Putting Lankan Race Relations through Woman Director's Lenses

by K.S.Sivakumaran

L
ankan film made basically in Sinhala with added dialogues in Thamil and English is a
welcome cinematic production.

The film is by the ace woman filmmaker - Sumitra Peries. I saw this film a few weeks back at
the Regal. I missed a few scenes at the beginning because I could not reach the venue on
time due to unusual traffic congestion, probably because of the security provided to VVIPs. I
saw quite a few politicians at the Premier.

I do not have details of the people who had contributed to the film except for the fact that it
was produced by Hasini Films – their maiden production. Drs Namal and Ruvini Serasinghe
were the producers.

The name of the film is Yahaluwo.   The story of the film is simple and it centres on a rich
family comprising a Sinhala father, a Thamilian mother, their child, a grand mother and a few
domestics.

The child because of its innocence and its naughtiness and energetic disposition  is the
centre or linking in the film connecting the different relationship of the other characters. The
child's own judgmental acumen is more important than the others.

What the film tries to show is that in mixed marriages problems could arise due not necessarily
to the fault of the couple concerned but by 'others' embedded with 'dislike' ( I do not want to
use a harsh word such as 'hatred') towards a particular community.

In this instance, the rest of the domestics at the household of the family behave like normal
human beings  who show concern and kindness towards the victim in the story. A Thamilian
Gardner happens to be the victim in the film. Also Thamilians in the family are the wife, and
her parents.

But one single individual (perhaps he has reasons to behave like that) beats the victim and
breaks his elbow. This individual shows his animosity towards the Thamilian Gardner probably
because he is angry over what was happening in the country where killing takes place.

He is also irritated because the victim was enjoying his freedom (listening to Thamil film songs
over the radio in a loud volume.) when he  being a Sinhala should have more freedom to the
extent of denying the freedom of the Thamilian domestic.

The Master of the house is in a dilemma as to whether show sympathy towards the victim or  
implicitly be partial towards the attacker.

Since the Gardner could no longer stay in the  bungalow  he leaves with some money given
by the Master.

To my mind what disturbs communal harmony is that some among us are overtly concerned of
our own superiority or numerical strength. At the same time most of us, irrespective of our
ethnicity still behave as human beings and help each other. This is shown by the kindness
shown towards the Gardner by two women domestics  who are Sinhalas.

But there is another point that should be stressed:

The victim could have avoided the ugly scene had he toned down the volume of the radio a
little so that he did not disturb his room mate who is generally antipathetic towards the
Thamilians.

This particular Sinhala man could  be reckoned as a representative of the the ultra
nationalists of this country Such people publicly warn that the the Thamilians should be
packed off to Thamilnadu.

But in this film both the Thamilian and the Sinhalaya are at fault. Instead of respecting each
others cultural freedom et al, they argue for their respective freedom and individuality. What is
missed is a 'give and take 'policy among communities.

In this film a Muslim girl is also featured. Although she speaks Thamil, she understandably
supports the attacker because she sees only one side of the ugly scene. A Sinhala man loves
her by writing a poem to her. She also loves him. The poem serves as a hyphen of love and it
also creates funny situations among the players. To be on the safe side she behaves
somewhat partially. But a Sinhala domestic prompts the Muslim domestic to take some food to
the victim. But this man indisgust throws the food she brought into the dustbin.

The film has an assortment of songs and dances in Thamil and Sinhala .The director is trying
to show the majority community that there exists different cultures in the country and that we
should try to appreciate and welcome such harmonious blend. I wish to congratulate her on
this point

Having seen many international films on race relations, love, war etc, I find that Sumitra Peries
could have been a little more subtle and artistically creative.

But the point is that everybody should understand such a film  for the necessasity to live
harmoniously in this blessed isle. The Director's purpose seem to be to convey a sane idea:
That everybody should think about our foolishness in  handling race issues for decades now.

In the film, many distinguished actors like, Irangani, Tony, Kamal, Chathurani and a few others
come and go playing minor roles. Sujeeva and Pooja are the main players. I do not know the
name of the child star. I liked the restrained acting by Raja Ganeshan as the Gardner.
Sumathi Bala Sridharan plays the role of the mother of the wife in the film.

The film is not far removed from average cinemagoers' taste and yet it is not a commercial
'masala' either.

It's a halfway house between good cinema and an entertaining film. But I wonder whether
prejudiced people among us are ready to swallow the pill. Please see this trilingual film to
erase our prejudices.

Contact: sivakumaranks@yahoo.com


Contact: sivakumaranks@yahoo.com