. A compassionate old man is trying to lead what is left of his people to safety. A rebel leader and his armed group are fighting the good fight, for independence.
These strands would have had more heft if more attention has been paid to detailing the big picture. But all mention of the outside is done in a cursory manner. The rebel leader ( Farooque Shaikh, that most gentlemanly of actors, miscast : he is made to slap and menace people) throws away a line about ‘Yahya and Bhutto’. There’s a fleeting reference to the `Indian’ intervention, and the rebel forces of the ‘Mukti Vahini’ , and a brief grab of Indira Gandhi, then Indian prime minister.
In the absence of that crucial superstructure, the film becomes overwrought. And literal : you see blood gushing in the drains for far too long. The camera lingers on the bodies of the dead and the dying, and the violence feels gratuitous. A human bomb, played by Shome, stretches credulity. The story of the scribe ( Indraneil) who is forced into swapping his pen for a gun, and his pretty wife ( Raima), incarcerated in a ‘rape camp’, has some chilling moments, but the impact is dulled by the rest of it.
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The brutality, generated by a Pakistani armyman ( Malhotra, over-the-top), is so relentless that you zone out : he and his men systematically set about raping the women over and over again in the hope of impregnating them, because those would be the children- of war– that would belong to both East and West Pakistan, not Bangladesh.
This is true. This happened. And is still happening in other parts of the world. This is what Boko Haram is doing, even as we speak, to humiliate and subjugate a people by ravaging its children and women.
There should have been more history and more competence in ‘Children Of War’ for it to be the film it had set out to be.