A city-based indie act has come up with a murder ballad to celebrate the legacy of revolutionary Udham Singh who shot dead a British official to avenge the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre, at a time of renewed calls of reparations from Britain for the excesses of colonial rule in the country.
The nearly four-minute animated video titled ‘Frank Brazil’, in a nod to one of the aliases used by Singh during his incognito stay aboard, uses graphic novel-style 2D images to tell the story of the freedom fighter who killed Michael O’Dwyer in London for sanctioning the Amritsar killings as the then Lieutenant Governor of Punjab.
The video by pop group ‘Ska Vengers’, known for its though-provoking songs with socio-political themes, is the first single from the band’s eponymous new album ‘Frank Brazil’. The video is available for view on the group’s official YouTube channel, uploaded by the band on Thursday.
The song will be, however, officially launched today to coincide with the 75th death anniversary of the martyr, who was executed at Pentonville Prison in England in 1940. He was born in Punjab on December 26, 1899.
During his trial in the court Singh is said to have defended his actions by saying, "For full 21 years, I have been trying to wreak vengeance. I am happy that I have done the job. I am not scared of death. I am dying for my country."
The video opens with a dramatic enactment of events, where Singh is seen writing the aforementioned lines in sheets of paper. As the video progresses, it shows old newspaper cutting of the era in the background, with the lyrics talking about his association with Ghadar Party abroad and his reaching London in 1934 to assassinate O’Dwyer. "I don’t care if I spend 99 years in jail, send me to electric chair," it further plays.
The song goes on to emphasis the fiery pro-independence zeal of Singh and criticises the then colonial rule with, "…ruled by the cruel rules of the free market…"
The video rich in colour tones, is non-linear and in the later parts also graphically re-enacts the Jallianwala killings which left a nation wounded and benumbed.
India served under the colonial rule for nearly two centuries, before throwing off the yoke of imperialism in August 1947. The subject has been a touchy matter and there have been clamours in the past for compensating the colonial-era excesses.
Earlier this month, at an Oxford Union debate in London, senior Congress leader and Lok Sabha MP Shashi Tharoor made a passionate argument demanding reparations from the UK for 200 years of its colonial rule, prompting a vigorous debate online with his speech becoming a hit on social media.
In his 15-minute speech, the 59-year-old former UN diplomat spoke about the "moral debt" owed by Britain to India and argued for economic compensation.