What is peculiar and impressive about Prasanna Vithanage’s Paradise is its gaze that tries to interpret Ramayana differently. And he sort of uses his leading lady to achieve this, who advocates for the woman’s agency in a blunt yet polite way. The female gaze is backed by the current political scenario of Sri Lanka as we see the oppression faced by the people there from those in power. Narrated with a strong political and metaphorical layer, Vithanage’s Paradise stays with you for all the right reasons.
Keshav and Amritha, two Malayalis, are visiting Sri Lanka, which is going through its worst phase economically. There is no money and gas, and tourists, who come with money, have a very privileged space in Lanka. What we see in Paradise is the series of events that unfold in the lives of Amritha and Keshav when they get robbed from the place they stayed.
The movie has two layers running in parallel. One is the relationship dynamic between the hero and heroine that sort of gets tested after five years of their relationship when a major event happens. The second one is the evident class divide in Sri Lanka, which gets aggravated due to our lead pair’s case. Where the movie feels exciting on a creative level are the areas where the two layers merge seamlessly. From Keshav’s harshly insensitive behavior towards a group of people, the movie transitions into a space where Amritha is unable to control her rage against that insensitivity. And that evolution happens gradually, as she was perhaps the only one paying attention to what was happening around her.
Mani Rathnam’s Raavanan was one of those films that interpreted the Ramayana from the perspective of Ravana. While watching Paradise, you will find yourself watching a similar Ramayana interpretation where Rama is not necessarily the hero. Unlike the Mani Rathnam version, here there is no Raavana, and looking at Vithanage’s Sita, it feels more like a reconstructed Ramayana than an adaptation. Vithanage’s interpretation doesn’t demonize Marich, and it is only Sita who has empathy towards all living beings. There is even a line where Keshav asks Amritha how she can be so happy in a trapped situation. The evident political layer exposes the inequality and injustice in Sri Lanka. The frames by Rajeev Ravi rarely opt for a picturesque gaze of Lanka as the tension in the atmosphere needed tighter frames.
Roshan Mathew, as Keshav, who isn’t sensitive to the political scenario of the country he is in and is adamant enough to misuse his influence to get his things back, played that part with believable restraint and lack of remorse. On paper, Amritha’s empathy towards everything and everyone feels a bit unreal, but Darshana Rajendran was able to add life and realness to that pivotal character. Shyam Fernando, who played the role of Mr. Andrew, Mahendra Perera, who played the role of Sergeant Bandara, etc., were also quite memorable in their respective roles.
Prasanna Vithanage’s Paradise is a great blend of metaphorical storytelling, political representation, and subtle character study. A lingering pain and a curiosity to understand the characters who had suppressed their real emotion for a major part of the story is generated in our minds by the time the film ends. Along with the support of some moving performances, Paradise manages to create a connection with you.
Prasanna Vithanage's Paradise is a great blend of metaphorical storytelling, political representation, and subtle character study.
Green: Recommended Content
Orange: The In-Between Ones
Red: Not Recommended