Shaheed-e-Azam  (2002) 






 Bhagat Singh


Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film. 

Bhagat Singh is a little boy who runs to his grandmother working in the fields.  He then runs to his father.  The family is taking a lunch break.  Ajit Singh is still in the fields working and singing:  "Take care of your turban.  The English have plundered your wealth."  Ajit  is uncle to Bhagat.  Someone asks Ajit about the song he was singing about the turban.  Ajit says:  "The turban isn't just a piece of cloth.  It's a symbol of honor for us."  Father says:  "It's said a Jat can get his head chopped but his turban won't fall to the ground."  Ajit adds to this:  "Hence this is no song.  It's an announcement of war against the English which has roused all of Punjab."  Bhagat's father says the English in fear went after Ajit and Amba Prasad.  Another worker asks when they will win this war.  A worker says it will take a long time for the English are as numerous as the rats. 

At dinner father tells Ajit that the English sepoys were asking for him in the village.  Ajit tells dad not to worry, they won't catch him and Amba Prasad.  The uncles talk to Bhagat about bravery and fighting the British.  One uncle mentions the heroes of the struggle like Dulabhatti and Maharana Pratap, who now are a part of folklore.  Ajit and his friend say good-by to the family.  The police come looking for the two men.  They can't find them.  The policeman in charge tells the father to tell his son to stop doing things against the government.  Dad just laughs.  The policeman says that dad has already lost one son who died in prison.  Ajit's wife tells Bhagat that the police are looking for his uncle because the British turned their people into slaves.  Bhagat tells her not to cry, that he will hunt down the British.   The small boy plays with guns saying he will drive the British out.  But grandfather tells him that to defeat the English, he must study.  His dad will be back soon and he will take him to Lahore for further studies.  

Lahore City.  Dad and Bhagat are staying in Lahore City.  Mr. Sanyal Sarawa enters the room.  He says that the leader of Gadar Party, Kartar Singh from America, has come with him.   Bhagat listens to the men talk.  Kartar Singh has come to dad for funds for the Gadar Party.  The party leader criticizes Gandhi and the non-violent leaders.  He says they "think the more of our people that die to save British rule, the more the English will give us freedom in return."   They all laugh.  Dad introduces his son to Mr. Sarawa.  Bhagat is impressed by the party leader.  The leader tells Bhagat that he would gladly die in the fight for freedom.  Dad gives the party leader 1,000 rupees.   Bhagat tells his father that he too must fight the English. 

Bhagat now attends college.  He sees a young Muslim Indian with his hands tied to two poles being beaten with a small log.  The British policeman wants to know the names of the revolutionaries.  Bhagat grabs the log and holds on to it.  He then gives the policeman a spanking with the log.  The policeman tries to pull his weapon out, but Bhagat throws the log at him knocking him down.  He stops the Indian policemen from interfering by grabbing the gun and pointing it at them.  He scolds the crowd for just standing around doing nothing watching their brother be beaten.  He inflames the crowd and they thrash the white policeman. 

A group of students talk with Bhagat.  Another student, named Bhagwati, arrives.  They tell Bhagwati that Bhagat had a policeman thrashed.  The students are in awe of Bhagat.  Another student arrives saying that Lala Lajpatrai is here to give a special lecture.  The founder of the college says:  "The purpose of our college is not to prepare clerks for the British.  But to prepare you for the war of life."  Bhagat speaks out against Gandhi for having stopped the Non-cooperation Movement when the British killed a great many people at Chauri Chaura.  He says one should not stop a revolutionary movement just because the Indian people responded by burning a police station.  Bhagat believes that the non-violence movement has actually weakened India.  Many of the students applaud Bhagat for what he said. 

A student named Sukhdev runs for the train leaving the station.  He manages to jump on the last car, but the car is occupied by two white soldiers.  One of the men calls the student a "black dog" and asks him what he is doing here.  He then throws the student from the moving train.  Following the philosophy of non-violence he has a big smile on his face. 

