By Daniel Nelson



Image by Shiongram

“How on earth are you going to write him out of that predicament?” asked a colleague.

The writer’s response came with the opening of the next instalment: “With one bound, our hero was free.”

There’s a moment in Shongram (Struggle) when that story comes to mind. The hero and a handful of other young Bangladeshi freedom-fighters have killed a Pakistani army commander but are surrounded by well-armed enemy soldiers who are instructed to blast our heroes to smithereens. Escape is impossible – but we know he survives because the film opens with him telling his story years later to a curious reporter.

Shongram, a violent tale of adventure and romance during the Bangladesh independence war, comes with another problem for some audiences: the lascivious, cigar-smoking Pakistani commander is, for most tastes, a cartoon villain - though the military did commit appalling atrocities and the depiction illustrates why war crimes are still such an emotive issue in Bangladesh. Similarly, the love story between Muslim boy and HinBravura du girl is so perfect it’s cloying, and the countryside and rural life a little too idyllic.

Of course, director and producer Munsur Ali needs to juxtapose the peaceful innocence of ordinary lives in order to contrast it with the horrors inflicted on it by the Pakistani army and Bengali collaborators, and to highlight the heroism with which the new nation responded.

It’s really important that the story of the independence struggle is told – at the end the director takes a dig at the wilful ignorance of the British media – and Shongram is a bravura attempt to tell it.

The film has plenty of drama and lashings of violence, but the starkness with which its goodies and baddies are painted means it cannot rise beyond adventure yarn status.

· Shongram (Struggle) will be screened at the London Indian Film Festival on 14 July, 7.30pm at Cineworld 02 and on 16 July at 8.30pm at Cineworld Shaftesbury Avenue. + Q&A with director Munsur Ali and others

+ Also showing at the Festival: 

How to make a saintly modern Indian biopic 

Girl risks everything for freedom. But there's more to this film than that

Tribute to a child star

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