A struggle to heal


“The only way out of the labyrinth of suffering is to forgive.”

― John Green, Looking for Alaska

Quoting from one of my favourite novels, Looking for Alaska, I believe that life and all pain, sufferings and the choices we make related to it, form a labyrinth, in which we get lost at one point and continue to search for a way out till the very last moment. Nonetheless, many of us never become able to navigate the way out once got in, while only a blessed few do. The character of Babanona from Visakesa Chandrasekaram’s film, Paangshu is one such, who finally ceases a cycle of sufferings and agony, and exits from the labyrinth. It is indeed the forgiveness which finally takes her out of the labyrinth and cures the ‘wound’ which had been festered for years. Thus, there is a lot we can learn to ourselves from the film, if we hope to cure the still festering ‘wounds’ of our society.

The film is a subtle cinematic re-creation of the story of a dhobi-woman, Babanona; a mother seeking justice for her son who was abducted during the second armed insurgency of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) against the then ruling Government in the late 1980s, against all the odds that befall her. Belonging to a marginalised caste, consequently to a lower class and being a woman, doubly suppress the protagonist, revealing numerous, ignored or un-discussed social issues, which were prevalent not only in those days but still also. Let alone, all caste and class based systemic discrimination, even the political arena is not much different if taken out from the film’s context and placed in the present society.  Hence, I don’t observe much of a difference between the lives of the characters presented in the film and of ours; the context might be different yet the hell in which we all are suffering is same. And it isn’t any hard to draw parallels with the characters once watching the film therefore.

Since abducted, Babanona never takes a break from her quest to find her lost son. Once failed to collect even a hint of her son’s whereabouts, Babanona turns towards ‘Law’ hoping to find justice for him.  At this point, the court becomes a place of concoction where Babanona, her lawyer, a culprit and his pregnant wife are made to encounter directing the whole plot to in a different angle. Babanona’s boiling anger towards the culprit who took a part in her son’s abduction, is vividly demonstrated, revealing the true colours of hatred and revenge.  On the other side stands the pregnant wife of the culprit, pleading for forgiveness from Babanona for what her husband did, or actually what he was made to do. Visakesa’s perfect direction creates such an intense, emotional and a deep interaction between these two women; both victimised, suffering but at two different ends. The chasm between the two ends makes it hard for the characters to realise that they all suffer in one way or another. But once Babanona’s real maternity is touched-beautifully depicted by the scene where she adopts an orphan puppy-she comes to an epiphany, which is also influenced by the untold truth about her son’s involvement in murder, she is able to bridge this gap and starts touch the paining spots of the others too. So, finally she forgives the culprit in her own ‘moral court’ and leaves the real court. Hence she salvages the culprit, his wife, her son and her very own self from suffering and exits the labyrinth. In fact, it is a through a real struggle that Babanona herself decipher the process of healing.

Now, coming to the real society, it is apparent that we are still struggling with the pain of wounds-no need to specifically point out- which we think to have festered but actually have not. Thus I consider this to be an apt period of time for us to re-consider the ointments that we have been applying for the wound till now; whether they have truly cured the wound even a bit or have they just plastered the wound while it still festers from inside. If you feel the wound is still there, festering, Visakesa suggests the cure.

By Induwara Athapattu