This article was published in the 4th September 2011 issue of the Lakbima News, and in the 11th September 2011 issue of The Nation.
This movie portrays an insight into the lifestyle of a border Sinhala village during war time with the LTTE. Admiral Sarath Weerasekara, the director and founder of the Grama Arakshaka Force (Civil Defense Force) describes the strengths and weaknesses of the rural youth in training and motivating them to protect their own people.
“the scenes of military training and the commando operations of the film were of high standard which could be considered as almost in par with Hollywood movies”
Gamani is a movie which describes our ethnic divide in different perspectives; it analyses and identifies the root causes very clearly where as our traditional movie directors, novelists and song writers described our ethnic issues only from the surface and covered only one or two issues with solutions such as equal recognition to minorities, encouraging mixed marriages and unconditional acceptance of demands made by terrorists.
This harks back to a bitter example of a mixed marriage which was reported few years ago, where P. Nadesan a Tamil Police sergeant transferred to a Colombo based police station fell in love with a Sinhala woman police constable of the workplace. Both did not consider their race as a barrier for their love and wanted to marry. The woman’s parents opposed and banished her from the family. After their marriage the husband left the police service and the couple settled in Jaffna in 1985, when it was at the peak of terrorist activity. This became a very sensitive story and it motivated Ratna Sri Wijesingha to write lyrics of Gunadasa Kapuge’s famous song “Sinahala Sindu Kiyana, Nalale thilaka Thiyana kirilli”.
After settling down in Jaffna, the husband became an active terrorist who later became the LTTE police chief. A reporter from Colombo who interviewed him had given him this song and later it became very popular among their children. However, the mixed marriage has not helped to improve the alliance between the two races. Finally, it was reported that both were killed in the final battle at Nandikadal.
Terrorism is a global phenomenon in which some terrorist groups appear to be blessed by the Western world where politically rival nations act with an intention to create instability within the country or as an indirect means to conquer and grab resources. This is evident from the level of training and sophisticated weaponry possessed by the terrorists. The opinion and the mission of the Western media is also not different to that if their home countries.
Poverty is not the root cause for terrorism, but it is easy to destabilize a country with terrorism when there is poverty. However, poverty is common to all races in a country irrespective of their population density. Especially during colonial regimes minorities had been privileged groups compared to the country’s majority. In or country, separatist terrorists claiming to represent the 18% Tamil community of the country, wanted to carve out 1/3 of the land and 2/3 of the coastal land as their ‘Eelam state’. As result genocide was a widespread the imaginary state, with large numbers displaced. Even the available logistic were not adequate to provide armed forces protection. This resulted in the forming of trained and armed villagers known as ‘Grama Aarakshaka’ as a lat measure in safeguarding the villages. These trained and armed villagers later evolved into forming the Civil Defense Force. Gamani emphatically addresses the issues faced by the people of such villages.
The director’s theme is based on a true incident in a village situated in Ampara district in which the terrorists brutally killed around 60 innocent people including children with an intention of chasing the rest of the Sinhalese people from their ‘Eelam State’.
However, the Sri Lanka Army could not control them due to the remoteness of the village and the bureaucracy at that time. Thus the villages opted to have their own trained Grama Arakshaka teams
Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekara very forcefully highlighted the limitations in the Sri Lanka Army decision making process and also the vigorous training of the Grama Arakshaka teams. Furthermore, the scenes of military training and the commando operations of the film were of high standard which could be considered as almost in par with Hollywood movies. The director was generous enough to give the full credit to the villagers for safeguarding their people. The confidence building of Grama Arakshaka was very well presented in the two conversations with a politically influential person on how they became trained to handle such situations.
The role of a Buddhist monk in a border village is also critically analyzed in this movie. This monk took the initiative and motivated the people to fight back and safeguard their inherited land from terrorists. He preached ‘it is man’s duty to protect his family or the property from the others and if surrounded by a group of armed terrorists with the intention of killing your kith and kin the only option available for you is to destroy the terrorists’. This kind of statement from a Buddhist monk is not to our liking. But the director was bold enough to breakthrough these barriers in us through his movie.
The scene of a Sinhala soldier providing his rain coat to a little Tamil girl to cover herself from the rain, and the continuous affiliation between this little Tamil girl and the soldier shows the human bond between the two races. It describes that the aversion is not between the two races, but it is between the terrorists and the innocent, and this we all have experienced in our real life for many years.
The director has not forgotten to reveal the selfish motives of NGO’s towards the war in this movie. Also the duality approach of the NGOs and their propaganda claiming terrorists favored peace were depicted by the characters of NGO representatives who belonged to some ambitious middle class in Colombo, who lacked any understanding of the real problems of the people of border villages, but wanting to be an intermediary to solve the ethnic issues.
Prominence was not given to the popular actors in this movie, but the entire crew performed their roles very faithfully and the villagers were represented in an appealing manner. Throughout the movie, the director has not deviated from the main theme.
Music, excessive violence or sex is not inserted purely for the purpose of attracting the audience.
Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekara has adopted a no-frills policy in his movie direction, and it has clearly set apart the movie Gamani from others.