Review - Yahaluwo (Best Friends):
Fascinating facet of genuine original art
Milieu through the eyes of a child:
Efficient Director's matured work: Seeing and analysing multiple
issues including loneliness through the eyes of a child avoiding
viciousness and prejudices.
One of the striking features of Sumitra Peries's latest directorial
venture, Yahaluwo (Best Friends) is the post-modern approach she has
taken in texturing the mosaic of the film. Perhaps, the forte of the
film is the very use of non-linear narrative in amalgamating characters
and incidents in a most strange manner.
Though the action takes place within the confines of a house, the
family is feels the undercurrents of a whirl wind of social changes that
gradually envelops the society. Rajive, an innocent child of mix
parentage is, perhaps, the best person to see the fractured society on
racial lines with untainted eyes.
Each character represents not only a segment of the population and an
ethnicity but also a gamut of attitudes and imbedded prejudices against
one another. Even the minor characters such as those of the burgher
music teacher (Vasanthi Chaturani), House Keeper (Gangu Roshana) embody
an assortment of attitudes and prejudices. Some of them had to leave the
country while others adapt themselves to the situation.
For instance, Rajive's maternal grandparents leave for Canada,
perhaps, never to come back to Sri Lanka. Rajive's grandparents leave on
account of conflict and tension while the Burgher teacher's mother
leaves on another count, the language. So, the texture of the film is as
complex as its characters, situations that epitomise the milieu we live
Beneath the superficial incidents, lies the undercurrents that shape
the lives of the inmates of the house. The fight between gardeners and
driver over the music played on radio is the focal point where friction
comes to light.
The entire house is disturbed in the dead of night. Though it is a
minor incident it gives rise to number of issues such as attitudes on
the part of one ethnic group towards another and inbuilt prejudices
against one another.
These prejudices influence, though slightly, almost all characters
including Manorani (Pooja Umashankar) and her husband (Sujeewa
Senasinghe). It also badly affects Rajive who seriously thinks about his
ethnicity and wishers that if parent's quarrel over his ethnicity, he
would end up being a Muslim. Gate Keeper (Kamal Addaraarachchi) spells
out the possibility of the driver and gardener to iron out their
differences and to live in harmony.
Yahaluwo is a passionate plea for togetherness and harmony and to
look beyond petty divisions on racial lines. Living in harmony with
people of diverse opinions, races and people with various prejudices is
symbolized, at times, through characters and incidents in the film.
Unlike in linear narrative the incidents in the film are unfolded in
a sequential or chronological manner; the incidents occur in a most
The very character of the film changes and evolves from a children's
film as it is seen at the beginning to a much more serious work of art,
transcending many layers underpinning the genesis of the crisis yet
through unspoiled and untainted eyes of a child.
The vision and the synergised effect of the unfolding scenes offer a
candid view through characters drawn from diverse backgrounds and
ethnicities. Each stands for a whole of its kind and amalgamates in
environs of a household.
Flashing on memories of Rajive's younger brother Gamini, though some
one might argue that it as a filler, plays an important role in
fortifying the omni-present loneliness of the child as well as brining
up some issues such as the distance between mother and child, the
grandmother's pre-occupation with religion, hallucinations and certain
beliefs in Sinhala society.
It, in fact, is quintessential to the plot and infringes on all
character in one way or another; mother is affected by the death and it
affects the relationship between husband and wife and also acts as
linkage between the religious grandmother and Rajive. No person with a
little knowledge of child psychology would not have come to that
Child's gifting of the tooth to the Gardener (brilliantly portrayed
by Raja Ganeshan) is symbolic in the sense that it is amounting to
parting of a part of one's body. Perhaps, the child may be prompted by
the belief that the tooth would bring prosperity to its possessor.
This is one place where non-linear narrative is best manifested. It
is naive to think that the director would enact a drama out of incident
of losing a tooth. In a way, it is not expected by the modern audience.
Rajive grows up in a truly multi-ethnic and multi-racial surrounding,
assimilating religious and cultural practices of both Sinhala and Tamil
societies. His perception is shaped up by the unfolding scenes which
questions his ethnic origin as a child of Sinhala-Tamil parents.
