Like Water to Soil: ‘Paangshu’ Between Politics and Rights

Prabha Manuratne

The director of the film Paangshu, Visakesa Chandrasekaram describes how his encounter with human rights violations in Sri Lanka made a deep impact on him, and remembers the image of a mother looking at the remains of her dead son: “She really changed my perception of the kind of professional life I wanted to have” (Hewavithanagamage 2020). One could read Paangshu (2020) as an expression of his frustration with the legal system. As Chandrasekaram is himself a lawyer, we may even read the film as his direct subjective expression of his emotional encounter with victims of disappearances. When the camera focuses on the face of the young state prosecutor, Indika, while the mother of the disappeared man, Baba Nona, identifies her dead son’s body, we can infer that the film’s director is identifying with one of its characters. Tempting as this reading is, it does not do justice to the film because it uses a double narrative frame to recount the story of the disappeared during the 1987-89 period in Sri Lanka.

The story is narrated in the third person, but incorporates the state counsel’s point of view, representing that of the politico-legal framing of the film and Baba Nona’s point of view, representing the experiences of those who are left out of that system. The latter is explored by generating various “universe[s] of themes” (Freire 1970, 1993: 82) arranged in sometimes concentric, sometimes overlapping circles. In this review of the film, I explore this double framing using Jacques Rancière’s concept of dissensus. I examine how this double framing of the film problematises the “border” that marks the distinction between the “sphere that is that of citizenship, of a political life separated from that of private life” (Rancière 2010: 76). In other words, my key argument is that Paangshu puts the state-driven politico-juridical system of human rights, as well as the broader problems of leftist politics, into conversation with the world of those left out of them, in such a way that the latter brings out the political limits of the former. To make this argument, I will employ Gilles Deleuze’s concept of the “mental image” (Deleuze 2009: 198). I argue that Paangshu employs the mental image to undercut the manifest narrative of Baba Nona’s interaction with the political and legal universe of the film, punctuating it with moments of guilt, retribution, dignity, and unglorified valour.

Critical Reception
Paangshu (Soil) premiered to a packed audience in August 2020. The film boasted a stellar cast, including Nita Fernando in the lead role, Jagath Manuwarna (Indika, the public prosecutor), Randika Gunaratne (Kamal, the disappeared son), Xavier Kanishka (the nephew), and Nadie Kammellaweera (Namalie). The music, with its haunting strings-only orchestra directed by Chinthaka Jayakody, together with the breath-taking cinematography by Dimuthu Kalinga Dahanayake, and award-winning costume design and art direction by Kumara Karaudeniya largely captured the praise of critics, particularly in the English press and helped the film bag several international awards.

The film is built around Baba Nona, a woman from the dhobi (hena) caste. Socially marginalised and politically disempowered, she searches for her son who was abducted by state paramilitaries during the failed insurrection of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) during the 1987-89 period. She convinces a disinterested public prosecutor to investigate and litigate her case after identifying Lionel, one of the abductors. However, Namalie (Lionel’s wife) pleads with Baba Nona to let her husband off, claiming that he is already struggling with the mental and physical trauma caused by his involvement with the counter-insurgency. Baba Nona chooses to lie in court so that Lionel would be freed even as she tries to find answers to her own questions about her son’s involvement with the murder of Rupawathi, a local politician of the Sri Lanka Mahajana Party. Members of this left-wing party were targeted by the JVP for contesting in the Provincial Council elections, a measure taken to address the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka at the time. The film’s ending reveals that Baba Nona buries the evidence against her son’s crime of murdering Rupawathi, thereby becoming an accessory to the larger political drama of the internecine war of Sri Lanka’s chequered political history of the left.

