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Film reviews

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 a plenty here until about 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 in spite of the fact 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 this course of action fails 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 mind" 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 manpower and financial 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 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 boldly points out helicopter 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 are 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 I 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 in the horizon.


Kannadi Pookal: Perfect family entertainment

Kannadi Pookal depicts the bond between a son and his step-mother. Although this film is a remake of the Malayalam film "Ente Veedu Appoontem", it makes no difference in Tamil; the film gets through its message without creating any perplexity.

The theme is based on a simple concept of the friendship between a son and his step-mother where the problems enter due to the birth of a younger brother. The director Shahajahan has gone deep into the consequences of possessiveness that have to be faced because of imbalanced treatment of children.

The film is simple and sweet and to its maximum kept away from the regular Tamil film contents. There is no separate comedy track or unnecessary fight scenes. Everything has been included into the story and it is carried on by the main characters.

Master Ashwin plays the role of the son and Kaveri plays the role of his mother. Unlike other Tamil films, in this film the leads are the mother and the son, who are introduced as close friends. Kaveri brings up Ashwin with a kind of love and affection which is even more than a real mother would give. Until her father Pyramid Natrajan enters, the director does not reveal the fact that it is her step-son.

As his mother expects a baby, Ashwin is the first person to be happy but when his parent's attention turn towards his brother, he gets depressed and feels ignored. When his anger reaches the peak, he sprays the pesticide used to spray their garden on his little brother's face thinking it would only make him sick. The consequence turns out to be more than what he thought.

He realizes he has killed his brother. He panics terrified by his act. Pyramid Natrajan sends the baby for a post-mortem test being mystified by the sudden death. The post-mortem reveals the cause of death and turns into a police case. A sincere and tough police officer, played by Raj Kapoor, investigates and takes Ashwin to the Juvenile Court. Kaveri tries her best to protect her first son from the police but Raj Kapoor doesn't show sympathy.

The highlight of the film is the court scene where Ashwin is put into a situation where the public prosecutor played by Thalaivasal Vijay starts digging the reasons for his provocative act. Ashwin suffers in guilt and bursts into tears when he says that it was because of his parent's disregard and their lack of attention towards him which pushed him towards this act.

He expresses his guilt for the unexpected death of his beloved brother. The judge sends Ashwin to 18 months in Juvenile jail. The movie is straight-forward but moves on interestingly building up expectations. Sarath Babu who is introduced as a child psychiatrist moulds the depressed child back to normal and advises his parent on how to go about re-building their child.

The stage where children get more disheartened is when society and friends neglect or refuse them. The director has pointed out this danger in his film as well. This is where the director provides the solution to his story completing it without leaving any gaps. Ashwin is resented with another brother when he returns from the jail by his parents to prove their trust on him. The delighted Ashwin starts over a new life with his new present.

The vital aspect for such a movie is the cast. All the artistes who have performed in this movie have been given some importance and portrayed memorably. The young master Ashwin is talented and brings out the expressions beautifully and comfortably.

Kaveri looks like Ashwin's sister in appearance but with her matured performance she has portrayed herself as an ideal mother. This is again a challenging role for Parthiban like "Thendral", so with experience he has performed his role with ease. All the other supporting actors have also performed competitively.

Many directors have the habit of making simple concepts complicated to just provide the story with twists and turns. When unnecessary twists are taken, it becomes extremely difficult to provide a solution. Director Shajahan moves the story along a straight path without turning back or forth just concentrating on the message.

The cameraman Arthur Wilson has shot some good close-ups to bring out the expressions according to the situation. This film is a lesson to the high budget film makers to provide the film goers with simple useful and thoughtful entertainment which will give them million dollars worth results. Kannadi Pookal is a perfect family entertainment.

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