It’s now safe to assume that there’s not going to be a holiday this year. Weddings are getting postponed, flights are getting cancelled and the amazing AirBnB you found for that trip to Sri Lanka is as good as closed for the near future. All the travel anyone’s going to be doing in the months to come are through TV or the internet. So what if you can’t go to Sri Lanka this year? You can always watch travel documentaries about the place. Better still, how about using this time to watch a Sri Lankan film?
A lot of us Indians can rattle off Muralitharan’s total number of wickets in test matches and the batting average of Sangakkara, but given our proximity to the country, isn’t it weird that most of us haven’t seen or even heard of a single Sinhalese movie? But if you’re willing to change that, the 2008 film Machan is a great place to get started. Directed by Uberto Pasolini (the producer of the British comedy The Full Monty, and director of Still Life), this charming little film is available on YouTube with subtitles.
Based on true events that took place in 2004, the comedy begins with a group of friends struggling to get visas approved to migrate to Germany. Hope is fading, but they come across a notice for a handball tournament set to happen in Germany. Despite not having played the sport even once, they sense an opportunity and start putting together a team. Its name? The Sri Lanka National Handball Team.
The film is as funny as it is moving. Watch out for that scene where one of them, a waiter, treats his friends to dinner at a five star hotel, before he quits his job there. It’s the inherent humanity we see in these characters that make us want them to succeed so badly, even when we know that they’re trying to pull off a major migration scam. Unlike the tourist-friendly places you might have visited on a trip, Machan also shows you life as it is in Colombo. It’s also unlike any other sports-based film you will ever see.