Chittagong, in Hindi? (when Surjo Shen became Surya Sen)

(aka when surjo shen became surya sen) Looking forward to Bedabrata Pain’s film, but one khotka… according to the film’s trailer, the legendary anti-British rebellion of Chittagong is staged in Hindi, not Bangla…

26 thoughts on “Chittagong, in Hindi? (when Surjo Shen became Surya Sen)

  1. While I do get what you are saying, it is a product for a Hindi audience. It is as absurd as any film made in English made about Jesus, Noah, Moses, etc. Also, important to remember that Bangla would be as absurd. Chatgaiyan would be it.

      1. Neither am I. He possibly did. Surely most protagonists of the area did. They might have known ‘Standard Bangla’ but that is another matter.

    1. Right. So when the inevitable depiction of Bangla bhai comes to bollywood we should expect him to speak bangla but rab members to speak Hindi. Perfectly understood. 🙂

      1. Hollywood films showing European (not British) peasantry over the ages typically has them speaking in a cockney accent. Les Miserables, A Tale of Two Cities. Anything featuring Roman slaves. While the aristocracy in any country is straight out of the way we think Shakespeare spoke but actually didn’t. No-one would watch if they spoke regional sub-dialects with subtitles and they would be inaccurate and impossible to recreate anyway.

        If Bangla Bhai comes to Bollywood (why is this inevitable by the way?), he will speak heavily Urdu-cized Hindi and he will say inshallah and mashallah an inordinate number of times.

        I’m guessing, like DEVDAS and KHELEIN HUM JEE JAAN SE before it, CHITTAGONG characters who are very obviously Bengali babus (look at their clothes even in the trailer) will speak a very sanskritized Hindi peppered with “oof” and “jaani na” and “baba re baba”. The target audience will get it.

        No (purbo) bongo-dokhol conspiracy going on here.

      2. And the female characters like Pritilata would say Ishhh and Shotti a lot.

        Now, Udayan bhai, will you join me in protesting the Hindustani assault on Bengali manhood that was SRK’s Devdas? Surely every Bengali man — irrespective of religion, politics, nationality, education — has gone through a Debodash phase where he doesn’t shave for a few days, looks up at the ceiling, and pines for the girl who refuses to acknowledge his existence? Surely every Bengali man knows what it means to have a Debdash marka chehara. And the clean shaved Shah Rukh Khan wasn’t it!

        Think about it man, Purbo and Paschim, Atlantic and Pacific, Hindu and Muslim, join together against the Bollywood dominated by North Indian Khans and their hegemony capital…. Forget Mujib-Bose-Sen-Tagore, Debdash is our true hero!

      3. Inevitable was a comic flourish.

        Conspiracy is a strawman argument though. Larger point about hegemony and linguistics being made here and has obviously hit a nerve in both purbo and poshchim. Smaller point about the stylization of liberation narratives on both sides of the border. No argument at all about bongo dokhol.

        P.s. has not been purbo bongo since 1971 just in case you didn’t get the memo.

      4. Purbo bongo and the Republic of Bangladesh are not the same thing. The latter includes Sylhet, Parbotyo Chattogram, hardly purbo bongo. The earlier is a ethno-geographical entity and the other one is a state which includes much of that ethno-geographical entity. So Purbo Bongo exists and so does the Republic of Bangladesh. The Republic of Bangladesh of 1971 vintage again is different from the ‘Bangladesh’ that occurs in the literary and colloquial ideas among many Bengalis. A state tries hard but cannot limit imaginations and interpretation, or legacies for that matter.

      5. @Purboposchim, no raw nerves hit here.

        But I still don’t see how the post is a point about “hegemony and linguistics” or “the stylization of liberation narratives on both sides of the border”. Does this movie make a sincere attempt or is it deliberately or callously disrespectful in some way? Are we critiquing the manner of presentation having seen the movie, or just reacting to the fact of it?