The response of the English press was largely enthusiastic. Vihanga Perera has connected Paangshu to the culture of forgetfulness that surrounds political violence in Sri Lanka, and sees the film as an exception to the “culture of silence”, and official and unofficial responses that are part of “a complacent and uncaring world that is too ready to let the dust settle in for good” (Perera 2020). Sanath Nanayakkara sees the film as a “human interest story” that strikes the right balance between a good movie and one for everyone (Nanayakkara 2020). Dilshan Boange has also seen the film as one about the difference between justice and closure. Boange reads Baba Nona’s refusal to continue to press charges against Lionel as a gradual realisation on her part that justice is not (or should not be) a quest to “even scores” (Boange 2020). He seems to suggest, following the film’s cue on the matter, that forgiveness is, somehow “nobler” than “institutional justice”. Meanwhile, Gamini Akmeemana lauds its lyrical quality and compares its style to that of Lester James Peiris and Satyajit Ray (Akmeemana 2020). Priyanwada Perera recognises what many critics had missed about this film—its feminist core:

Every character contributes in completing the circle. Yet the end is the most unexpected. Leaving everything else aside, one cannot miss the feministic undertone. The magnanimity of this pained dhoby woman is the kind Maya Angelou glorifies. Baba Nona knows what cannot be undone. The only power in her hand in the name of her Sudu Putha [Kamal] is what she uses. The movie is a conversation between two women. Many women. Each death had heightened the tragedy of one or many women. Baba Nona is at a deciding point. (Perera 2020)

This attention to the lives of women and the connections between them are crucial elements that critics generally glossed over or found too romantic. My own reading of the film largely agrees with the review by Perera, but I extend it to examine the political implications of the choices that the women in the film make.

A discerning review of the film was published by Meera Srinivasan, who makes the productive connection between the plight of Baba Nona and the experiences of the mothers of the disappeared in the north. She sees the film as a commentary about this shared history, and sees it as emerging from Chandrasekaram’s experiences as a human rights lawyer. Interestingly, this review also quotes Bimal Rathnayake, a politbureau member of the JVP as admitting the need to revisit the party’s past, but also claiming that the film fails to “capture the ‘true nature’ of the struggle or the socio-political context that led to it”. In addition, Srinivasan captures in passing another key theme of the film, that of violence. She ends quoting Chandrasekaram who signals similarities between the repressive political environment now, and past conditions which provoked an armed struggle.

Several politically nuanced readings of the film appeared in the Sinhala press, collected into a volume by the Independent Film Movement. Although I will not attempt to summarise all the articles represented there in this short essay, I will respond to two particularly nuanced readings by Vidarshana Kannangara and Boopathi Nalin Wickramage, whose arguments I wish to extend by contesting them. I also use ideas presented in a forum on the film held in Colombo, where several of the speakers mentioned in this collection presented their readings.

Justice Deterred, Justice Denied
Paangshu is an unrelenting criticism of the Sri Lankan state and its human rights mechanisms that failed abysmally to redress the victims of the 1987-89 violence as well as many similar instances hence. Particularly, it is critical of the Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga government that chose to appoint toothless commissions that brought little justice to victims of paramilitary violence. The culture of silence that the state fostered actively stifled the injured and turned them into mere “victims”. This slippage of politics into rights, and revolutionaries into victims, enacted the real de-politicisation of the uprising that emerged from the margins of Sinhalese society and re-baptised it as a misguided performance of armed struggle. This slippage is the focus of this part of my essay. Here, I examine the film’s critique of the state, particularly its human rights discourse (represented by Indika, the state prosecutor) and the leftist dis-engagement with the politics of the dispossessed – represented by Baba Nona and other women in the film.

