January 24, 2011 (Calcutta Tube): Egaro-The Eleven is a 2011 Bengali film directed by Aron Roy starring Monu Mukherjee, Shankar Chakraborty, Rajat Ganguly, Biswajit Chakraborty, Tulika Basu, and others. The Bengali movie Egaro brings back the memory of legendary match between Mohan Bagan and East Yorkshire Regiment for the IFA Shield. A film that we all must watch.
Cast and Crew:
- Banner: Magic Hour Entertainment
- Director: Arun Roy
- Cinematography: Gopi Bhagat
- Music: Mayukh-Moinak
- Background music: Arijit Singh
- Screenplay: Dipanwita Ghosh Goswami
- Lyrics: Sumanta Chowdhury
- Editor: Sanglaap Bhowmik-Shyamal Karmakar
- Football Coach: Anilabho Chatterjee
- Cast: Monu Mukherjee, Shankar Chakraborty, Rajat Ganguly, Biswajit Chakraborty, Tulika Basu, Debaparna Chakraborty, Tamal Roychoudhury, Sunil Mukherjee, Kharaj Mukherjee, Gautam Haldar, Bhaskar Banerjee, Ranadip Bose, Hiral Das, Chandan Bhattacharjee, Daviench, Kelvin and others.
- Date of release: January 21, 2011
- Rating: 8/10
Football has rarely been a subject in Bengali cinema though it is the true-blooded Bengali’s favourite game where players are living icons holding a special place in their minds. Saheb, Mohanbaganer Meye and Dhonni MeyeEgaro, are just three films that come to mind when one links these two different genres of entertainment – football and films. In this desert, when an oasis appears in the shape and form of it is like manna from heaven. Egaro celebrates the centenary of the historical football match between Mohan Bagan and East Yorkshire Regiment for the IFA Shield where Mohan Bagan snatched the shield on 29th July 1911 during a time when India was under British Rule.
Egaro is also the first celluloid tribute to the 11 Mohan Bagan players who won the shield, ten of them playing barefoot clad in folded dhotis with just one of them, Sudhir Chatterjee, wearing boots against a team with the right kit, boots, dress, infrastructural support and the typical bias of the White rulers against the coloured Ruled. But Egaro is not just about football. It is about the patriotic passion that drove these eleven players to unite thousands of Indians from the entire Eastern regions who flocked in from Dhaka, Burdwan, Midnapore crossing barriers of caste, class, community and language to watch the players kick and beat up the British teams on the playing field without being punished by the rulers because it was ‘all in the game.’ It is about the killer spirit where the ‘killer’ took prominence not because it was a fight to finish, but because the final match was a battlefield where the winning could speed the movement against Imperial rule and towards freedom. It did, in a manner of speaking. After the historic win on January 29, 1911, the British felt pressurized enough to shift its capital from Calcutta to Delhi on December 12 the same year.
The film explores a parallel theme of an underground revolution brimming underneath following the Partition of Bengal in 1905 and the hanging of Khudiram Bose for attempting to kill Kingsford in 1908. Nagendra (Shankar Chakraborty) leads a group of young freedom fighters in a the fight to eliminate high-ranking British officers with indigenous bombs and fire-arms without harming the old, the women and the children. He castigates one of his revolutionaries, also a Mohan Bagan player, for paying more attention to football than to the revolution. But over time, he is convinced that this final match is no less than the revolution he is leading. He comes to the finals and motivates the same member he threw out to rise and play when he faints during the match felled by one of the many false kicks of the British team.
Mohan Bagan had entered the finals after having vanquished strong teams of the British side such as Rangers, St. Xaviers and Middlesex which consolidated the team’s confidence that the British teams were not as unconquerable as they thought. East Yorkshire Regiment scored one goal before half-time sending the entire audience into a tizzy and depressing the home team. But after half-time, the team scored two goals one by Captain Shibdas Bhaduri and the other by Abhilash Ghosh, a striker. The preparation towards the final match spans a major slice of the film including family and personal hurdles the team members face. Abhilash’s father does not care about his brilliant son’s involvement in a game that might anger the British rulers. Abhilash himself begins to rethink his stance because football, he feels, has reduced his duties towards those he loves. Sudhir Chatterjee, professor in a college is insulted in the staff room by his British colleagues for daring to participate in a match against a British team. The Principal suspends him indefinitely. But Shibdas is determined to win even if one or two of the team drop out at the last minute. They don’t.
Two British citizens prove that they too, are human. One of them is the match referee Puller who refuses to bend under pressure by the powers-that-be to treat the match as a ‘must-win-or-else’ ego trip against native Indians. The other is Piggot, a player of the Middlesex team who was badly injured in one eye by an inadvertent kick delivered by Abhilash. He gives Abhilash a clean chit though the officers who visit him at the hospital urge him to pronounce the Indian team player’s kick as intentional.
Egaro is a fiction film where reality has been cocktailed with elements of fiction. This makes the film more entertaining and exciting, filled with moments of suspense, hilarity, drama and a bit of romance thrown in delicately between Abhilash and Bina and the one-sided attraction his British colleague, the beautiful Elina feels towards her colleague Sudhir. Her reactions on the field where she sits on the British side and when Mohan Bagan scores each goal, she begins to fan herself rapidly to express her joy. The reactions of the audience provide a wonderful sense of relief and bonhomie and solidarity and patriotism bonded as one. Though three of the eight players are professional football players, their acting is beyond par and one cannot make the difference between the actors and the players. The cameos are wonderfully portrayed by renowned actors of Bengali cinema, theatre and television. The revolutionary segment is a bit overdrawn and dramatic at times.. The tremendous violence by the police who kill revolutionary Satyen’s grandfather in prison could have been cut out. The flames of his pyre arousing flames of anger within his granddaughter Bina is a powerful touch.
Gopi Bhagat’s cinematography in one word is brilliant. Indraneel Ghosh’s art direction reproduces the period with old mansions and homes with brick walls with the plaster peeling off, the roadside shop selling hot fritters, the college staff room, the prison cell with amazing accuracy. Mayukh-Moinak’s music is very good but the background score by Arijit Singh is a bit too loud drowning the ambient sounds and the dialogue at some places.
The cheering audience in the theatre clapped each time a line was quoted from Swami Vivekananda, or, when the home team strikes a goal, or, at when Mohun Bagan’s name is mentioned as one with India and identified with the struggle for freedom. Sadly, this history does not find mention in the history of India’s struggle for independence sums up the voice-over aptly. The sub-titling in English widens the horizons of the audience for the film. One prays that this goes out to all the festivals and gets an organized premiere all over India in recognition of a brave band of eleven players who contributed to our freedom.
Shoma A. Chatterji