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Bengal Shadows: Uncovering the Stories of Bengal Famine of 1943

It is one of the least talked-about excesses of the Second World War. As the Allies were warding off fascist forces in Europe and the eastern theatre – Japan – India witnessed a man-made disaster that was more or less brushed under the carpet.

The easily avoidable and, instead, devastating Bengal Famine of 1943 took the lives of 3-5 million people. The role of the British Government, especially then Prime Minister Winston Churchill, in this tragedy can not be explained.

What really happened? How was the crisis so badly mismanaged? And why has it remained a rarely spoken about chapter in colonial history?

‘Bengal Shadows’, a documentary by Paris-based filmmakers, Partho Bhattacharya and Joy Banerjee, finds some of the answers. It documents the voices of historians, researchers and survivors of this terrible tragedy.

In this special screening, we start by briefly talking to the filmmakers about their journey through Bengal as they pieced together this story and captured the views of people who had lived through this journey. This is followed by the film itself, which captures the voices of a cross-section of historians and survivors including the late Bengali film great, Soumitra Chatterjee, who passed away in November 2020. He was a young boy when the wave of starving migrants flooded into Calcutta in 1943. He said it left an indelible mark on him.