Vidarshana Kannangara argues that Baba Nona’s act of forgiveness turns the unresolved “karma” of the macro-politics of the left into an ironic expression of that same macro-level political history (Kannangara 2020). He argues that the spectator’s ideological identification with Baba Nona is inevitable in a context where this basic class contradiction of the left has not been worked out to date. He agrees with Indrananda de Silva, who sees the film as an uncomplicated view of the struggle (similar to Meera Srinivasan’s comment from Bimal Rathnayake). Somewhat along the same lines, Frontline Socialist Party’s Pubudu Jayagoda comments that the film represents the “romaniticized, UN-language of false reconciliation” (Jayagoda 2020: 38)  Although Kannangara seems to both espouse but also sharpen this critique coming from the Frontline Socialist Party (FSP) and JVP, his reading of the film is self-consciously political: to him, it is a text that brings out the failure of the left to work out a class-basis for its struggle, and its subsequent failure to recognise the class origins of the ethnic war in Sri Lanka. This reading straddles the far-left position courted by Indrananda de Silva (2020), a member of the FSP and the alternative left reading presented by Nirmal Ranjith Dewasiri (2020). While the former argues that the film reduces the struggle of the JVP to a liberal discourse on reconciliation, thereby evading the reality of the struggle, the latter argues that the film stands for an organically worked out transitional justice, in a context where a more radical form of justice for the dead is yet to come.

The state’s construction of the disappeared JVP member as a victim of human rights violations, rather than someone responding to the complex challenges faced by the left, must be seen within the larger politics of the time. In the introduction to a recently edited collection of essays on the anti-nationalist intellectual discourse in Sri Lanka, Nirmal Dewasiri notes that the political and intellectual context of the anti-nationalist discourse in the 1980’s was beset by three key challenges: the intellectual and political downfall of the traditional left, the problem of violence that emerged as a result of the JVP’s armed struggle, and the emerging ethno-nationalism that was gaining ground both politically and intellectually (Dewasiri 2021: 19).

If the above critics have seen the film as inadequately dealing with the macro-economic dimension of the JVP uprising, Dewasiri’s theorisation of the political context of the 1980’s points to the way the film uncompromisingly deals with the complexity of that moment from a vantage point that decidedly refuses to romanticise the JVP. Instead, the film pitches two very different understandings of politics against each other; to redefine what politics would mean in a context where vast numbers of people are left out of the formal system of justice.

Three Problems
At the centre of these competing definitions are the three problems that Dewasiri notes. First, the political and intellectual downfall of the traditional left is symbolised, not only by the images of the assassinated Rupawathi and Vijaya Kumaranatunga, who were the public popular faces of and the 1980’s heirs to older anti-Sinhala nationalist leftist discourses; but also the persistence of the caste system, that continues to define Baba Nona’s everyday existence, speaking to the traditional left’s intellectual and political impotence in the face of real social inequalities.

Second, the symbolism of the gun that Baba Nona carries like a baby and buries in the wewa (village tank) clues us into the unresolved question of political violence and the armed struggle that the JVP managed to circumvent only by entering into mainstream democratic politics, but not through any self-examination of the role of violence in politics.

Third, the film’s penetrating treatment of the ethno-nationalism of the JVP is signified not only by the murder of Rupawathi for contesting the Provincial Council elections, but also by the future continuous tense in which Baba Nona’s nephew carries the manel mal. As noted by Wickramage, this reference to the chronologically later ‘water lilies movement’ links that state-orchestrated pro-war, anti-LTTE propaganda campaign with the soldier-hugging, bunker-building JVP of the early 2000s, whose political success depended on its identification with Sinhala Buddhist ideology.

Baba Nona is not free of these three problems. As Kannangara suggests, she is simply carrying the karmic cross of an incompetent state and a disarrayed left; while actively negotiating the meanings of each through her own agency.

What is the political content of Baba Nona’s interaction with what are called “macropolitical” concerns raised by Kannangara, and theorised by Dewasiri in a slightly different context? I would like to come to this question through a quick theoretical detour. In Jacques Rancière’s discussion of Hannah Arendt’s formulation of “stateless people” and Giorgio Agamben’s theorisation of the homo sacer, Rancière points out that the ethnologisation of the “victim” produced by rights discourses rely on a crucial distinction made between zoe and bios (Rancière 2010: 70) linked to Arendt’s “identification of the political sphere as a specific realm separated from that of necessity” (71). For Rancière, this move produces a mere victim, on whose behalf those who have political rights must then act. For Rancière, the political consists of a “dissensus” – which he defines not as generalised disagreement, but a “division inserted in ‘common sense’; a dispute over what is given and about the frame within which we see something as given” (77). Rancière points out that “a political subject is a capacity for staging scenes of dissensus” (77).

