Tuesday, August 09, 2011

The Rising: The Ballad of Mangal Pandey (2005)

Director: Ketan Mehta 
The movie dramatises the incidents surrounding the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857, through the eyes of Captain William Gordon (Toby Stephens).
Mangal Pandey is a sepoy, a native soldier in the service of the East India Company, stationed in Barrackpore. One day, Pandey learns that the cartridges that the sepoys will chew off while loading the new Enfield rifles, are rumoured to be coated with animal fat. Ingestion of cow fat is considered sacrilege among Hindu Brahmins and coming in contact with pig fat is desecration according to the Muslim faith.
Captain Gordon, with whom Pandey shares a strong bond of friendship, assures the sepoys that the cartridges are free of animal fat. Pandey believes him and uses the rifle. When the truth emerges, Pandey is distraught. On the one hand, he has been defiled. On the other, he presumes that Gordon has deceived the sepoys. Their friendship is tested when Pandey instigates the other sepoys to rise in revolt against the Company. 

The sepoys across different barracks plot a simultaneous revolt to overpower the few British soldiers stationed on Indian soil. The Company foils these plans by bringing in back-up in the form of the Rangoon regiment. Pandey leads the revolt at Barrackpore anyway. The sepoys are outnumbered. Pandey is captured. 

Captain Gordon regards himself inadvertently responsible for the situation. But Pandey assures him that the Indian freedom movement rapidly gaining in strength is independent of any sentiments about the cartridges. Pandey is executed in public and the movement spreads to other parts of India, ultimately leading to India's Independence 90 years after the incident.
Some creative license has been used, including the characters of Captain Gordon, the widow Jwala (Amisha Patel) rescued by Gordon and the prostitute Heera (Rani Mukherjee) whom Pandey falls in love with.
An edited version of this article appeared in the August 2011 Issue of Culturama
Image courtesy Maya Movies Private Limited.

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