Funny Boy: Deepa Meht

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One of the best combinations in a film is the fusion of a journey to personal liberation and political trauma. Funny Boy is a gay coming of age story whose backdrop is the civil war in Sri Lanka. The film is based on Shyam Selvadurai’s 1994 novel and was adapted by Deepa Mehta, an Indian-Canadian filmmaker.
Beyond this particular setting, Funny Boy is a tale of self-realisation while manoeuvring the boundaries of family and culture. In the film, homosexuality is still illegal on Sri Lanka and Arije, the film’s hero experiences the disapproving remarks and eyes of his relatives throughout his life. Later on, he also faces the same from his schoolmates who notice that he isn’t displaying the ‘approved’ masculine behaviours.
Arije is surrounded by his siblings in their wealthy home with his mother and father, a hotelier as well as his grandmother. When the children set up a play wedding ceremony, we see Arije in the bridal drag and he seems to be happy about pushing gender expectations. His aunt Radha encourages him and teaches him a motto that helps him self-affirmation.
Radha loses her freedom when she falls for a Sinhalese man and her family loses it because the Tamils and Sinhalese have had long-standing enmities. She also experiences violence being meted against the Tamils and this sets the stage for the events to follow. On the other hand, Tamil is now almost 18 and he attends a private school where he bonds with a Sinhalese Classmate, Shehan who introduces him to Eurythmics and David Bowie. The two boys fall in love with each other and create space for themselves in Sheehan’s home.
In the end, the tensions between minority Tamils and the Sinhalese of Sri Lanka boiled over in 1983 with the civil war that would last until 2009. We see Arije’s family getting overcome by catastrophes and there’s an epic dramatization of the conflict that’s going on. Other than Radha’s and Aries love stories, there’s a potential third and forbidden one that’s staring at us between the lines.
Jegan, Arije’s mother’s relative is attractive and his parents aren’t quite over the moon about his involvement with the Tamil Tigers, which is a militant guerrilla group that’s on its way to taking a leading role in the bloody Sri Lanka 26-year civil war. The attractive lady influences her husband to get him a job at the hotel he works in and later reveals that she admires the Tamil Tigers and the boy.
The last half hour of the film concentrated on the danger with viewers trying to see an end to the war and we see action scenes with violent and angry mobs. Unfortunately, even though the film had the potential of becoming an excellent coming of age story, Arije’s love story with Shehan, just like Radha’s, aren’t explored conclusively and may feel like an anti-climax as the movie comes to an end.

All in all, there’s still a hint of an epic that viewers will be glad to watch.

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