Film Review: Strange Familiar (Dakala Purudu Kenek): A peek at the Lankan bourgeoisie | Sunday Observer

Film Review: Strange Familiar (Dakala Purudu Kenek): A peek at the Lankan bourgeoisie

The plot line of Strange Familiar is based on a complex relationship of a Sri Lankan urban middle class couple who have been married for more than eight years, but still do not fully understand each other. Due to an incident that took place in the past, the husband restricts the wife’s day to day lifestyle and he is not responsive to her; this tense situation reveals the darkest hidden corners of their marriage in the presence of their parents. Their eight year old daughter, a witness to these events, silently suffers through this tragedy.

Sachithra, the husband, an architect by profession doesn’t let Dinithi go out of the house as she pleases but is allowed to go out with a particular three-wheeler driver only. Sachithra has hidden Dinithi’s mobile phone and refuses to give it back. She is more or less imprisoned in the house. While this situation continues, Dinithi’s cousin brother visits them for a few days.

During this visit, Dinithi shows a special attraction towards the young man, which takes the viewer into a dimension of extreme complexity. Strange Familiar focuses on conventional married life in Sri Lanka and how people react to certain situations in a relationship. The film questions the traditional ways of understanding issues in a marriage. While revealing bits and pieces of the dark side of a husband who has a male oriented view, the film criticizes women with narrow mindsets who do not bother to treat the root causes of issues but rather choose to ignore the situations. Adding different perspectives to the same problem, the filmmaker’s attempt has been to draw a cross section through the traditional Sri Lankan middle class marriage life, which details depression, sexuality and cold domestic violence.

After revealing a complicated struggle to resolve the series of unfortunate events of a married life, the film ends, showing a glamorous poruva ceremony, which is considered the most valuable event in a traditional wedding. The couple gets married with the blessings and praise of Shlokas among close relatives of both Sachithra and Dinithi.

The reality of their troubled marriage takes place after the wedding and that is where the drama comes to play. True understanding between a husband and a wife is tested when they face a problem, and if they are not ready to consider each other’s expectations and the values of being in a marriage, what is the use of customs, rituals, blessings and praise at the beginning of their life as a family? This is the question that director Hegoda poses to the audience.

Boopathi Nalin has written the script for director Malith Hegoda and together they have been able to create a film filled with drama and suspense. Going back to basic storytelling techniques, Malith has been able to grasp the attention of the viewer to the very end.

As the story unfolds, Boopathi and Malith bring facts from the past of the characters to complete the story, putting the bits and pieces together in a moving visual collage. The most interesting thing about the film is how the script writer and director fold the story step by step, based on dialogues and using the expressions of the characters in carefully chosen frames.

Each character that appear in the film bring a facet of information about the story. Sometimes, they bring different perspectives about things that have happened and are happening between Sachithra and Dinithi.

This is an attempt by the filmmaker to display how a volatile marriage is seen and experienced by different generations. While the older generation, the parents of the couple look at the whole issue with a matured perspective, the couple reacts to it in a different way; and the younger generation, Dinithi’s sister and cousin brother, do not take this issue seriously. Meanwhile, Dinithi and Sachithra’s eight year old daughter silently suffers even though she is not capable of fully understanding it.

Although the cinematic language and the plot of the film are seemingly conventional, the direction and design in every scene is shot in a creative manner that expresses the plot effectively, proving the young filmmaker’s skill and commitment to cinematic dialogue.

The plot and the cinematic language go hand in hand and do not over shadow each other in any way, effectively enhancing the film to achieve the desired effect. The film unfolds mostly based on dialogues, and the visual style has been used to strengthen the dialogues by following the expressions of the characters.

Basic editing techniques have been used to cut every shot with medium and close up frames as and when each character speaks. At the same time, the director breaks this rhythm when necessary. There are a couple of scenes that have been shot as long, continuous shots to capture the essence of the particular moment.

As the filmmaker is trying to discuss a serious and complex subject through a few simple dramatic incidents, all the aspects of the film have to be carefully put together. Among them, the cinematographer plays a major role. Being a senior cinematographer M.D. Mahindapala collaborates with a few young artists in Strange Familiar, and this is the first time he shot a film with a digital camera instead of an ordinary film camera.

Working closely with young director Malith, Mahindapala has achieved a beautiful and meaningful mood to the film with innovative lighting aimed at enhancing that the dark side of the subject matter is essential to focus on the mood of the scenes. Since this film has a character-driven narrative, the contribution of the actors and actresses has been the core.

Among talented senior artists such as Lakshman Mendis, Kaushalya Fernando, Dayadewa Edirisinghe and Chamila Pieris, the young artists also give a brilliant performance. Bimal Jayakody and Samadhi Laksiri play the main roles of the film that has been developed around these two characters, so the two main performers would have found it extremely challenging, yet have risen to the challenge.

As a first time director, Malith Hegoda establishes his future as an independent filmmaker with great potential to brighten Sri Lanka’s cinema future. It is a positive aspect that, as a young filmmaker, Malith’s attempt is to discuss important socio-cultural issues and human relationships.

Strange Familiar has been selected for many international film festivals including BFI London film festival in UK, Montreal world film festival in Canada and Seattle South Asian film festival in the US. Malith Hegoda was also awarded as the most promising director at the Derana Film Festival in 2016 and received a Jury award for best debut feature film at the Jaffna international film festival.

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