Year 1911. A time when Britishers were ruling the country with batons and brickbats. A time when war was raging, both off the field and on it.
While revolutionaries wholeheartedly committed themselves to the downfall of the British Raj, a team of 11, (Egaro) were ruthless in training themselves to crush the pride of the ‘sada chamra’ on the field. “Egaro”, in short, tells the story of these 11 Mohun Bagan boys, who went on to defeat the East Yorkshire Regiment.
Barefeet with water to quench their thirst instead of juice during practice sessions, running in muck and sand, swimming and even skipping on the terrace after spilling water on it just so that they are prepared to tackle the ball lest there’s a downpour on the day of the finals, this team of 11 had only one goal. To win the IFA Shield after having reached the finals. Having nursed grudges, wounds and a hurt ego, the field was their battleground. The only means to get even with the oppressors. As Shibdas rightly points out, ‘Podagather uttore podaghat ekmatra footballei sombhab. Eta amar ukti na, Viveknanda er’. There is a point when a young journalist also points out to his boss that printing news about Mohun Bagan reaching the finals of the IFA Shield is not just ‘binodon’ (entertainment).
Through a script that is engaging and arresting, debutant director Arun Ray infuses life into a page from history that had an important contribution in India’s struggle for freedom. He paints with élan the not-so-rosy picture of the times. So, while on the one hand, there’s Mastermoshai being tortured to death in his cell, on the other hand, there are ‘natives’ not-so-enthusiastic about the game. For a few, this ‘sahib petano’ on the field might spell doom and destruction for their fate. At times, there are even conflicts among the players. If one wants to play the game in the spirit of the game as per the mantra of the club, there are a few who feel that the field is the best place to settle all scores. But nothing can douse the fire in their belly for they say that even if it is a team of 10, the match will be played.
And these 11 give an appreciating performance. Novice as they might be before the camera, but that doesn’t stop them from delivering to the best of their capacity. Anilava Chatterjee, the director of the match sequences, has done a great job as have the few experienced actors on the team. Even the comic capers on the field draw a few laughs, while the kicks and action draw a repeated round of applause from the audience at the theatre. While the script could have been a bit more tight, the use of blackouts for certain sequences could well have been avoided. But that’s highly pardonable for the director has captured well a game that has been rightly recorded as ‘Sob khelar shera Bangalir tumi football’.