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I had the opportunity to watch Machan a few days back and I consider it the most spectacular film that took my senses at once after a long period of time since I watched the famous Gladiator.

The film has what we call “The first impression”. I’m not a great fan of Sinhala films but I have watched main stream films Agni Daahaya, Guerilla Marketing, Pura Handa Kaluwara, Aksharaya, Aba and a few other commercial films just to keep in touch with local cinema. Unlike other Sinhala films that I have mentioned here, I started watching Machan without any prior prediction. It was like a neutral mind status for me. If you take Agni Daahaya or Aba, marketing campaigns have made the images for those films nudging us to align our imagination with what is being marketed (Same thing as what Obama did). There is nothing wrong in that approach if what is marketed is true. But I noticed Machan never had a strong marketing campaign.

The Plot

The film is inspired by a true story. It is mentioned at the beginning. It is not a true story; it is just inspired by some true happenings. I saw at some points a few people claiming a true story has been deviated in the film. That is totally alright because the true story is just there for inspiration.

The film shows a dark side of Colombo. The film starts with showing a slum area in Colombo. My first impression was this doesn’t give a good message about our country. But gradually that impression faded from me due to the fact of the film’s approach towards that community. We have to admit that life of our country exists. I see it daily because I walk through a shanty town to reach where I work.

The whole story of film depends on 23 poor guys who escape to Europe after several unsuccessful attempts. They try every possible way both legally and illegally and finally meet success by forming a hand ball team.

Exposing the Society

On the way to going to Germany the film shows how things happen in Sri Lanka. It is amazing how the creators have captured even the smallest happenings in our society. The cleverness of the film makers is displayed by not exaggerating the events. Sometimes films put on more weight on love, fights, glamour or heroic acts which eventually make that film non realistic. But Machan has overcome that all. There is nothing call over acting at all.

The old man waiting on the queue outside the embassy on behalf of a wealthy embassy attendant, the fellow who sells oranges on roads, one who cheats on people to send them abroad and swindle money, the guy who sells sex labor for living, how poor people are addicted to put bet on horse races, guys who paste posters in the night for a living, the leftist movements; these all open up our society. We meet these people daily on roads. I was really amazed to see how these makers have had been able to catch the smallest corners of life and more importantly they have lined up them in an easy flowing order.

How the police fellows get into the team, how Piyal and his girl friend go to a net café to find out more on handball and how Piyal says he got that hair band from MC (Majestic City is a popular culture shopping mall in Sri Lanka where young people talk of with sort of a proud feeling), the way Jasmin tries to show outer world his husband Naseem is doing a descent job where he is only a tea boy in an office, the attitude of the young fellows towards Europe, they all make the film very realistic. When watching the film it feels so closer to me simply because I have come across hundreds of real characters like these in my life.


The makers of Machan have selected the cast very cleverly to capture a vast area of the society it is talking about.

Stanly is an irresponsible, easy going type of a character. But he has a good side of him. He brings food and medicine for his old aunts. Cares about his little brother and behaves as a good friend. His friendship is exposed when his and Manoj’s VISAs get rejected he gives a final try saying Manoj is a good barman. Even when they leave the country finally he waits a bit more than others just hoping Manoj will turn up at the last moment. When they lose a match and as Ruwan starts scolding Manoj, even in Manoj’s absence Stanly defends Manoj.

Stanly wears a chain around his neck with a cross. His sister is married to Suresh who is a Tamil. Manoj’s family practices Buddhist customs and rituals. Jasmin and Naseem are Muslims. This shows how different ethnicities are blend together and live together and how roots come to action when something goes wrong. When a quarrel occurs as guys play they blame each other using their roots, which is sometimes common in Sri Lanka.

