Wednesday, 23 April 2008


In the film,the Japanese are portrayed as technologically incompetent ,incapable of building a bridge.Stewart dismisses this as nonsense - the Japanese army had many capable engineers.And he derides the notion of a British officer openly collaborating with the Japanese – his fellow officers would not have stood for it.This collaborationist aspect of the film has caused anguish to many other veterans too. We worked for them ,yes we did , but we did not bend over backwards to help them , they say. The British officer ,Philip Toosey, the senior British officer at Kanchana Buri , was never a collaborator.He even encouraged his men to sabotage the bridge by putting wood-eating white ants into the main structure.

Stewart also says that the prisoners were dying like flies and were often buried close to where they had fallen.Those who died of cholera were instantly cremated , to prevent the spread of the disease.Improvisation was the order of the day .Thus, a grave marked ‘Johnny’ may not necessarily contain the remains of someone called ‘Johnny’ The situation was far more confused and disordered than that, and not at all as neat and tidy as the cemeteries in Kanchana Buri portray it today.


Tuesday, 22 April 2008


And ,according to John Stewart , a prisoner who worked as an interpreter for the Japanese and as a technical advisor to David Lean, the total horrible reality of it all was not shown in the film.Stewart had personally witnessed beatings administered on prisoners by Japanese guards ,and had seen friends and colleagues die of dreadful diseases. By 1957, the Japanese were attempting to join the civilized community of nations again, and there were pressing political reasons why they should not be portrayed as vicious savages.Stewart accuses Lean of pulling his punches in this respect ,of softpedalling the brutality .Lean’s film is ‘fiction’,says Stewart.It is all very well to say this, but Lean was trying to make a film that would entertain people.The truth in war is ,sometimes ,too hard to bear.Stephen Spielberg admitted doing the same when making ‘Schindler’s List’ , portraying the Nazi death camps. There are limits to what you can show on a cinema screen ,and film directors are bound by them.