        Why must Bollywood tread on egg shells on anything Bengal? And what of the possiblity that this presentation may be actually be a good thing, taking an almost forgotten (outside of Bengal) piece of history to a huge and broader audience?

        How strong is the link between the Chittagong rebellion and the liberation narrative on the other side of the border? These guys weren’t fighting for an independent Bengal or a Muslim homeland or anything combining elements of both. Though they would probably cringe at the thought, Bollywood is a very legitimate inheritor of the legacy they left behind.

        And, finally, as Billy Joel might have said, she’ll always be Purbo Bongo to me. And that’s said with much pride, affection and respect. But that’s a whole different topic.

      6. Leaving aside the Bollywood historiography for facetious comments about Devdas, let me note the imagination of Purbo Bongo that both of you (Udayan and Hajarduari) refer to. Of course you’re fully entitled to your imagination. And of course I respect that. But as a friend (to Udayan) and a reader (of Hajarduari), let me sound a cautionary note. The Purbo Bongo you might imagine does not exist any more (if it ever existed at all). Just like the unrequited/unfulfilled loves of Devdas led to a tragic end, imagination too detached from reality might also lead to heart break.

      7. @ jrahman, thanks for the caution, but if you see, what I have mentioned is factual and not opinion. One can be cautioned about holding erroneous or absurd opinions, but the fact that ethno-geographical regions and mishmash nation-state are not co-terminal is hardly an opinion. I may not have fully appreciated what about my point you critiqued, so would like to know what the caution was about. The ‘imagination’ of PurboBongo is as imaginary as mentioning a region’s factual geography, irrespective of which state/government/power holds sway at a given point of time with whatever set of foundation myths. If anything, states are imaginary and transient, geography less so. It is in this ethno-geographical sense, CHT and Sylhet are ‘Bangladesh’ but hardly ‘Purbo Bongo’. The imaginations I mention are around Bangladesh, a term older than 1971 and a term which means different things to different people, with the 1971 state being the most restricted among those meanings.

      8. @Purboposchim @Jyoti, to be clear, we may be talking about two different things on the Pubro Bongo vs Bangladesh point. As I used the term here, I meant “Purbo bongo” on geographical terms akin to saying, say, “Southern Africa” – which one might have said about Rhodesia and might still say about Zimbabwe, and which doesn’t gloss over the changes leading to the official name change of a very specific entity. I don’t for one minute imagine Purbo Bongo to be a contemporary entity – my rural retreat where I can go and sit on the ferry boat listening to the farmers singing while I dream of what I will do with the earnings from my jomidari. But I recognize the part Purbo Bongo has played in the evolution of whatever “Bengali” means to me. Which may mean something completely different to you.

        But, the Chittagong rebellion – a “beloved” piece of history as Purboposchim says, is as detached from the reality of the modern day Peoples Republic of Bangladesh as “Purbo Bongo” is There is some overlap. Just like “Bangladesh” overlaps with – or is a subset of – Nazrul’s “Bangla Desh”, but is not the same thing. Or with Tagore’s “Sonar Bangla”. Wait a minute. Isn’t that some kind of official symbol of the Peoples Republic of Bangladesh? And isn’t Nazrul held up as some kind of official representative even though he ground to a halt in the 1940s? Hmm. Perhaps others are confused about the overlap and appropriating legacies that belong to entities broader or less clearly defined than what they want to hold up as proof of distinctiveness. Or at least inconsistent. Jyoti, isn’t this also a point about “imagination detached from reality”?

  2. I simply don’t understand the purpose of this post.

    What do you mean by “inversion” of history?

    Where is it CLAIMED that these people spoke Bollywood Hindi (a language that, incidentally, very few people in India speak) in their lives back then?

  3. It’s irrational to expect historical films to be made based on the actual language of the time and place, more logical in terms of reach and marketability for the film to be made keeping the viewers’ needs in mind. Bollywood Hindi is accepted quite widely, so why not! Of course many audiences will end up thinking that Chittagong is still part of India, which is a shame.
    Even more a shame that many Chittagonians claim that Chattgaiya is a separate language altogether instead of a dialect of Bangla. Regiolectic nationalism… sigh!