My argument is that those to the left of the contemporary JVP (principally around the FSP), as well as those who see Baba Nona as a depoliticised figure, are aligned with those considering themselves to be agents of the political: a position denied to “victims” such as Baba Nona or even her son, who has acted upon the only political agency available to him. For such commentators, whose definition of the political relies upon that old division between zoe and bios, Kamal’s murder of Rupawathi is not recognised as belonging to the “political” proper. As Rancière points out “within this framework, abstract life can mean ‘deprived life, a ‘private life’, trapped in its ‘idiocy’ as opposed to the life of public action, speech, and appearance” (71). Baba Nona and her son are reduced to individual cases that are not representative of the true struggle, and are non-ideological (Wickramage 2020). The film’s double framing of the narrative dramatises precisely this slip that delegitimises the realities and struggles of those whose rights they purportedly represent. By representing Indika as the ignorant lawyer who cannot understand Baba Nona’s political choice in court to not prosecute, the film engages in a deep soul-searching of the inadequacies of both human rights discourses and leftist discourses. It reflects on the framing of politics that produce Baba Nona as a victim rather than a political agent.

Baba Nona enacts, precisely, a dissensus as proposed by Rancière, by introducing a rift into the very framework of what the left as well as state human rights discourses deem “political.” As Kannangara puts it, she “ironicizes” macropolitics through her existence. I extend and contest this claim by arguing that she in fact destabilises the macropolitical sphere, specifically the human rights approach, not merely through her existence, but through her calculated actions: by identifying the man who abducted her son and seeking legal redress; by continuing her search for her son; by joining protests of families of disappeared persons from both the north and the south; by rejecting the 25,000 rupees of compensation offered by the Commission on Involuntary Disappearances; by accepting her son’s death when his remains are discovered in a mass grave; and finally by choosing to lie in court about her son’s abductor. All of these are at once personal and political, and even when they are driven by the personal, they constantly bring the “frame” of the political to the fore.

To illustrate my point, I will choose two profound moments in the film that touch a spectator to the core: The moment her son’s remains are discovered and the scene where Indika berates her for lying in court and begs of her to change her mind. Interestingly, as she identifies her son’s clothes unearthed at the mass grave, the camera moves to a close-up, not of Baba Nona, but of Indika. His pain and anger expressed masterfully by Jagath Manuwarna, is the quintessential subject of the liberal/human rights discourse of the rights of others. At this moment, he is more than determined to find justice for this woman that he has grown, first to sympathise but later identify with. And yet, her refusal to be a witness to Lionel’s crime, and her choice to lie in court is a profound betrayal of his aspirations to be the champion of the dispossessed. He begs and berates, demanding from her that she pursues the case, pointing to the hours he had put into it. He cannot fathom her decision. Her act is driven, not only by her quick recognition that Lionel’s wife is no different from herself, as a poor, marginalized woman, despite their different positions with regard to the legal system (one seeks redress, the other, that her husband should not be prosecuted) but also by her recognition that his punishment is simply justice both deterred and denied to her, once she discovers that her son is dead. She sets out on the legal process imagining that it would lead her to his whereabouts; once she is convinced that he is dead, the legal system is incapable of returning her abducted son or punishing the architects of this paramilitary system of meting out extra-judiciary punishment. The film argues that such justice can only punish a few, largely powerless foot soldiers of that system, which would bring little justice or closure to the victims and survivors. And thus, if the legal system cannot find Baba Nona’s son for her, the justice she would receive at its hand is both too little and too late.

