Machan - this is a movie
By Rajpal Abeynayake
Producer: Prasanna Vithanage
Director: Uberto Pasolini
Plot: The story of the 23 strong
Sri Lanka National Handball
team which disappeared
in 2004, in Germany.
I read a newspaper article which described Machan – - the movie which premiered on Thursday at the National Film Corporation – – as a comedy. In another, the interviewer asked the director, Uberto Pasolini, the producer of the uproarious Oscar winning Full Monty, what he thinks about the “immigration menace.” You don’t need visuals to see how Pasolini squirms at the question. (“I won’t call it a menace, a lot of countries are not handling the issue right,” he ends up saying…)
Machan is about a Sri Lankan “handball team” which wangles an invitation for a sports exchange programme in Germany.
On playing three matches in the tournament – – all 23 Sri Lankans including the coach and manager promptly go missing leaving their dirty linen behind. The German authorities alert the border police.
But none of the players were apprehended - - most disappeared to Italy where there is a considerable community of Sri Lankans.
A comedy, Machan is not, essentially.
It’s however a hilarious though lacerating take based on the Bavaria Handball caper, a true story which hit global headlines in September 2004. Reuters and BBC quoted Hemasiri Fernando, then president of the Sri Lanka Olympic Association as saying, “Sri Lanka does not have a Handball Federation – not even a handball club.”
Most of the players simply did not know the game when they ended up in Bavaria. However three matches were played – - with the Sobraj of the side insisting that “we are in Germany now – and I’m not even a crook here.”
What’s good is that the movie captures the half lives of all of these grown men. They led a half life here – – – - some literarily roofless, others digging graves on all shifts, still others living in tenements without electricity but with TVs sent from Italy.
Alberto gives you the full Monty here.
The language is raw – – – the situations are bizarre. For example, the policemen who raid the handball practice sessions end up adding their passports for the journey to Germany.
Machan was first titled “what f– – - handball” but the working title was later changed to Machan.
Just as well.
It’s a movie about men – - half-men leading half lives, desperate to escape the angst and deprivation of their lives.
I wouldn’t proceed to tell you the full story/Monty from here, though not quite on grounds of spoiler alert.
Suffice to say Sri Lanka appears to posses this unique team amalgam even in the most desperate of situations, which can be brought off in any Titanic like setting. (I still remember the year we won the cricket world cup, when a reputed wire service ran a story about how Hashan Tillekeratne washed his clothes in a washing machine in a Sri Lankan home when on tour in England. Hardscrabble as handball we are - even at the best of times…)
This is no Titanic though. It’s a caper in which the foreigners are fooled into granting visas to a whole team which does not know a ball about the game they are supposed to be playing…
But I glanced back at the foreigners who were staring into the screen - jacket clad and immaculate – from two rows behind me. I felt they didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry. You maybe embarrassed for a moment being a Sri Lankan seeing this movie, and the foreigners behind me were embarrassed being foreigners (…Germans, Italians, Bavarians?) I’m sure judging by their expressions.
I think that says much about the success of the movie.
Ruwanthi De Chickera writes a brilliant script.
The acting is handsome handball slick. Finally, it beats Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid – - or The Sting, in terms of plot hatched and denouement arrived at.
You cannot ask for any better. Hand it to them, ball and all.