  4. @udayans last comment. The post itself does not say all that but surely that’s where my comments were coming from.

    Not doubting that this will bring a beloved piece of history to a broader audience for which I am grateful. But with every development comes costs and it is my nature to point these out. Call it a gandhian skepticism for development.

    Eggshells when it comes to Bengal? I thought they just ran roughshod over your side of it. Apologies for trying to ensure they don’t do he same on this side.

    Lastly your choice of billy Joel is apt. I think west Bengali attitudes towards Bangladesh are about as developed as billy Joel’s towards women. Which is to say stuck somewhere in the seventies convinced of its own liberal leanings. Virginia’s all grown up now and possibly turned off men forever.

  5. murgir dim othoba ghorar dim, jeitai hok na keno… moin u shaheb er tulona hoyna, india theika ghora aina ador koira dim paraiya kotona kahini, tobuo kotona opobad ar akkhep

    ar akhon choltese ‘sahco/shako’ (the bridge) by abul shaheb, swear on god that i trust him as true patriot. ar shuronjit shaheb o bujhaitey parlen na desher jonogon k shoto training dia je, “hay hay pagla, shako larais na”

    asholey amra desh er jonogon e faltu type er abool. akhono shadhin desh er www tey onader 14 generation uddhar kortesi load shedding er majhe majhe. bnp er oi montrir ‘khamba’ company er akhon dorkar to enlighten desh o jati

  6. Udayan (and Hajarduar), yes perhaps I was overinterpreting what you said. Insofaras you’re using a noun to describe a geographic region without attributing any political imagination, it’s without risk to anyone. Of course, I am all for political imagination of all sorts. The thing is, those imaginations come with risks. Purboposchim mentions Virginia being grown up and possibly being turned off men. I mentioned Devdas. Surely you guys can imagine the political risks behind these. 🙂

    On the substance of the post, by the way, I agree with both of you. It’s an Indian movie made in Bollywood with Indian money and stars. Why would anyone expect it to be not in Hindi?

    If I had money or talent, I would make Chader Pahar, and I would do so in Bollywood too, with a Hindi speaking Shankar from ‘Purba Banga’. Why? Because Dhallywood is simply not up to the task, and if I had to go foreign, I’d go to the real thing.

  7. I feel it is a bit condescending to think people living in Chittagong will only speak chittagonian dialect. Chittagonian is not a language, it’s a dialect. Surya sen belongs to educated society of Chittagong town who speak very correct Bangla among themselves. I spent 10 years on my prime youth in that city and visited every year since childhood. My friend and ex room mate hails from same locality is surya sen. Impeccable Bangla they speak at home. Another classmate of mine, perfect language. She is somehow related to Surja Sen.

    1. If people ( even erroneously) think people speaking in Chittagong speak Chittagonian, why is it condescending? Please explain. I am curious.

      About your assertion of Chittagonian being a dialect and not a language, unfortunately linguists do not agree with you. It even has a Language code that is separate from Bangla. For more, see here ( ) . Bengali chauvinists at one point even used to say that Axomia is Bengali dialect. I am glad Axomias dont suffer such BS silently now.

      I do not know what is ‘impeccable Bangla’ mate, but I reckon Surja Sen died about 80 years ago – places change, demographics also changes, and so does languages, given how inextricably it is related to power dispensation and national myths.

      1. Hajarduar,
        When you start referring to Wikipedia to make your point, your exposé your intellectual class. Unfortunately I am unable to respond to this sort of rhetoric. Sorry.

      1. Apparently, it is not even when there is information in there which has links to outside documents. I approach a debate to learn, not to win ( win what, continued ignorance?) . So yes, irrespective of Wiki, Chittagonian is a separate language, and veracity of Wikipedia in some eyes does not change that.

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