Here, Baba Nona is repeating the same refusal she enacts before the Commission on Involuntary Disappearances. As the Commission reads out her full name, Samarappuli Henelage Baba Nona, explaining that she will be mailed a Rs25,000 cheque, she walks away from the Commission and the camera. In a lyrical moment of pure cinematic storytelling, the full announcement of her name finally confirms what the spectator had picked up from various hints scattered throughout the film:  her caste origin has banished her both socially and politically. The monetary compensation offered to her blunts her own agency and places her among a sea of victims, multitudinous but left outside the framework of politics. She chooses, in both instances, to exercise the only political power she has within this liberal framework of rights. Her ability to say no. It is by saying no, that she can show that this system cannot offer her either the justice or the closure she seeks.

Water: The Politics of the Mental Image
I now turn to the way the film enacts the dissensus discussed above, by making Baba Nona appear as an excess of the state-driven politico-legal framework as well as leftist politics.  She is clearly an outsider, but she engages with both spheres in order to shatter their jaded frames and make their exclusionist practices visible. Boopathi Nalin Wickramage argues that the spectator’s identification with Baba Nona, a result of the cinematic suturing set-up by the film’s excessive dependence on a “protagonist-based” narrative, leads the film to become one of a “permanent darkness” that lacks conflict. He sees it as homogeneity that avoids contradiction and condemns the spectator to the “ideology-free” universe of Baba Nona (Wickramage 2020).

However, Wickramage’s claim that the film presents an ideology-free homogeneity is belied, first, by the deep division within the character of Baba Nona and, second by the way the filmic frame produces an excess, i.e. meanings that are not represented within the frame, but must be constructed by the viewer through a chain of visual connections. These meanings are symbolic, undercutting the narrative’s surface and manifest meanings.

Such meanings can be called “mental relations” following Gilles Deleuze and his theory of “mental images”. Images that have “a new, direct relationship with thought, a relationship which is completely distinct from that of the other images” (Deleuze 1986 and 2009: 198). For Deleuze, a mental image is “an image which takes as its object, relations, symbolic acts, intellectual feelings” (198). Paangshu is not a film that relies on pathos for meaning, although it is a very emotional film. At the cinematic level, it demands that we make mental connections between images if we are to understand the deeper political meanings at work in the film.

I discuss two such mental images provoked by the film out of many. At the core of this mental or symbolic relation is the “truth” revealed to us at the end of the film. That Baba Nona gets rid of Kamal’s gun with which he had killed Rupawathi. This weapon is the key object that retroactively determines the scenes that I discuss below. It is also the common thread that ties her to the former JVP member, Kamal’s teacher, who returns again and again to remove the weapon and relieve his guilt. It might be a stretch to read him as representative of the JVP; yet, Baba Nona’s rejection of his sympathetic advances are not ambiguous. When he brings her a bag of groceries, she throws it away saying “give these to beggars”, a slap in the face of anyone, especially the JVP who dares to feel sorry for her. She is the one who had buried their hatchet, as it were, and paid the price for it. The final scene of the film is a powerful depiction of Baba Nona swimming to the middle of the village wewa and hiding the weapon.  She carries it like a baby and buries it in the soft mud, neither earth nor water. The film could just as well have been titled ‘water’, instead of soil.

The scene where Baba Nona buries the gun undercuts all we had presumed we knew about her, putting her in the new light of the romanticized image of the gun-carrying revolutionary’s mother, but also the hawk-eyed, quick-witted woman. The expression we see on her face from the beginning of the film dissimulates an obsequious and subservient demeanour (the innocent victim who fools the learned spectators of the film), but also reflects stealth, alacrity, and dignity when she turns away from others or towards the camera. The role is masterfully delivered by veteran actor Nita Fernando, who captures both these sides of Baba Nona’s character through the subtle mood-shifts she reflects at key moments: when she is asked if she would like to die on a tire-pyre, and when the racist priest scolds her for going to court against war-heroes, to note a few.