It should also be mentioned here that the film will go through
diverse readings and may draw criticism from some quarters purely on
account of its non-linear post-modernist narrative. Given the prototype
fantasies that follow linear narrative, reinforcing obsolete social
values, it is not surprising that such criticisms should spring out of
A significant aspect of Yahaluwo is the very non-linear narrative
which is, perhaps, the best form to experience complexities and the
subtle nature of human relationships. As in a blank verse, non-linear
narrative also has its own poetic rhythm which in this instance, has
been further enhanced by strong grammar of cinematography.
From the very first frame of the film, difference in the
cinematography including use of colour and shades is felt. A child's
innocent world is craftily created by nature-studded scenery with a lot
of animals in it. Among the directors, Sumitra Peries is the finest
example of applying the ideal of picture-supersede language among all
the directors even surpassing Dr. Lester James Peries.
Compared with her earlier productions such as Yahalu Yeheli, Sagara
Jalaya, Sumitra has deviated from creating women-centric roles in
Yahaluwo and this, to an extent, is being practiced in Sakman Maluwa.
She has explores life with its manifold relationships.
Through the diverse layers, illuminates the universal characteristic
of human nature, overcoming the artificial barriers of caste, creed,
ethnicity, religion, region and culture which divide people from people.
However, the dance in Rajive's dream between Gate Keeper (Kamal
Addaraarachchi) and Muslim woman House Keeper (Gangu Roshana) is a
failure and seems inserted into the plot, perhaps, to fulfil certain
obligation on the part of the Director. Kamal Addaraarachchi's acting in
the whole, is a failure.
Kamal tries to over play the character with an addition of the comic
element to it is tolerable. For that very reason, it becomes a little
bit unnatural which is agreeable.
Yahaluwo is a rare production, a gem in a dark unfathomed mine, which
will stand the test of time. In terms of its camera and cinematography
Yahaluwo beat any contemporary Sinhala production. Pooja Umashankar, at
times, over acted.
However, her mannerism has become sharp in Yahaluwo. Irangani
Serasinghe's real-life acting is well-fit into the role of a grandmother
who finds solace in Buddhist rituals.
Sinhala tuition master (Tony Ranasinghe) is as natural as he is and
fits well into the allotted role. Asoka de Zoysa's role as a driver is
not as convincing as he played successfully in other films. Though they
played minor roles Anarkali Arkarsha, Gangu Roshana, Raja Ganeshan,
Swetha Hansa, Rathna Sumanapala, Thesara Jayawardena, Sumathy Ragupathy,
and M. K. Sudhas were convincing and have done justice.
Music for the film is directed by Nawarathna Gamage. The cast
includes Himasal Thathsara Liyanage (son) who shows traits of a talented
actor, Anarkali Arkarsha, Gangu Roshana, Raja Ganeshan, Asoka de Zoysa,
Swetha Hansa, Rathna Sumanapala, Thesara Jayawardena, Sumathy Ragupathy,
and M. K. Sudhas.
Script-writer should also be commended for using lively language
enriched with memorable phrases such as Simmala, Demhala.
On focussed characters
Vasanthi Chaturani has portrayed the character of a burgher music
teacher in a natural and convincing manner. Her portrayal brings back
her brilliant acting in Sumitra Peries' Ganga Addara.
She has lived up to the ideals of being a burgher teacher,
assimilating exact mannerism and characteristics of the role. A
significant aspect of her portrayal is her innate ability to be natural
before the camera. She was so natural that it is hardly seen as
portrayal of someone else's character.
Even if she acted in a cheap fantasy, her role can be appreciated. It
is a fact that Vasanthi can fit into any role with confidence
irrespective of the nature of the film. Here, as a burgher teacher
Vasanthi also renders her voice to the film.
Himasal Thathsara Liyanage (Son) as Rajive portrayed his character
brilliantly. It is a pivotal character which acts as an inalienable
bridge between almost all characters.
Himasal shows very-down-to earth natural acting which is hardly
expected from a child of his age. In terms of voice control, Himasal is
second to none. It seems that this gifted young boy has a bright future
Sujeewa Senasinghe who played the main role of husband, is remarkably
natural, a fact which is rarely expected from a person who had never
appeared before a camera. He is so natural, at times, supersedes Pooja
who acts as his wife.
Sumitra Peries should be commended for handling a novice in a most
admirable manner deriving the best out of him.
Sujeewa should deserve a big applause from Sri Lankan filmgoers as he
is bold enough to take the challenge and lived up to the expectations of
the Director. In fact, he has gone beyond expectations and certainly
marked his name in Sri Lankan filmdom.