'42 (1949)

 ●  Bengali ● Running Time: TBA

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Gupta’s best-known political film addresses the violent agitations against the colonial police in the Midnapore district of Bengal in late 1942. Set against the violent Quit India agitations of the 40s in Midnapore, much of the drama stems from the ambivalence of the local leadership towards Gandhian non-violence. An aged woman activist (a reference to Matangini Hazra of Midnapore) explains that Gandhi advocated non-violence but asked every woman to carry a knife as well, just in case. Ajoy, his wife Bina (Dey) and aged grandmother are fired with the ‘Karenge ya marenge’ (Do or die) zeal. Violence erupts when the village blacksmith’s daughter is killed. The blacksmith is tortured and killed by the evil army officer Major Trivedi (Bikash Roy, providing one of Bengali cinema’s most enduring images of untrammelled villainy). Bina, who becomes a courier for the terrorists, is gang-raped by the army and goes insane, whereupon the entire village rises in anger. The grandmother is shot while leading an unarmed procession. Ajoy is shot too. Finally, in a sequence evoking Eisenstein’s Bronenosets Potemkin (1925) the army refuses further orders to fire and eventually tramples over the major to join the marchers in raising the Indian tricolour. The tensely constructed and well-acted film, despite occasional hiccups in the dialogue (e.g. the major’s line in English, ‘You will be killed, killed to death’), encountered censorship problems for its potential to ‘excite passion and encourage disorder’. Banned in Bengal, MP, Assam, Bihar and Madras (although cleared in Bombay), it was eventually released, with changes, in 1951
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