Samanala Thatu provokes social consciousness
Samanala Thatu presents quite a different aspect of life from the
usual Sinhala film. There is not much in cinematic narrative, but it
relates the plight of street children effectively.
There is much about children of whom society is unaware of; even the
so-called child protection officials and the police. There are various
categories of children, different in their behaviour and activities
according to the background they live.
A scene from the film
The children in the film are totally innocent and their parents are
leading an honest living. The child protection officials raise their
questions, with high and mighty authority. Why are the children not sent
to school? The reasons are obvious. From their point of view the child
should go into probation custody. The child finds it lonely and he is
homesick. He needs his mother and (deformed) sister. This is the most
important point in the film.
This child living under a Banyan tree in a city is not aware of his
full name or date of birth. Leave alone a postal address a requirement
of the probation and police officials. These conditions are due to the
social and political matters and also the depleted economy.
In Switzerland or Germany the situations are almost not to be found.
The new rich enjoy the day with their families, however, this aspect has
not been well integrated in the film. These isolated incidents are only
used as a contrast.
The narrative construction is weak and the scenes used are
insufficient to support it. They are more or less blocks carrying bits
of information. These sequences fail to take the viewer to an emotional
peak. Normally, we believe the street boys are corrupted; here the boy
is too innocent to protect himself.
The boy is obsessed with having a beautiful red bicycle. It is
expressed effectively by the director. The climax of the film is a rare
thoughtful moment where a child is accepting the reality of the world.
The moment he takes the maroon waistband with frills to his hands the
whole world changes. This deserves credit for the director for his
cinematically presented closing shot.
The film indirectly causes the affluent and the rich to realize the
painful reality of the other side of the same society.
The various fascinating sweets and other food items, clothes and toys
seen on television and shopping malls serve only to a tiny fraction of
society. Not only street children, even other children a little better
off than they see them only as a fantasy. This point has been raised as
a concealed layer in the film.
The cinematography unconsciously travels away from the theme and the
in-depth meaning of the film. In general, it has a colourful brilliance
that is seen in common films.
The little boy does more performance than the father according to the
script. The things he does appears too much for himself (which of course
is the reality of the outside world). However, this activity amounts to
exposition of child labour, to which the film is against.
We see total innocence in this child and he carries the entire film
with his very expressive performance. Most of the little things he does
appear to come out of his own, which is much more than popularly known
film acting. The expression seen when he decides to take up his father's
profession is something noteworthy.
The filmed version of street children has been given a sophisticated
look; a cross section of life of such children is much more rough and
unpleasant. Newspapers give shocking stories of these children. Samanala
Thatu appears to have been painted in a lighter tone. Even the lighting
adds a lot of glamour to the boy.
More values than entertainment are found in the film. A meaningful
attempt creating awareness, in a line of 24 films exhibited during a
year, very rarely one would find a film of this nature. The largest
number of Sinhala films is on common themes flooded with songs, dancing
girls and villains.
There are also themes handling detective stories, war background and
simple romances. Whatever it may be they are ineffective, showing
incapable handling. In this background Samanala Thatu is much ahead of
the average Sinhala film.
We find the glamorous film stars missing and the commanding heroes
and villains dissolved in the air; yet, the film has the power to
capture the viewer and hold him to the end.
The bitterness that rises at the end is twisted to hope and survival,
driving away the clouds of depression about to cover their lives as the
little boy takes a crucial decision to support his family.
Samanala Thatu is an unusual Sinhala film; in its many aspects of a
non-commercial venture. It provokes a certain social consciousness. It
shows how a little child loses his childhood innocence and his world of
expectations due to no fault of his. What have we really done for him
and the others like him?