The Sunday Leader

Ira Handa Yata Brings A Message To Every Sri Lankan

By Upali Cooray

Sri Lanka’s war against Terrorism is a good source for creative artistic expression that would work as stimulants for better understanding about the tribulations the country underwent till recently and to narrow the differences that exist’s to date among Sri Lankans by giving a forceful message to the masses.
Film is such a powerful form which can be used if handled by someone who has in him the country’s wellbeing as his purpose than just commercial profit. “Ira Handa Yata” Directed by Bennett Ratnayake is a film which should be seen by every Sri Lankan irrespective of their caste, creed, and ethnicity. This film speaks to every Sri Lankan living in this small land, how  human warmth and attachments cuts across all barriers and makes us to think how insensitive we have been to  other human beings who have the same desires and hopes to live a peaceful , happy life.

The Director of this film explains the title given to his film in this manner. “As preached by the Lord Buddha if there is something that we cannot hide eternally that is only the Sun, Moon and the truth. ‘Ira Handa Yata’ is to resurrect the series of events that took place in this country by disclosing the truth behind them,”   One could also interpret that the Sun and the Moon do not discriminate any being living under, in providing light. There are no different Suns and Moons for different peoples based on ethnicity, language, caste or colour.  Therefore, all peoples should understand the uselessness of such differentiations among human beings.  The other message is that love cuts across and has no concern for atrociously divided ethnic barriers.

Rathnayake has been able to create a gripping human drama based on Sri Lanka’s war against terrorism and the consequential fall out on its victims, to convey his message. Above and beyond, he portrays his love for the country and how much yearning he has to see a peaceful and prosperous motherland.  I have heard about Bennett Ratnayke as one of the good film directors in the film industry but have not seen any of his previous films. “Ira Handa Yata” has won many international awards and whatever the awards it has won are fully justifiable.

An accidental meeting of a Corporal (Rakhitha) and an officer (Mahasen) of the Sri Lanka Army, in the forested war ground of wanni at a dark night, facing a blistering attack of the enemy is the beginning of the story. The corporal’s efforts, who himself is wounded in the leg, to save the critically wounded officer through sheer respect, becomes futile and he ultimately abandons the officer, while taking a last message from the officer to his wife.  The officer ultimately faces death in the hands of a ruthless LTTE area leader while the corporal languishes in a hell hole of a prison of the LTTE along with other prisoners. He undergoes untold misery and torture but ultimately is recued by the Sri Lanka Army.  The corporal is having guilt over the death of the officer because he feels partly responsible for the officer being killed by the LTTE.  In order to put an end to his guilty conscience and because of the responsibility to convey the message from the dead officer to his wife, the corporal, now a captain, goes on a journey in exploring the background of the officer’s life and also vindicates himself from the guilt  through benevolence to  the officer’s   sick little daughter.

The most creditable feature I see in this film is the boldness of the director in not making this film a nationalists’ dream or propaganda for the government. He has walked the tight rope well by having a good balance of depicting both sides to the story, the Sri Lanka Army and the terrorists. He has been courageous to show an army officer getting enraged by two of his platoon getting killed by a bomb thrown by the LTTE activist by shooting dead, the elderly father and the mother of the family.  Mahasen who always thinks of an equitable world dares to challenge his own superior by death, to prevent the only girl in the family too getting killed by the rampaging superior. The girl, who has no connection to the LTTE, ends up in an I.D.P camp as an orphan where Mahasen finds her later. The director undoubtedly has taken quite a risk by trying to tell the truth.

The cast does not have any famous “stars” as such, but are full of well known, talented character actors such as Saumya Liyanage who gives another superb performance as Mahasen the officer. Bimal Jayakody as LTTE area leader, Kaushalya Fernando and Damitha Abeyratne as LTTE female cadres, Chandani Seneviratne as Mahasen’s sister, give excellent performances in this film. I believe the veteran actress Suvineetha Weerasighe’s portrayal of the mother of Mahasen is overacting.  A special mention must be made of the two new comers Tasha Dharshani as Kiruba and Udara Rathnayake as Rakitha the Corporal. My view is that both these new comers in any way do not commit any injustice to the roles they play.  However some comments have been made in the media that Udara Rathnayake does not fit to his role and he looks a “well fed Mama’s baby” which I believe is an extremely biased and harsh point of view. Udara Rathnayake is the son of the director and that is not a disqualification as long as he performs well. One can see almost every day, smart and handsome army soldiers just like Udara, whose battle hardened self does not get reflected in their outlook. Therefore I cannot see any justification in running down Udara’s performance. However I do not keep him at the same level as other veterans such as Saumya Liyanage and Mahedra Perera.  Tasha Dharshini is a new find who will go a long way in acting. She is the better of the two new comers and her portrayal as a Tamil wife of a Sinhala army officer torn between her love for the husband and her ethnicity portrays the haplessness of the innocents caught in a futile war.

This film carries some spell binding war front scenes which have never been seen in local cinema. The brutality of the war is thoroughly portrayed by some action sequences which are as equal to any good international film based on war. If anyone needs to see how brutal the Eelam war was, seeing this film is recommended for the realism alone. But there is much more to be appreciated in the film.

The cinematography is exceptional in relation to high standards seen in good films.  Kalinga  Deshapriya who is the director of cinematography a new comer, depicts the qualities of a veteran through his camera eye. The music score of Rohana Weerasighe though sometimes tries to outdo the importance of visual portrayal is mostly appropriate and enhances the effects of the sequences. The film story is narrated with frequent flashbacks and one should be discreet to connect the sequences correctly. Here is a film which speaks loudly to the entire nation very forcefully and in and unbiased maner, that there is absolutely no meaning in having social barriers, which had divided this country for over thirty years.  It is only compassion and harmony which will bring us all, peace and prosperity. The director should be congratulated for giving this forceful message despite serious odds and achieving the highest artistic standards good films should achieve.

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