My apologies for a clickbait title. I should have rather titled it “Challenges in documenting Eelam struggle” as I think, it is more appropriate.
Over the last couple of weeks, I had the opportunity to watch both Season 1 and 2 of Family Man, and Methagu. Whilst, you cannot compare “Family Man” with Methagu, as both differ in their production budgets, one produced by the world’s most powerful technology based company, Amazon, and the other, crowd-funded. Both differ in their narrative pace, importance to casting, story, screenplay and directorial style.
One thing, I found from Methagu promotion was — it was a fitting reply to the likes of “Family man” in depicting the reasons behind Eelam struggle. This is an utterly false premise as “Family man” Season 2 focussed on a hunt for a Tamil separatist unit that was ordered to assassinate the Indian Prime Minister who followed the advise of her bureaucrats in handing over a senior Tamil separatist leader to the Sinhalese Government in Sri Lanka.
Methagu in a painfully slow, weak narrative style, depicts the early life of Captain (referred as “Methagu”) Pirabakaran and why he took up the armed struggle. It isn’t convincing and it clearly fails with its black and white depiction of communities. It portrays buddhist Sinhalese monks as clear-cut bad guys and Tamil separatist groups as clear-cut good guys or victims. The best part of the movie was the street-play (“therukoothu”) performance as it carried a deep tone of emotion that I can relate with. Methagu fails in its attempt as it relies on stroking human emotions in an unconvincing fashion.
How to make a convincing web-series or a movie?
To hide the minor flaws, a story has to be convincing. The Director’s ability kicks in with his/her style of narration of the story. Web series have a time luxury as they can focus on segments of the story in detail and develop a relationship with the main characters to better understand their side of things. Where as in a 2 hour movie format, it is a tricky balance and the Director has to ensure people are first invested in a character in order to empathise with their struggles or violence against those characters later on in the story.
Methagu, in its 2 hour narrative format and capturing the early portion of the Tamil separatist (right word would be Tamil identity) struggle has indeed failed to do the job of relating to the main characters in their struggle. I can probably attribute this to low budget ? lack of convincing directorial approach? casting issue? Overlooking hand painted name placards?
If you want me to go soft, I can tell you, Methagu team can certainly improve on its first offering.
Now, focussing on “Family man — Season 2”, I should tell you that it has a very engaging narrative style similar to Season 1. Regardless of minor flaws, the series wins due to its casting efforts, character arcs and more importantly, you are invested in the main characters as there is a back story to them.
The obvious flaws include portrayal of a Tamil militant woman as someone who is multi-lingual (primarily to please their wider Hindi speaking audience) and other member of Tamil separatist group speaking Hindi to their bomb expert, Sajid. I couldn’t understand how the local Police and TASC agents can go soft on Raji after she is captured by the team? In reality, Raji would have consumed the cyanide capsule or would have been subjected to 3rd degree torture. Portraying TASC as soft and their targets as ruthless is a directorial trick to root for the so-called good guys.
Regardless of its free hand on budget, great casting and engaging narration, “Family man” fundamentally fails in its portrayal of Muslim terrorists as State enemies and in Season 2, does the same mistake of portraying Tamil separatists as State enemies. Though there are some shades of grey, like Srikanth Tiwari, the TASC agent, repenting over the death of innocent Muslim civilians in Season 1 and carried over a bit to Season 2, the job of both law enforcement and separatist groups asserting their right isn’t always black and white and reinforces the fact that we all have shades of grey.
On that regard, “Family Man” is a more engaging watch than “Methagu”. So, please stop the comparison here!
Challenges in documenting Eelam struggle
The right format to document the struggle to assert Tamil identity in a racist Sinhalese environment is a “web-series”.
Here is my over simplified breakdown of the Eelam struggle.
Season 1: Raise of Sinhalese nationalism, JVP, violence on Tamils and subsequent raise of tamil separatist groups.
Season 2: In-group fighting between varies Tamil separatist groups and the raise of LTTE as the dominant power.
Season 3: Atrocities committed from both sides during the first half of the civil war, assassinations and the interference of Indian Government in Sri Lanka’s civil war.
Season 4: Assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, the Indian Prime Minister and the fallout effect on LTTE. Indian intelligence role in choking LTTE which led to the capture and murder of top rung leaders.
Season 5: Never-ending wave battles, ceasefire and subsequent betrayal of LTTE by Karuna (east faction). The last days and the final decimation of LTTE.
Season 6: What has the 30 year old civil war accomplished? What happened to the countless missing and the stories of refugees who are overseas.
As they say,
“only the dead have seen the end of war” or as writer Jesudasan (better known as “Shoba Sakthi”) says: “In a war, there is nothing like revolutionary war, puritanical war, good intervention war, authoritarian war etc. War is war” and “war shows no discrimination in causalities…it include both women and children”.
I found these of interest.
- Pirabakaran — a phenomenon by Sachi Sri Kantha
- Views of Shoba Sakthi (in tamil) as a separatist rebel, renunciation of armed struggle, refugee life and views on Eelam struggle
- Funding the final war — by Human Rights Watch
- DBS Jeyaraj on Anton Balasingham, Political adviser to the LTTE
- Adele Balasingham’s book, “The Will to Freedom”
- Mark Saltzer’s, “To end a civil war” (perspective of Norwegian mediation team)