Bhagat is in physical education class wrestling.  He see Sukhdev limp toward the field.   Bhagat comes up to him to asks him what happened.  Sukhdev explains what happened when he applied the philosophy of non-violence.  And what is his conclusion?  Sukhdev says that non-violence couldn't even get him a seat on the train.  How can it get us our independence?

The parents of a very pretty young woman named Preeto want to find her a husband.  They ask a friend and he says he knows of a handsome man who is also a good student. 

Bhagat talks to his comrades about the necessity of waking up the Indian masses to political awareness.  They discuss the possibility of putting on a play with a message.  They do so.

Bhagat goes back home for a visit.  The women of the family talk to him about getting married.  Bhagat is not interested.  He runs away in order to avoid marriage.  He writes a letter to his father saying that in essence he is married to the revolutionary movement.  He in only focused on freedom and independence.  

Bhagat tells Sanyal that he is in love with someone else.  He is so in love that he wants to die for her.  He is in love with death  --  death while fighting the British.    Sanyal believes that Bhagat is the envoy of independence and he will introduce him to other such envoys in Kanpur. 

The police threaten to kill a freedom fighter named Harilal if other radicals do not come forward.  A comrade named Azad comes forward.  He insults the police.  They get unnerved and the man is able to knock some of them down.  He takes out his revolver and takes a policeman hostage.  The two radicals escape.

Bhagat meets other envoys:  Batukeshwar Dutta and Shiv Varma.  He then meets Chandra Shekhar Azad.  Azad scolds Sanyal for bringing in just anybody to the radical group.  Bhagat tells him that mother India needs his blood and starts to walk out.  Azad stops him, saying:  "Your chest harbors a fire that will someday illuminate the nation."  They clasp hands. 

The family is worried about Bhagat.  Dad has looked all over Lahore and other places for him.  There's no news of him.  Mom cries. 

Pratap Printing Press.  Kanpur.  Bhagat works the press at night.  He produces fliers that he hands out.  The police grab a fellow handing out the fliers.  Bhagat distracts the police sending them elsewhere.  He then frees his comrade from the two policeman holding him.  They flee but are detained again by other police.  A new fellow named Maratha Rajguru fires his pistol distracting the police and the fight begins anew.  The crowd gets involved and helps defeat the police.  Azad tells Bhagat that he should not have fought the police.  Bhagat says his blood just boils over at times.  And he has brought a new fellow with him:  Rajguru.  Azad says they need money.   They will rob a train.  He tells Bhagat to leave Kanpur.  The police are looking for him.  He says take Rajguru with him to Punjab. 

Grandmother is very sick and wants to see Bhagat again.  Bhagat arrives home with Rajguru.  His sister greets him.  He goes in to see his grandmother.  Sister continues to talk marriage to Bhagat. 

Bhagat speaks to his political group about the martyr Kartar Singh.  He has them pledge themselves to their country.  An informer tells the police about the group.  They grab Bhagat Singh and beat him and then brutally beat the bottom of his feet until they bleed. 

Central Jail (Lahore).  Bhagat is arrested for throwing a bomb in a public place.  The white man says he knows he is innocent, but he wants to know everything about the Kakuri train incident.  But Bhagat is very defiant and tells the British fellow about the evils of his country's imperialism.  The Brit sends Bhagat back for more torture.  They hang him upside down and beat him with canes.

The bail for Bhagat is 60,000 rupees.  A family friend tells his mother he will get the money and get Bhagat out of prison the next day.  But make sure you keep Bhagat out of the police eye, says the man.  They put Bhagat to work in a dairy to pay back the 60,000 rupees. 

Bhagat leads a unity meeting of radicals from different parts of the country.  They have been fighting against the British in their individual states but the time has come for unity and he suggests they form a party.  He forms the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association.  Azad will be their leader.  They will never free India with non-violence.  They must follow the examples of Shivaji, guru Gobind Singh and Rana Pratap Singh. 

Bhagat tells Rajguru that they are in desperate need of money.  The Simon Commission is coming to Lahore.  Bhagat says they want to prove to the Indians that they are slaves and deserve to be so.  Lalaji has organized a demonstration against the Commission.  Bhagat says they will join in the demonstration. 