She is no innocent fool or agency-less victim. Marginalised as a low-caste woman oppressed by the politico-legal system, she is alert and wise. If anybody is fooled, it is the spectator who is sent on various wild-goose chases, seeking religious, legal, and political meanings that can cover her ontological being as a mother who wants to find and protect her son. The spectator is let in on the secret last in the film. The film relies on the dichotomy of the knowledge and non-knowledge about Baba Nona’s crime, which then creates symbolic links between other scenes and shots in the film that I discuss below.

The real trial of the film happens not inside, but outside the courtroom, where Baba Nona confronts two other mothers: Lionel’s heavily pregnant wife, Namalie, and the female dog who drinks water at the same water tap as Namalie and Baba Nona. Lionel empties his wife’s water bottle, forcing her to fill it again and again at the tap. On the day that Baba Nona helps Lionel’s wife with water, the female dog is killed in an accident, leaving the destitute puppy motherless. The scene of Baba Nona filling water for Namalie, cuts to the pot of water with white flowers (water, again) used for the ritual bathing of Rupawathi’s daughter for her coming- of- age ceremony: a symbolic baptism of womanhood in Sinhalese culture. Water is the link between the women.

When the owner of the small tea-shop says “accursed animals” (karumakkara saththu) about the dead dog and her puppy, he could well be speaking of any one of these three mothers and their children, whether dead or alive. The real meaning of his words must be symbolically constructed as a mental image of the relation between the three women: Namalie, Baba Nona, and Rupawathi. When Namalie begs Baba Nona and convinces her to lie in court, what Namalie really beats is the unfairness of the state legal system that transfers the crimes of the paramilitaries to soldiers at the lower end of the power hierarchy.  Both Kamal and Lionel are victims of a larger system of violence, of which they are merely foot soldiers. While it admittedly does not relieve them of the responsibility for the crime, for Baba Nona, punishing them only punishes people like Namalie even more, and not just Lionel. Namalie, like Baba Nona are rejects of the system because the entire political and legal system is set up to exclude them, and a few isolated punishments here and there will not bring justice. This is presented visually through the way Lionel keeps emptying Namalie’s bottle of water: as a symbol of life, he, like the child she is pregnant with, will draw all life, all sustenance from her, turning her into the true victim of the situation. Baba Nona recognizes this similarity. Baba Nona’s own son has killed another mother. It seems to be an exchange of guilt and punishment tied to retribution that cannot be captured in mere legal terms. If Lionel had obeyed orders, Kamal had exercised the only kind of political agency offered to him by any political system: armed struggle. When Baba Nona lies in court, she enacts a retribution that can only occur outside the court; and yet it shows the deep flaws of the legal and political system. The film, like Baba Nona, creates a frame outside the frame of the courtroom to show how those stripped of their true rights are, literally, outside. It is a cinematic moment of pure thought and symbolic connection, driven by guilt and retribution.

Another powerful mental image is produced in the scene where Baba Nona is ironing Rupawathi’s daughter’s clothes while talking to her nephew. Here, she recalls how she had caught Kamal distributing leaflets in a bus. Her nephew retorts, “in a country where there is so much crime and corruption, is distributing leaflets such a terrible sin, Aunt?” Baba Nona’s silence here is telling. Rather than reveal her son’s true guilt, she irons the slain woman’s daughter’s white school uniform: a symbolic moment pregnant with meaning. White: purity; death; mourning. White clothes, whitening of clothes, and removing stains are associated with the taboo of the washer-woman’s caste.

