There are some interesting scripts floating around at the National Film Development Corporation of India’s Film Bazaar, part of the ongoing International Film Festival of India in Panaji. All these are looking for co-production. One of them that catches one’s eye is Prasanna Vithanage’s Children of The Sun in the Sinhala language.
Vithanage is undoubtedly a master moviemaker, known for his powerful anti-war cinema. Though seen as a political filmmaker, he is in fact a compelling story teller whose plots often veer towards humanism. In an essential way, they are romantic stories that convey guilt, affection, friendship and so on.
The Children of The Sun will be Vithanage’s first work of history, and during a brief breakfast meeting Monday, he told this writer that his movie might well be called a “historical road film”. Set in the Kandy of 1814 during the dark days of a rebellion by Sinhala nobles against the Tamil king, the movie elaborates on a law that required Sinhala women whose husbands were missing to walk to a river and make one of the two choices on offer. One, they could jump into the water in a sacrificial ritual. Two, they could marry one of the scavengers waiting across the river.
Vithanage’s narrative focusses on a young girl, who decides to wed a lowly scavenger rather than give up her life.
But having married a scavenger, the girl is not willing to become part of her husband’s community that will, among other things, require her to go about bare-chested. A woman in the scavenger clan was not allowed to wear an upper garment.
The husband, by now passionately in love with his beautiful young wife, decides to run away with her from his community, and The Children of The Sun will follow the couple as they go on a long road trip in various disguises -- and in search of a dignified life.
The film will probably help us understand the genesis of the Tamil-Sinhala conflict in the picturesque island nation of Sri Lanka, a war indeed that raged for well over three decades and killed thousands of men, women and children.
Watch the trailer of With You Without You here:
Vithanage’s earlier film, With You Without You, screened at IFFI some years ago, was a deeply moving piece of work which intimately portrayed love, guilt, remorse and a sense of desperation through the lives of a Tamil girl and a Sinhala pawn-broker and former soldier.
With You Without You was not allowed to be screened in Tamil Nadu, where there is an overwhelming sense of Tamil patriotism. Although, the movie was not anti-Tamil in any way and in fact, it was a film that attempted to soothe wounded feelings, screening rights were denied to it in the face of hostility in Tamil Nadu.
Even directors like Shoojit Sircar and Santosh Sivan have had problems releasing their movies in Tamil Nadu, because they dealt with Sri Lankan subjects.
(Gautaman Bhaskaran is covering the Film Bazaar at IFFI.)