Lalaji leads the demonstrations calling for the Commission to go back home.  The police give the order to clear the way of the demonstrators.  They attack and Lalaji becomes a prime target.  They beat him with canes.  The older man dies from all the blows he received.  Bhagat suggests that they kill an Englishman.  Azad says they will devise a plan.  Jaigopal will keep a watch on Saunders. 

The day of the assassination arrives.  Jaigopal gives the signal.  Rajguru shoots Saunders three times.  Bhagat finishes him off with two more shots.  Azad shoots the policeman chasing the two assassins.  In response the police launch a big crackdown.  They grab a bunch of students and start mercilessly beating them with canes.  A student prays.  The British officer tells him to get up but he doesn't rise until he finishes praying.  He then slaps the policeman around.  The policeman pulls his revolver and shoots him.

Sukhdev tells his wife that they have to leave.  They will take their son with them.  There will be guards everywhere so they will have to wear disguises.  Bhagat dresses as a fancy wealthy gentlemen with his family.  Sukhdev dresses up as some type of holy man.  They are able to get out of Lahore via the train this way. 

Bhagat wants to carry on the fight by using bombs.  They will manufacture their own.  Jatin arrives.  He is an expert at making bombs.   But Jatin says he will no longer manufacture bombs.  Bhagat says they only want to awaken the public, not kill people.  Bhagat impresses the man and he agrees to help him.  They later set off a very impressive bomb.  But Bhagat explains he doesn't want a man-killing weapon.  He wants one that will only cause a public uproar. 

Bhagat talks about the workers' demonstration in Bombay that forced the mill owners to bow down.  Since the British don't want this happening everywhere, they are introducing the Trade Dispute Bill.  And to control the revolutionaries they are introducing a Public Safety Bill.  Bhagat wants a bomb thrown in the Assembly to create an uproar.  Then the bombers will let themselves be arrested.  They will present their case in court  and the people will read about it in the newspapers..  Different people are suggested for the job, but Shukhdev says it has to be Bhagat because only he can really effectively present their case before the public.  They decide on Bhagat and Batukeshwar Dutt.  To Azad, Rajguru complains that he should be one of the bombers.  But Azad tells him that the bombers must be able to speak English really well and Rajguru doesn't.

 Dressed in fancy clothes the men go into the Assembly.  During the discussion of the two bills, Bhagat throws a bomb in a corner, and then Dutt throws his bomb in the same place.  They shout:  "Long life the Revolution!"  Bhagat shoots his pistol at the ceiling then they throw their fliers to the people below.  Then the two make a long political statement.  The British guard hides behind the wall and Bhagat tells him to come out.  They won't harm him. Bhagat puts his pistol on a chair.  They are arrested.

The British can't get Bhagat Singh to confess anything.  So they decide to arrest his comrades.  They take them into custody. 

Bhagat and Batukeshwar Dutt tell the court that they do not want to say anything in their own defense.  Mr. Asaf Ali is their lawyer.  He wants to know why they didn't say anything in their own defense.  The radicals want to put their response in writing with one copy going to the press.  That way nobody can stop it from being published.  They dictate their response to their lawyer.  The people read their words in the press.  The judge gives them life imprisonment.  The two defendants clasp hands and smile at each other. 

A British jailer named Hilton beats a man for reading a "revolutionary" book.  Bhagat gets upsets and runs at him knocking the man into a water trough.  The guards subdue Bhagat and then the British jailers starts beating him with a cane.  Hilton says he will show Bhagat how he treats inmates in this prison.  Bhagat immediately calls for a hunger strike.  An Indian guard named Khan Bahadur warns Hilton to watch how he treats the revolutionaries.  They are very dangerous because everything about them gets printed in the papers. 

The British politicians in India discuss the matter.  One man warns that their strictness will not break the political prisoners.  Instead, they will use British abuse against the British themselves.  So they decide to charge Bhagast with conspiracy against the British government. 