And yet, this moment is also an admission of guilt. In this multi-layered shot the film enters into a conversation with the politics of the JVP. Her nephew has just become a supporter campaigning for a JVP contestant of the Local Council election: the very crime for which Rupawathi was murdered. Rupawathi, the leftist and woman from the Mahajana Party; Rupawathi who contested elections; Rupawathi, who perhaps taught her daughter to look beyond caste and caste privilege. That other moment of what could have been, if the southern left had found a way to link their struggle to that of the north; that other possibility for women’s political agency in Sri Lanka, felled by the gun wielded by Baba Nona’s son. That unforgivable stain in the political history of the JVP which can never be washed or ironed away. The film shows Baba Nona at the edge of politics, in the very manner that Rancière calls “dissensus” through the act of ironing the dress. She disrupts the neat political framing that her nephew, and by extension the JVP, constructs. Baba Nona and her presence in the film divide the frame of politics, just as it divided the frame of the state legal system in the court-room scenes discussed above, introducing a deep political heteronomy, in contrast to the homogeneity suggested by Wickramage, into the very discussion of politics. Wickramage’s reading of Baba Nona’s world as homogeneous, that is, lacking symbolic distinction and therefore representative of an “ideology-free” world, is rendered inaccurate by this division, whereby she appears to be very clear about the politics of her situation, even if she rejects the justice of the state.

The left’s response to Paangshu represented by both Bimal Rathnayake’s brief comment as well as Pubudu Jayagoda’s comment (cited above) are representative of how the film was received by the two parties currently associated with the JVP of the 1980’s. They reflect how left leaders continue to bracket off those at the fringes of their struggle as anomalies or “individual cases”. In this case, Baba Nona’s choice to recognise the impotence of the retribution offered by the state and her refusal of it, denies her political agency. On the other hand, the film also captures both the stunning failure of the state—not only to protect its citizens from its paramilitary violence, but also to safeguard their rights once the government responsible for the carnage is no longer in power. The film spans over six crucial years between southern political violence and the election of the Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga government, and the promise of justice it failed to deliver. Although I have not explored the religious, cultural, and communitarian work relations that inform the film’s world in visceral ways throughout the film, the film generates a plethora of such themes that would help us to unpack the primary political act, that of dissensus, carried out by Baba Nona, and by extension, the film.

In a discussion with Kumar de Silva (de Silva), Nita Fernando reveals that she was, in fact, acting the life of her own mother. She, like Baba Nona, had run behind a vehicle to save her son during the 1971 insurrection of the JVP. Assured that this mother’s son was indeed saved, all sigh with relief, leaving a lingering sadness, a memory even, of three other mothers and their children kindled by Paangshu.

Prabha Manuratne is Senior Lecturer in English at the Department of English, University of Kelaniya.


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Kannangara, Vidarshana. (2020). “විදර්ශන කන්නන්ගර – පාංශු ‘සංක්‍රාන්ති යුක්තියේ සිනමාව’ සිනමා සංවාදය.” Independent Cinema Movement (06 October). Accessed on 31.05.2021. Available at

Nanayakkare, Sanath. (2020). “Sri Lankan movie ‘Paangshu’ hits that rare sweet spot in World Cinema”. The Island (22 August). Accessed on 31.05.2021. Available at

Perera, Priyanwada. (2020). “Old Wounds that Bleed”. Ceylon Today (22 August). Accessed on 01.06.2021. Available at

Perera, Vihanga. (2020). “Visakesa Chandrasekaram, ‘Paangshu’ and the Prize (Price) of Memory”. Daily Mirror (07 September). Accessed on 01.06.2021. Available at

Ranciere, Jacques. (2010). Dissensus: On politics and Aaesthetics. London: Bloomsbury.

Srinivasan, Meera. (2020). “Film questions Sri Lankan society’s ‘silence’ on past brutalities”. The Hindu (04 September). Accessed on 31.05.2021. Available at

Wickramage, Boopathi Nalin. (2020). “බූපති නලින් වික්‍රමගේ – පාංශු ‘සංක්‍රාන්ති යුක්තියේ සිනමාව’ සිනමා සංවාදය”. Independent Cinema Movement (06 October). Accessed on 31.05.2021. Available at

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