Here’s How Mani Ratnam Conveyed Touchingly Humane Thoughts About Freedom & Existence In Amrutha!


Contributed By Avinash Jonnalagadda


Amrutha – when I heard about this movie, I expected a Mani Ratnam magic. But when I first watched it, I was not impressed. It’s definitely emotional but it was difficult to empathize with Amrutha. Here is a girl who has everything in this world yet, is quite mischievous, runs away with her cousin to an unknown place, taunts her parents about her roots even though they are liberal and love her a lot, never cares for her brothers, never understands the pain of her mother and is determined to meet her biological parents knowing that she was probably deliberately left out. Why should anybody like her?


However, after watching the film again a few questions popped in my head. Why was Amrutha so restless? Why can’t she accept the fact that she is adopted? At some point in the movie she is even bothered about the color of her skin. But is it really important to know the answers to all these questions? Is it important to know where we belong to? Where we come from? Is it necessary to have an absolute identity?


We as human beings face these existential questions at some point in our life and some try to find the answers for these questions. But at what cost? Let’s look at the case of Amrutha’s biological parents – Dileepa (J. D. Chakravarthy) and Shyamala (Nandita Das) who dedicated their lives for the liberation of Tamil tigers. LTTE fought with the Sri Lankan government for more than 25 years for their own independent Tamil State to prove their existence and identity resulting in thousands of causalities within the country. If we observe carefully Amrutha’s journey and purpose are quite similar to that of LTTE’s fight for their own land.


Firstly, let’s look at the question about why identity matters. Amrutha has been brought up in the darkness of a birth secret and when the secret is revealed to her, the first question that bothers her is whether her siblings are also like her. A little later, it is her brother Vinay who bullies Amrutha about her mother. This is the genesis of the identity crisis. When you are in a minority and there is a majority out there mocking your identity, wouldn’t you be bothered about your existence? That is exactly the case with Tamilians in Sri Lanka who weren’t granted citizenship after Sri Lanka’s independence. Hence, the genesis of the struggle.


Now, the next part of the question is how do we aim to achieve this independent identity. Is it through violence? Violence as a means has been the most misguided path that youngsters trod. It has high costs associated with it. So, does such a freedom achieved against a backdrop of violence, be the right path for the next generations to reside in a free world? During Amrutha’s journey her mother was hurt badly, her brothers are crying for their mother and her father almost died in the hands of military. Did she stop for a second and think about why am I doing all this?


Well, the point is, when we are in war, the goal becomes so important that we often forget the collateral damage of the means. Both Dileepa (J. D. Chakravarthy) and Shyamala (Nandita Das) look forward for a day when peace shall be established and children can live freely. They cease to look at the fact that when innocent civilians are being killed every other day through public bombings and suicide bombers (see quick facts 1 below), their fight is curbing the very world that they want to achieve. In Sangakkara’s (former Sri Lankan cricketer) famous speech at the Lords, he elaborates on how such a war-torn country had to face the odds to rise as a nation. It is undoubtedly, parents who are the most bothered about the safety of their children. There is one scene in the movie where Srinivas (Madhavan) visits Shyamala’s (Nandita Das) burnt house with a puzzled expression thinking about how Amrutha would have been brought up. If Amrutha stayed there she would have probably died but here she is leading a happy life and yet unsatisfied with her adopted parents.


On the contrary, Dr. Herold Vikramasinghe (Prakash Raj) who represents the majority Sinhalese community, blames the developed countries and weapon suppliers for having vested interests in the civil wars of undeveloped countries. That’s how the perception of war changes when you are in the majority and look at war from a distance.


Through Dr. Vikramasinghe’s (Prakash Raj) help, Amrutha gets a way to meet her biological mother, who is a metaphor to the Tamil State LTTE always wanted to achieve. Meanwhile, we have this scene in the movie where Indira (Simran) calls to check how her sons are. After all, motherland needs to protect the interests of both her citizens and refugees equally. So, there are always ways to find a mid-path.


Towards the emotional climax, we see Shyamala (Nandita Das) taking Amrutha into her hands on the request of Indira (Simran). In true Mani Ratnam style, we see a fire raging in the background which is put off by the rain. Mani Ratnam suggests that we can always put violence aside and achieve peace through mutual co-operation. He is indirectly implying that war is bad for everybody and fighting for one particular identity is not really that important if it is resulting in so many losses (See quick facts 2 below).


The film ends with Shyamala (Nandita Das) refusing the shelter that the adopted family offers and Amrutha reiterates her love for her adopted parents. The adopted parents are similar to the Sri Lankan country. Through the eyes of Amrutha, Mani Ratnam makes a firm statement that we need to form our identity where ever we are and thriving for something else at heavy cost is absolutely futile. What a touching humane thought that is! Let peace and freedom prevail and determine our existence rather than war and suffering. Prathi udayamlo shaanti kosame thapanagaa…


Quick Facts:
1. While the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi is the most famous suicide attack of LTTE, a total of 378 people were killed in all the suicide attacks carried out by LTTE, which is one of the highest by any organization in the world.
2. Over the period of Civil War in Sri Lanka, 80,000 – 1,00,000 people were killed. This is one of the highest in the post-World War II period.

Source: Wikipedia

Note: This article will have a follow up on the detailing in the movie.


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