Scene from The Sword of Swaraj
The Sword of Swaraj
The Indo-Pakistan war in 1971 was a slaughter of innocents on a vast scale. It’s claimed that up to three million civilians were killed. Yet strangely, the conflict has been largely overlooked in the West.
The war between India and Pakistan broke out on 3 December 1971 after the Bengali-speaking province of East Pakistan - later to become Bangladesh – had declared itself independent.
The film is based on a computer game
The response of the Pakistani Army was swift and merciless, causing up to ten million Bengalis to flee to neighbouring India. Yet so brutal was the killing and so painful are the memories that many older Bengalis find it difficult to talk about.
It’s something that Sashwati Mira Sengupta, a young Manchester-based artist of Bengali origin, wanted to address.
"If you go to South Asia, everyone knows about the 1971 Indo-Pakistan War," she said. "But in the UK, hardly anyone does. Even Bengalis of my generation don’t understand it,” said Mira who lives in Old Trafford.
"That’s because a lot of older Bengalis won't talk about the War because there was so much bloodshed. It just seemed to me that people in general had forgotten about this time in our history."
Working with her friend Semonara Chowdhury, they commissioned Indian film company Thought Bubble based in Mumbai to make a ‘shoot ‘em up’ animation of a mass slaughter inspired by the 1971 conflict.
Semonara and Mira: filmmakers
They combined this with footage of two youngsters from Stretford High School sat in their bedroom playing and squabbling over a computer game of the War.
The result is a 60 second film ‘The Sword of Swaraj’ being shown as part of a film festival called 60x60 Secs featuring 60 artists based in the UK, India and Pakistan.
“Mira explained: "We were looking at the computer game industry in India and basically, we put the two ideas together by putting the events of 1971 into a computer game."
Adding: "I’m pleased with it and like the way they [Thought Bubble] have done some things. For instance, there is a woman in distress who asks for help and the game says: ‘Civilian Assistance Denied’.
"This was based on a journalistic account of how civilians were refused help by the military."
Mira believes that computer gaming can be useful as a medium through which culture, heritage and history can be introduced.
And while she says it’s not meant to be a history lesson, she’s hoping that the film will prompt younger Bengalis to look a little deeper into their past.
"It’s a piece of art, at the end of the day. But if it can be used as a trigger for people to investigate and look into things, then I think it works well."
Sword of Swaraj is being shown as part of the 60x60 Secs film programme which can be viewed online at www.360degrees.tv/60x60
Sashwati Mira Sengupta is a classically trained musician/composer who trained in film-making with the help of the Workers' Film Association, Manchester
Semonara Chowdhury is an installation artist working in Manchester
last updated: 13/06/2008 at 18:21