‘Like an octopus Mr. Mel covers all those around him. The living as well as the lifeless, knowingly or unknowingly are trapped. The oppressed are struggling to be free of him.’ These thoughts flow into my mind whenever I ponder over Bambara Walalla.
Before the film was released, in an interview with the director he said the film is about ‘men’s tears’, but in the film the tears of both men and women are portrayed in a balanced way; so the suffering of the ‘human’ is exposed. Podi Eka (played by Athula) is the leading character among the oppressed.
From his childhood he was misused by his stepfather for malpractices. He is not even sent to the school. Podi Eka was sent to jail for 17 years for murdering his stepfather. The story built around him cleverly analyzes social, political, cultural and psychological facets of human life.
The term Podi Eka (little one) itself symbolizes a huge meaning throughout the story. We usually say Podi ekek wage ahinsakai or kisideyak therennathi podi ekek (innocent like a little one or like a little one he/she does not understand anything). Even after he has grown up he is called Podi Eka. He always laments he cannot understand anything, which emphasizes his childish nature.
Podi Eka draws three crosses symbolizing his family at the beginning of the story. This indicates his lack of education. The symbols remind us of the cave pictography of the primitives. Thus via his character a social reality is conveyed: how the common folk live without much awareness of the outer world and how they are used by the able strata.
In a society ruled by able people, Podi Eka is a character who is expected to be neutral but he becomes a puppet for his uncle and later a cat’s paw for Mr. Mel. Society does not look kindly upon him. He loses his love and then his mother.
The uncle’s daughter spits into his face and then reminds him of his true position: “you are the cattle keeper”. This shatters his world. He has an impulsive nature and that is why he always reacts quickly without thinking about the consequences.
Even though Podi Eka is the main character it is Mr. Mel played by Mahendra Perera steals the show (see boxed story). Thus we feel that director Athula Liyanage should have enhanced his own character.
As a whole the actors portrayed their characters convincingly and with great depth. The audience is drawn into the story and will leave the theatre thinking about the hidden messages that are there if you look deep within.
The plight of women in this society is well portrayed overall. In the beginning it is shown how Podi Eka’s mother and sister suffer and how they are oppressed by his step father.
Then Podi Eka’s mother has to pay with her life for her son’s deed. Even Podi Eka shows dominative characteristics when the uncle’s daughter rejects his proposal. She has a right to do so but Podi Eka violates her rights by cutting her hair and humiliating her.
When Kumari’s (played by Damitha Abeyrathne) character is taken into focus, it shows how the women are cheated, oppressed and how they are used for men’s needs. Mr. Mel uses Kumari as a way of taming men. We might wonder ‘does he really love Kumari?’ Sometimes Mr. Mel’s character is a mystery.
After Kumari and Podi Eka run away, Mr. Mel says he loved them more than anyone else. However we are unable to find whether this is the truth or if there is any worthy reason for him to love them.
The cinematography of the film should be praised as the camera has absorbed the director’s vision and it is put before our eyes creatively. The characters in this film are trapped, oppressed, cheated and isolated by the huge society around them. Even Mr. Mel has faced the same situation.
Thus the abundant use of high angle shots which gives small images, relates the helplessness of the characters. Though the film is the debut for Athula Liyanage, it exhibits a maturity not usually seen in a first film.
By Madhubhashini RATHNAYAKA