ON TRAVELLING through Gandhi Peth in Chinchwad, one comes across the Ram Temple. Right opposite to the temple stands Chapekar Wada, the structure where once the three Chapekar brothers — Damodar, Balkrishna and Vasudeo Chapekar – resided.
For city residents, the brothers—revolutionaries who assassinated WC Rand, the British plague commissioner of Pune on June 22, 1897—are heroes and this is evident from the high footfall to the Chapekar Wada, which was converted into a museum over a decade ago. And now, once again bringing the spotlight on the trio, Chapekar Brothers, is set for release on September 16, chronicling the trio’s lives, ideologies and the cause they fought for.
Mumbai-based Dhiraj Mishra, writer of the film, said “The first time I got to know about the brothers was through my grandmother. In 2013, after doing my homework, I began writing the story but by next year, I felt something was missing in it. That’s when I decided to visit Pune.” In Pune, Mishra met Girish Prabhune who is associated with the Chapekar Wada since last four decades. He also visited Tilak Wada and met the Tilaks who shared many Marathi books on the Chapekar Brothers.
At Yerawada Jail, he found the autobiographies of the trio, which they had written when they were prisoned at the Yerawada Jail. Shot 25 kms away from Pune in Amreshwar, the film is directed by Devender Kumar Pandey, produced by Ghanshyam Patel and stars Abhijit Bhagat, Sanjeet Dhuri and Manoj Bhatt in lead roles.
“After reading books given by the Tilaks and the autobiographies, I felt I came to know the three brothers more closely,” said Mishra. The film is set in 1857, when the Britishers had taken the stand of not recruiting brahmins in their military force to avoid agitation. This had filled the young men with anger and frustration, and the Chapekar brothers were no exception. One day, the brothers visited Tilak Wada, when Tilak was busy addressing a crowd. They told him that they wished to talk to him for two minutes. To which, Tilak replied, ‘Whatever you want to say, say it on this stage’,” he said. The trio read out a poem in Marathi that depicted their anger towards the British government. After reading the poem, they asked Tilak ‘Doesn’t your blood boil by seeing all this and don’t you want to do anything?’. Tilak replied, “You are also part of this country, why don’t you do something.”
Tilak’s words moved the brothers who started Chapekar Club, which invited young men as members to fight British atrocities. Within three months, the club attracted 600 members. The men would gather on an open ground behind Parvati and train in sword fighting, firing a pistor/gun, stick fights etc.
In 1896, Pune was hit by plague and by 1897, the epidemic spread further. A special plague committee was formed and Commissioner WC Rand was made in-charge. “The books say that Rand hated Indians and he and his men would torture Indians. Every family that had a plague patient, was asked to leave the house. People got so scared that even if a family member died, they would keep the dead body at home for days. The records say that during this time, his men would forcefully enter houses. Women were raped by British Armymen; many women committed suicide. All this angered Chapekar brothers, who decided to murder Rand,” said Mishra.
On June 22, 1897, Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee celebrations were underway in the Government House in Ganesh Khind. When Rand’s carriage came out of the Government House at midnight, Damodar shot Rand at point-blank range. Another officer, Lt. Ayerst, was shot by Balkrishna. Damodar was arrested in October; he later died on the gallows on April 18, 1898. Vasudeo and Balkrishna were hanged on May 8 and May 12, 1899 respectively.
In 1972, Prabhune established Chapekar Samiti, which runs Gurukul School that follows traditional Indian system of teaching. “Every year, on their death anniversaries, a march is organised in Chinchwad in which hundreds of people participate,” added Prabhune.