IN THE NAME OF BUDDHA Image

IN THE NAME OF BUDDHA

By admin | May 28, 2003

Intimately examining the three-sided violence that has plagued Sri Lanka for 20 years, this film’s title isn’t descriptive; it’s a plea for peace. And there’s nothing subtle about it! This all-encompassing attempt to get a message across undermines the film’s drama even more than the uneven production values.
The film opens as Siva (Shiju) flees his country and travels to London, where he applies for refugee status. We then watch events unfold in flashback back home in Sri Lanka, where Siva was studying medicine with plans to work with his father (Jayasurya) in a government clinic. He also plans to marry his sweetheart Geetha (Soniya). But all around them war is raging between the Lankan army and the Tamil rebels. Both sides use brutal methods in their cause; both claim a higher calling. And when India arrives with a peacekeeping force, it seems everything will finally settle down. Not even close.
There’s a vital, important, urgent story here that needs to be told, but a dramatic film like this can’t stand up under the weight of such strong sermonising. The dialog is so preachy that it undermines every scene completely. This is a pity because the characters are compelling and interesting, and quite well-played too. And while writer-director Rajesh Touchriver’s camera work is often stunningly beautiful, his direction is amateurish and often quite indulgent, with random cuts and simple errors that make it hard for us to keep track of who’s fighting whom. There’s a strange mix of excellent technical work with awkward clumsiness in things like makeup, music and dubbing. And thematically, Touchriver milks every scene for all he’s got.
You can hardly blame him for being so heavy handed in his approach, but a lighter touch would be far more effective. And a clearer focus on the characters and their own personal situations would draw us in much more urgently. If the filmmakers want to tell the whole story (and they should!), maybe they’ll make a proper documentary and leave nothing out.

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