Directors are usually reluctant to translate history on celluloid. They are instead inclined to offer new interpretations of history, shed light on little-known facts about their subjects, and even raise questions that were missed. On the contrary, the title of Shyam Benegal’s film- Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose – The Forgotten Hero- itself tells a story! Nobody remembers what he did, except to say that he was a great big hero. Few people remember that he challenged Gandhi, or that he was married.
The film’s narrative is brilliantly broken into three parts. These are headed under Itmad, Ittefaq and Qurbani after the motto of the Indian National Army. The film brilliantly captures the vast canvas of its history, geography and political ambience just before India’s independence from British rule. The film is the product of painstaking historical, documentary and other research that spanned 18 months. The research team explored all available material, interviewed the people alive such as Netaji’s Japanese interpreter, then in his late eighties.
The film comepletely lacks loud and bombastic rhetoric, a common feature of most nationalist and biographical films made on national heroes. Its central focus is on the man behind the hero, the human being behind the mask of the national leader, a true lover of his country dedicated to get it liberated from foreign rule. The film is characterised as much by the patriotism and hero-worship that brought young men in hundreds to join their hero, as by its documentation of history. It is the film of a journey- ideological, political, historical and personal that uncovers almost by incidence than by connivance of history, a beautiful fictionalized documentation of one of the greatest national heroes Indian has ever produced.
I give it 8/10
What about you?