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Paradise Review: Riveting!

Last updated on: July 01, 2024 17:31 IST
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Prasanna Vithanage's Paradise leaves the audience to read between the lines and draw their own conclusions about the frailty of human nature, and how easily violence seizes the most unexpected prey, observes Deepa Gahlot.


What kind of idiot would willingly go into a troubled country for a wedding anniversary trip?

A privileged idiot, that's who, the kind that thinks he is getting a bargain and doing the people a favour by spending his money there. 

Sri Lanka is a country in a crisis.

The people are out on the streets protesting against food and fuel shortages, when an Indian couple visits, in Prasanna Vithanage's acclaimed, award-winning film, Paradise (multi-lingual).

Most tourists have cancelled, so Kesav (Roshan Mathew) and Amritha (Darshana Rajendran) have the full attention of their guide, Mr Andrew (Shyam Fernando), and a run of the beautiful, isolated bungalow, in the forest.

Keshav gets good news on the professional front from his office, so he is in a happy mood.


Andrew takes them on a Ramayan tour, pointing out places where various incidents from the epic took place.

He is probably making some of it up but he is painfully earnest about pleasing his guests.

Quite early in the film, he tells them that it is believed Ravana did not die; he is just slumbering, and will wake up one day to save Sri Lanka.

Amritha is amused by his stories -- she is aware of different versions of the Ramayan -- but also sensitive to serenity of the space.

When Keshav wants venison, the villa's server, Shree (Sumith Ilango) picks up a loaded gun to take them hunting for deer but Amritha cannot bear the beautiful animal being killed, and interrupts.

The deer is just one of the Ramayan motifs that pops up in the film but Vithanage does not draw deliberate parallels between the epic and his plot. There is a sense of foreboding created, however, and that is kept up till the unanticipated climax.

Burglars enter the villa late that night, and rob their laptops and phones, more crucial to Keshav at that point, because of professional deadlines.

He insists on calling the cops, and is told that due to a diesel shortage, they cannot come there, so Andrew drives them over.

When Sergeant Bandara (Mahendra Perera) sounds uninterested -- he has more pressing issues to deal with than missing gadgets -- Keshav threatens to pull strings higher up.

The pressure from an adamant Keshav, results in the arrest and torture of three Tamil men, whom Keshav identifies.

He may have been wrong about seeing them in the dark but they own up to the crime. Keshav, foolishly decides to wait till he gets their devices back, showing the first world arrogance that white tourists are often accused of. Amritha sees a different side to her husband that had not surfaced earlier, perhaps due to a lack of provocation.

As could be expected, things spiral out of control, and that loaded gun -- following Chekhov's dramatic rule about not introducing a gun in the first act if it is not meant to go off in the third -- is used in the shocking ending.

It does seem like the forest location, with its deceptive calm, will not let the city unrest impinge on its peace but Keshav overestimates the cushioning of his 'outsider-ness', while Sergeant Bandara's agenda is difficult to read, without knowing the current socio-political history of the island and the long-running animosity between the Sinhalas and Tamils.

The villa's Muslim cook, Iqbal (Azher Samsoodeen), and the Christian Andrew seem to represent minorities that must have been innocent bystanders in the not so distant, violent ethnic strife in Sri Lanka.

Vithanage gets natural, nuanced performances from the actors, and picturesque visuals of the sites Andrew shows off to his only clients in a slack season but leaves the audience to read between the lines and draw their own conclusions about the frailty of human nature, and how easily violence seizes the most unexpected prey.

Paradise Review Rediff Rating:

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