Ira Madiyama — futility of peace through war

In the rat-race of which we are now all part of, few are the occasions one finds the time for a movie. They become fewer still with the choice available either in the form of Tamil or Hindi films — many of them with sleazy poor imitations of follies de berges kind of vulgar dances — and that too from the land that gave the world the beautiful dresses, grace and elegance of many oriental dance forms — Bharatha Natyam being just one of them. Now that we are denied the choice of Hollywood and Western films that were aplenty, here until about the 70s — just about the only quality stuff available is usually the Sinhala films. And that is strictly my opinion. That I was not alone in this opinion was demonstrated by the time I went an hour ahead of show time and was told balcony tickets were sold many days ago inspite of the fact that the film was running for well over a fortnight. I was consigned to a way back place in the long and winding ODC queue.

If the makers of the film, had in mind the thought, resorting to war to achieve peace is a futile exercise, they had my vote. Not only does this course of action fail to deliver the desired objective but it also brutally dislocates, in a most inhuman form, society all around and this — the movie portrays somewhat poignantly. After nearly 30 years of taking this debilitating road both governments, since 2002 have settled for the method of "capturing the hearts and minds" of the people involved — through paths other than military Action. Prasanna Vithanage and his colleagues prove no major community is spared from the grip of war when the search for peace through military alternatives is opted for. While in previous films made with the internal conflict in the background often blame is apportioned almost to one side, whereas in this film it is almost equally distributed,. There is young Chamari dedicating herself to meeting and freeing her young husband Roshan — a downed air force pilot believed to be a captive in the hands of the LTTE. Her quest assumes more urgency than normal since hers was a marriage that did not have the sanction of her husband’s parents. And since his mishap, they blame her for bringing bad luck to the family. Having tried and exhausted all help from official channels to trace her husband, by chance, she watches a TV chat-show where a, local expatriate Gamini, a Sri Lankan political activist living abroad, widely believed to have LTTE connections, speaks of the causes and possible remedies of a conflict that has drained the country of both its man power and financial resources. In desperation she traces Gamini to his hotel and pleads only resources. In desperation she traces Gamini to his hotel and pleads only he can help her find her Roshan. While he initially demures, he eventually takes pity on the young girl and agrees to do what he can — while dismissing any thoughts he might have "special LTTE connections". They travel through battle terrain to the northern coast using whatever thin contacts Gamini has to help Chamari's to be taken to Roshan’s captives. In the interim the film draws attention to the tremendous suffering of the ordinary Muslims, Sinhala and Tamils.

Vithanage also boldy points out air strikes and armed action against one’s own people kill innocent civilian non-combatants — often innocent women and children. Simultaneously he also questions the legitimacy of an armed organization fighting for the "rights of its people,’ and at the same time inhumanly up-rooting yet another minority community — merely on "suspicion" — as in the case in the film where an entire Muslim village is "cleansed" of their homes and their possessions in 12 hours — with only a bare Rs. 4,000 per family allowed to be taken away. The extreme cruelty of the war, does not stop with humans alone. The film also shows young Arafath separated from his canine friend — in touching scenes. And then there is the Sinhala soldier Duminda unwillingly drawn to a bordello for "Rest and Recreation" — to use an American military phrase — by his well meaning friends. Here he is shocked to see his own sister as one of the comfort women — for the want of a job to help keep the family fires burning. The message is — even the majority is not spared in times of internecine war. If the resources of the land is diverted to development as opposed to where much of it now going to finance defence expenditure, in an environment of peace his sister probably would have found a "respectable" job. This becomes clear when he questions the other girl in the brothel, on whom he has taken pity, why she is there and she answers, "because 1 need a job to run my poor home in Bibile" He then innocently wonders "Is this then — a job?" The film ends somewhat abruptly, now that Chamari’s quest to find her young husband remains unresolved; and so is the question of the Muslims who were de-housed and sent to Kalpitiya. In fact the bigger question of the Tamil-Sinhala equation too remains to be settled, But Vithanage and company, though not with equal resources of the better known film makers in the world scene, such as George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Roman Polanski et al, bring home to the local audience a film whose background is not merely familiar to most of our people — but sadly, where many of them are also active players and will remain so until the final settlement or something akin is on the horizon.

Colombo 3


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