It is not easy to watch Children Of War. It rattles you. And that’s where the film succeeds. It disturbs you enough to make you want to know more about the Bangladesh Liberation War while it tells you, in graphic details, how human rights were violated during those terrible nine months.
On first thought, it reminded me of films on World War 2 depicting the Nazi army and its atrocities. Evidently the carnage in Bangladesh is not any less heartrending.
Children Of War is an effort to showcase the despair that the Bangladeshi citizens went through before they achieved their freedom. The film opens with archival footage of Indira Gandhi justifying her government supporting the struggle. Her interview is cut to take the viewer right into the worst affected areas of Bangladesh.
The film is also about the want for justice. Forty years since independence, people who were sullied are still hoping that the guilty are brought to law.
The script is taken forward by concentrating on two distinct stories. First is about the journey of teenager Rafiq and his sister Kausar to escape from East Pakistan to a safer India and second about the travails of journalist Aamir and his kidnapped and raped wife Fida. Both the stories move forward with introduction of new characters and situations. Screenplay ensures that there is something hard hitting enough every few minutes to keep the viewer at the edge of his seat.
Apart from being on a killing spree, Pakitan army officials were unmistakably involved in raping women who were taken prisoners. The success of the screenplay is in displaying hope, uncertainty and rage among the citizens and the violence that they were meted out. The Pakistani army’s idea of suppression through rape will disgust you. Also a winner is the spellbinding cinematography. There are multiple rape scenes but at no point do they seem targeted at titillating the audience but completely ensuring that they evoke empathy.
Performances are pillars that help the narrative stand on and the actors do not disappoint. Indraneil Sengupta, Raima Sen, Tillotoma Shome, Victor Bannerjee and Farooque Sheikh fit into their part. Young Rhiddhi Sen makes an impact with delightful consistency.
However the biggest strength of the film turns its major weakness. The gloomy screenplay is too much to take for 162 minutes of the film. The film should have been shorter in length. This not being the case, it tends to tired you out.
Mass human right violations have not really been wiped off the face of the earth. We get to hear about new incidents every now and then. In news now, Boko Haram in Nigeria have not been particularly kind to women and children. Children Of War helps us reflect on one of the grossest violations that have ever been witnessed by humanity. More importantly the film helps understand that war for independence may have ended, but the struggle for justice has not.
Director Mritunjay Devvrat deserves accolades for managing to come up with a film like this in his debut effort. Do not watch Children of War if you are looking for a dose of entertainment. Watch it to understand what could have caused one of the world’s most painful struggles for independence.