Manoj is playing the good, well behaving guy’s character. He is always a gentleman caring his family and friends. He guides them and feels for them. He always takes Stanly with him and makes sure Stanly will share the same fortune if he gets one. When going inside the VISA approving room Manoj tries to make Stanly’s clothes look better. A sudden accidental incident happens there and Manoj tries his best to get Stanly have some work around. Manoj is always conscious and always thinking. He comes up with the name for the team “Sri Lanka National Handball Team” that suited their intention really well. His caring for his family is displayed when he takes them for a dinner at his work place hotel. He gets embarrassed due to the odd way of behavior of his family at that alien place. He sees a long way ahead and declines going to Europe saying if he earns more social status he would want to drop his family and move away from them to avoid embarrassment. So he wants to be with them. He decides to stay as who he is now. That is the dedication of him towards the ones he loves. This is very natural. I have seen so many people who have dropped their families due to this fact. This is clever filming.

Vijith is the guy who has a better family of all. His father is a leftist protesting and organizing campaigns against capitalism. Vijith enjoys more luxuries and he is more exposed to the world. He actively involves with his father’s work and at the same time he helps these poor friends. Even though he feels for them he does not share the same intention to go abroad initially. Eventually he starts helping them and joins them at the end. His freely behavior due to backing up of his family is exposed throughout the character and Vijith is the one introducing the minority conventional leftist activities of Sri Lankan society.

Piyal is the guy who sells his labor for sex. Even though he does this for living he has a good side of having a truthful relationship with a girl. Truthful in the sense he does not want to miss use the girl. His appearance, the way he dresses and the way he talks, everything matches with the real fellows who do this type of work.

Ruwan plays as the swindler who promises to take people to countries illegally. This is very common in Sri Lanka especially in coastal areas. This fellow’s cunning characteristics are displayed cleverly.

The Flow of Events and Music

The characters and the flow of story are selected really carefully to give the maximum exposure of the society and the topic the film covers. It covers almost every corner of that particular society. At some points I felt acting should have been a bit smoother but for most of the times it was very good. The film never gives unnecessary weight on the characters that are played by well distinguished actors. They appear for very small parts and their personal characteristics are never highlighted unlike in some other films. It all adds up light to the film. The film never highlights a single character. It stands as a collective work which is good to see in Sri Lanka.

Music plays a great role in Machan. It enhances the events and the way audience feels the story. Sentimental occasions are accompanied by light piano and eastern pot type of music. Aggressive or livelier type of incidents are spiced with dominating trombone, trumpet like music. To highlight the youth energetic moments they have used popular reggae type Sri Lankan music done by the group Jaya Sri.

It is amazing how directors have captured even the smallest common attitudes of Sri Lankans. There is an incident where Suresh (Stanly’s brother in law) shares his hardships with an old person who works at the hotel wash room where Suresh is a cleaner. That elderly person loses his job due to a new hand drying machine set up in the wash room. It shows the approach of employers to adopt what comes from Europe and US without looking into deeper at the matters of the poor employees. To get rid of economic hardships Stanly’s sister tries to go mid east as a house maid. Their family faces so many problems due to local donor who asks for a very high interest from Suresh for the lent money. This covers up a vast area by capturing small incidents like these. The film is never too serious but a universal truth for youth of 3rd world countries runs underneath the story injecting it to our nerves secretly. The humor throughout the film keeps audience alive and stick to the seats. The clothing, make up, and all that is just perfect for the story.

Machan is almost perfect blend of story, humor, emotion, music and everything. If you describe it by a single word, I would prefer the word GREAT! It’s a good film I have watched after ages and it is good because the truth about the film is good. It is not made high by critics or marketing campaigns. It is not something rebellion questioning the social etiquette or our culture or our politics or anything else. It is good because it talks to the hearts of the viewers with some genuine thoughts dropping hidden agendas of individuals who are trying to build up personal images for themselves by some mean.

I feel there is a lot to learn from the film by everybody. It leaves something for each of us to think on.

The name "Machan" is used by every ethnic group in Sri lanka. Let it be in Sinhala, Tamil or English; in Sri Lanka every guy calls another "Machan". Irrespective of the back ground the word is commonly used at all levels. It is like "Comrade" in communist countries and "Dude" in english speaking countries. The film is about friends from different back grouds who work for a common goal. The name too suits the film very much.

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