Atrocities on women has been around since the time of human civilization but what happened during Bangladesh’s fight for independence will be remembered for the sheer grotesque scale and unheard of before cruelty. Pakistan army led by Gen. Tikka Khan tried to sprawl up a generation of their own kind by raping women and forcing them to conceive. Khan was a four star General who himself had a large family which interestingly included women. By the time, Bangladesh became a free nation, thousands had perished and even more were stripped violently off their dignity and used as mere vessels where into incubate life that was forced on them. Women aged between 10-35 years bore the brunt of the assault. Having said that, people right and left to those numbers were not spared either.
Children Of War (rechristened from “The Bastard Child”) tries to give us a guided tour through this horrific time period depicting key events and taking a look at the time through the eyes of an ensemble cast of fictitious characters. The film is a combination of four stories. Amir (Indraneil Sengupta) and Fida (Raima Sen) are a happily married couple whose life is wrecked one night when the Gen. Malik (Pavan Malhotra) enters their home and rapes Fida in front of her husband and kidnaps her. She is brought into one of the prisoners of war camp where Bangladeshi women are being raped methodically by Pakistani officers to bear Pakistani offsprings.
Amir who is distraught at the loss, is in search of his wife and meets the revolutionary Mojid (Farooq Shaikh) and gradually turns into a revolutionary. Mojid is a revolutionary leader who is looking to get back at the Pakistani army for their atrocities. Apart from these, there are two more stories involving a brother and a sister who are trying to cross their way into India and an old man played by Victor Banerjee, who is trying to save his fellow villagers. As the film progresses these characters crisscross each other’s path leading to some interesting results and drama. By the time the film culminates each of the stories reaches its pinnacle and either leaves you distraught or just gives you that glimmer of a hope of that somewhat happy future that was to follow.
The film starts off and proceeds taking for granted certain facts like what the Bangladesh war is all about, who certain key characters like Yahya Khan, Butto and Indira Gandhi are, what was Mukti Bahini etc etc etc. For those who are aware of these details, the film will be engrossing right from the start but for those who are not familiar with these details, the film would provide an initial roadblock which the viewers might not exactly recover from. The film’s pace is slow and some may even find a quarrel with that. Each of the stories are carefully thought but the performances in some of them leaves something to be desired. I really liked Raima Sen’s part who is completely believable as the distraught wife of a journalist who is subjugated to the worst torture known to women. She is not only believable but heart wrenchingly effective.
However the same cannot be said about Farooq Shaikh. The veteran actor may have essayed his role with swagger but he is not exactly the part that he is playing. I found his act unconvincing at many junctures which really let loose a lot of steam. Following him closely was Victor Banerjee for whom there was absolutely no feel for the part. Pavan Malhotra on the other hand is terrific as the General. His character was modeled on the real life General Tikka Khan and he not only does complete justice to his role but will make you hate him at many junctures. Indraneil Sengupta is effective in many sequences and then falls flat in some others. His essay is effected by variations in quality but in his scenes with himself, he excels. His final scene with Raima is beautifully envisioned.
The film’s music is beautiful. The song which plays when the passage of time is shown as Fida spends her days at the camp while Amir tries to track her done really gets to your heart. The film’s editing could have been tighter which would have compounded its effect but the editor takes a leisurely pace to the scheme of things which at many points hinders the pace and effectiveness of the film. The visuals are in keeping with the story, period and mood of the film and is done well. Overall, Children Of War is a worthy watch. Sans a few bumpers, the film remains on track for most of the time and will also enlighten you on a dark chapter of world history. Watch it for the story that it has to tell.