Bhagat's father comes to see Bhagat in prison.  He says the police have filed the Sand Hurst murder case against him and his associates.  Bhagat says that he knows about this.  He tells his father that the war has just started.  The jailers replace the prisoners' water with milk.  All the hunger strikers throw the milk out.  Bhagat's mother comes to see him.  They start force feeding the men.  They take two political prisoners out and beat them.  They force feed Bhagat, but he spits the food up and onto Hilton.  The comrades prevent them from taking Jatin away.  The British were afraid he would die in prison.  The poor fellow dies surrounded by his comrades. 

Gandhi learns that the hunger strike of Bhagat Singh has spread to all the Indian jails and Jatin Das's recent death has added fuel to the fire. Mr. Jinnah, the father of the future Pakistan, opposes the new hunger strike bill.  He urges the British to treat the political prisoners well or else the British will be considered ruthless by the world.  The hunger strike bill means that the accused cannot defend themselves.  So some government official tells the jailers to grant the maximum legitimate demands to Bhagat Singh.  Bhagat drinks the milk. 

What has happened to the Sand Hurst case? asks a Brit.    Khan Badadur is working with 600 witnesses.  Oh, and Rajguru has been arrested.  

Rajguru arrives and is wildly greeted by the other political prisoners. 

Khan Bahadur shows his "witnesses" who the most important radicals are, so they can identify them later in court. 

In court for the Sandhurst murder many witnesses say they do not recognize the defendants.  But another witness, Jai Gopal, says that it was Sukhdev's plan to kill Sand Hurst.  Bhagat Singh and Rajguru fired at him.  They were the ones who killed constable Charan Singh also.  One of the defendants takes off his shoe and throws it at the witness.  It hits the man and he goes down.  A melee starts and the judge adjourns the court.

Bhagat tells the others that Jai Gopal is not the key character in the play.  "The British government decided the hangings long back. What is happening in the court is just a charade."   

The British fear that now Bhagat is becoming more popular than Gandhi.  The British make a plan to shorten the court case to only six months rather than a year or two.  They create a tribunal to wipe out Bhagat Singh. 

Bhagat's sister Amroh visits him.  She brings in a Godman (which is really Azad).  They want to bust Bhagat out of jail.  But Bhagat wants to sacrifice himself to accomplish his mission.  He does not want to leave prison.  In court Bhagat tells the three judges of the tribunal that the whole case is a charade.  They know they are going to be sentenced to hang.  One of the judges resigns from the tribunal.  And the court case is taking longer than expected because the defendants don't appear in court.  So the tribunal decides to conduct the case without the defendants.  In a short time the judges sign the death sentence. 

People all over India start revolting against the British government.  In Calcutta more than 300 people were killed by the police.  Gandhi says he will speak to Lord Irwin.  Bhagat's parents come to see him.  Bhagat is mad at his father for using false testimonies to try to get him released.  He tells his father:  "At this point in time the country needs my death more than my life."  His mother cries. 

There are more demonstrations.  Hilton becomes worried about the size of the crowd.  He doesn't want them attacking the prison.  So his superior tells him to see to it that the three men are hanged today rather than tomorrow morning.  The order is:  "Hang them now!"  Some of the jailers are very unhappy about the hangings.  One jailer calls Bhagat a saint and a man who cleans the toilets says that he is a God.  Bhagat tells him not to make him a God, it would distance him from the people. 

The three men are marched to the gallows.  Bhagat's last wish is to hug his brothers, the other two condemned men.  Wish granted.  Their hands are untied and they hug.  They shout "Long live the revolution!"  Their hands are tied again.  They step on the trap door.  Each man kisses the noose.  Hoods are placed over their heads.  A handkerchief is dropped by Hilton and and the trap door falls open.  The men are hanged. 

The British think that the condemned men could now be more dangerous after their death.  The order is given to Khan Bahadur to hack the corpses to pieces. The bodies are snuck out of the prison.  The people are informed about a truck leaving from the back door of the prison.  The bodies are taken down by the river and burned.  When the mob arrives, they chase the two Brits away. 

There is great mourning in the country. 


Of the two movie on Bhagat Singh, I liked the other one, The Legend of  Bhagat Singh, better.  The philosophical differences between Gandhi and Bhagat were more clearly delineated.  But, on the other hand, the movie pretty much cover the same people and events.     

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 


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